Arizona Wine Industry Celebrates 2012 Harvest
PHOENIX – The Arizona wine industry is celebrating a better than expected wine grape harvest this year. With yields up and grape quality above average, the harvest left many wineries scrambling to find more barrels, tanks, and workers to bring in their crop. “It is a nice problem to be having this year after several years of devastating crop loss due to weather” said Curt Dunham, winemaker/owner of Lawrence Dunham Vineyards. In Arizona’s oldest wine region, the anticipation for a good growing season was very high and the harvest exceeds expectations. Ann Roncone, winemaker/owner of Lightning Ridge Cellars in Sonoita, explained “I’m thrilled to actually have some estate white grapes this year. We lost about half the crop from an April 18th frost. But half a crop is much better than the last two years, where April frosts completed wiped out our two white varietals (Muscat Canelli and Malvasia).”
Many vineyard owners reported that the monsoon season came early this year; starting in earnest in mid-June bringing quite a bit of rain for June and July in southern Arizona. Also, there were fewer new bugs to battle. The biggest challenge this year was keeping the nutrient levels just right. Vineyard managers reported Phosphorus and Potassium deficiencies creating difficulties during the growing season. Oak Creek Vineyards and Winery in Northern Arizona’s Verde Valley region reported their best harvest ever from their 12 year old vineyard. According to Florian Wahl, Oak Creek winemaker said, “We harvested our grapes with brix (sugar levels) at nearly 26 plus which we anticipate producing rich, smooth wines with nice alcohol.” Kief Manning, winemaker at Kief-Joshua Vineyards in Sonoita/Elgin area said “The cool summer temperatures coupled with plenty of rain has resulted in a hearty harvest this year.”
Arizona is receiving a lot of attention in recent years as the number of vineyard acres are expanding, wine production is increasing, and the quality of Arizona wines are being recognized. There are now over 63 bonded wineries in Arizona up from nine in 2000. However, wine grape acres have not kept up with the demand sending Arizona wineries to purchase grapes from outside of the state. Peggy Fiandaca, President of the Arizona Wine Growers Association, said “The 2012 harvest will help Arizona producers begin to keep up with demand. The opportunities of the Arizona wine industry are great, and there is no reason that the wine industry cannot be the next billion dollar wine region like Washington and Oregon.”
Southeastern Arizona is the third major wine grape growing region and one of the fastest in the amount of acres being planted. “We have just completed an amazing 2012 harvest,” according to Curt Dunham, owner/winemaker of Lawrence Dunham Vineyards. “We finished harvesting September 27th picking the last of the Petite Sirah. Our estate harvested over 12 tons which averages out to about six tons per acre – an amazing yield especially for such a young vineyard.” Dunham said, “We are literally up to our elbows in deep purple must and have been scrambling to find places to not only ferment the grapes but to store the finished wine after pressing.” “The Arizona wine industry is excited about the 2012 growing season. We have a new state-of-the-art custom crush facility in Willcox, Arizona, new vineyard acreage planted, and wineries producing highly rated Arizona wines. All of these accomplishments are boosting Arizona’s image as a quality winemaking region,” said Peggy Fiandaca, president of the Arizona Wine Growers Association.
*Press release and photos courtesy of the Arizona Wine Grower’s Association