Downtown festival at Maynards celebrates Arizona wine

Grapes may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Arizona, but the Grand Canyon State is home to a roster of excellent wines.  Maynards Market and Kitchen helps bring Arizona’s wineries to the forefront. On Saturday, October 29th, the venue hosts the 2nd Annual Grapes to Glass, an art and wine festival showcasing nine of Arizona's best wineries.

Since the inaugural Grapes to Glass last year, the wine scene in Arizona has matured significantly. Earlier this year, the Arizona Vigneron's Alliance was founded to "ensure quality and authenticity in Arizona wine" and to promote Arizona wines nationally and globally.

"The Alliance is officially setting the bar for our wineries," comments Val Timin, Marketing Director for Maynards. Winemakers in Arizona are concerned with Arizona's recognition in the global wine scene. "The main challenge we face is getting anyone to believe that Arizona wine isn't an oxymoron," says Sam Pillsbury of Pillsbury Wine Company.

Rod Keeling of Keeling-Schaefer Vineyards echoes Pillsbury's concerns: "The biggest challenge for Arizona wines is to get people to understand that we produce quality wines, and the best way to solve that problem is in one evening." He added, "We're not just talking about stuff that's made here, we're talking about things that come from our earth. If you live in Arizona, you ought to be interested in that product."

The issue isn't just quality, but awareness of place, according to Todd Bostock of Dos Cabezas WineWorks. "Based on what these folks may have tried in other places, they're skeptical that anything from Arizona could taste this good, so overcoming that apprehension is the most challenging thing," he said, "But if people taste it without knowing where it's from, they always love it."

Val Timin and Todd Bostock agree that one of Arizona's strengths is the variety in climate and terrain, which allows for different types of grapes to be grown and used in different variations of wine.  Offering attendees a chance to sample a curated selection of Arizona wines in one night, the hope is that people will become aware of Arizona's vibrant and unique wine culture.

A Grapes to Glass ticket gives attendees the chance to sample wines from nine Arizona wineries: Callaghan Vineyards, Carlson Creek Winery, Dos Cabzas WineWorks, Golden Rule Vineyards, Keeling Schaefer Vineyards, Pillsbury Wine Company, Rune Wines, Sand-Reckoner Vineyards, and Sonoita Vineyards.

"These are family-owned and operated businesses and they put their heart and soul into producing these wines," Timin said of the wineries featured at the event.

Founded in 1990, Callaghan Vineyards has been recognized as one of Arizona's outstanding wineries. In 2006, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano identified it as one of Arizona's treasures. Much of what makes Callaghan Vineyards unique comes from its simplistic approach to winemaking." Wine potential is determined in the vineyard," founder Kent Callaghan said in a statement on the winery's website, "So our winemaking approach is decidedly simplistic - no gizmos, lots of barrels (new to four years old), aging on the lees and little racking."

Carlson Creek Vineyard, a family-owned operation, is located in the heart of Cochise County. Sitting at 4200 feet above sea level, the vineyard allows the growers to utilize Arizona's warm sun and cool evenings to grow the ideal grapes for their style of wine. "The vineyard concentrates on Rhone varietals that are complimented by the temperature and soils resembling those of the Rhone Valley in southern France," the website says of Carlson Creek’s approach to winemaking.

Dos Cabezas WineWorks, founded in 1995, tells Arizona's unique story through its wines. In Sonoita and Willcox, where the vineyards are located, "it's about the calcium in the soil. We can ripen just about anything because of the intense light, but it's not so hot that the fruit suffers" Todd Bostock said.

Resting along the eastern side of the Gunnison Mountains, Golden Rule Vineyards considers itself the "Gateway to Willcox Wine Country" and offers nearly twenty types of wine made within its farms.

Keeling Schaefer Vineyards was established in 2000, and its first harvest was in 2005. The vineyard was created out of a desire to bring excellent wine selections to Arizona. Eleven years after its first harvest, Keeling Schaefer now sells nearly twenty distinct bottles of wine served statewide in places such as AJ's Fine Foods and in restaurants such as Kingfisher Bar and Grill and Pastiche Modern Eatery.

Sam Pillsbury, who transitioned from a career in film-making to wine-making, produces 14 wine varieties under Pillsbury Wine Company. The wines are grown in Cochise County.  "I want our wine to be unique and honor our place," Pillsbury said, "We grow our own grapes and make the wine here, we're on the cutting edge of the wine movement."

Rune Wines, located in Sonoita, was founded in 2013 by James Callahan. "Rune is about doing things differently," Callahan said in a statement on the winery's website, "Experimenting, honing, focusing, crafting, and producing something that is truly unique and enticing for those that would be intrigued."

Sand Reckoner Vineyards was founded by Rob Hammelman and his wife, Sarah. Rob spent the summer of 2000 working at fellow Arizona winery Callaghan Vineyards, and quickly developed a passion for growing wine. In 2010, the Hammelman's purchased their 12 acre farm, which now grows grapes that are made into the winery's twelve wines.

Sonoita Vineyards, the oldest commercial vineyard and winery in Arizona, opened in 1983 and spans over 50 acres of vines. The winery's small staff focuses on sustainability as they view it to be a crucial aspect of quality wine. They also compost all wine making byproducts by returning grape skins, stems, and seeds to the vineyard as fertilizer for future crops.

All of these wineries will be sampling some of their products on October 29 at Grapes to Glass. Tickets for Grapes to Glass can be purchased in advance for $30, and will be $35 at the door.

In addition to sampling Arizona wines, attendees can also join Creative Juice Art Bar for a wine glass painting station and view art produced by Tucson artists that will be showcased throughout Maynards.

A portion of the ticket proceeds from the event will be donated to the Arizona Vigneron's Alliance and the Local First Arizona Foundation.