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Wine update anticipates early harvest

The Camp Verde Journal of Camp Verde, Arizona

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The Arizona wine industry has released a 2014 vintage update.

"The 2014 crop looks slightly larger than last year — our largest to date," Callaghan said.

Ann Roncone, owner and winemaker of Lightning Ridge Cellars in Elgin, said, "If we get though monsoon season without any damage, this will be a bumper crop, no question. The closest year we had this much fruit was 2010, which I believe was because of the heavier rainfall and snow during the 2009-10 winter. Surprisingly, this year's distinctly mild winter hasn't made for particularly early bud break and in terms of ripening, the crop is about where it should be this time of year."

Maynard Keenan, owner and winemaker of Caduceus Cellar and Buhl Memorial Vineyard, has six vineyard sites in the Verde Valley ranging from one acre to 30 acres, each in fairly diverse settings. His vineyards include high elevation southeast facing slopes to dry farmed floodplain.

"Across the board, everything woke up a bit early," Keenan said.

"The high heat and heinous winds toppled 35 percent of the shoots in our Syrah blocks and have made watering almost a two times a week event. But the winds also helped thin our crop and the increased evaporation rates have kept the berry size in the ideal range for premium wine grape production."

The monsoon is a bit behind schedule this year, making water a concern.

Roncone said, "The vines should start to change color pretty soon, which means their nutrition needs shift. Keeping an eye on the micro-nutrient levels is important. For nutrients, it is like Goldilock's time of the year

— not too much, not too little

— it needs to be just right." Kief Manning, owner and winemaker at Kief Joshua Vineyards in Sonoita agreed, "Harvest is looking really good. We had a couple of small bouts of frost this spring, but it was very spotty and didn't seem to do much damage. The season has been very hot and dry so we are anticipating harvest to be possibly a couple weeks early. We're probably looking at starting harvest at the end of August, most likely with Viognier and Riesling."

Chris Turner, vineyard manager at Caduceus Cellars and Buhl Memorial Vineyard, echoed Keenan's comment about the early awakening in the vineyard.

"It was mid-March when the historic 80-acre Al Buhl Memorial Vineyard in Kansas Settlement emerged," he said. "This is our first year farming grapes down south and one of the things we have learned is that the extreme weather conditions created added stress to our vines."

"We narrowly missed the late spring frost, and knock wood, we haven't seen any significant hail yet this season," Keenan said. "Not much rain to speak of either. When you add all that up you get a very early harvest; minimum of two weeks earlier in all vineyards. On June 30, we observed the Tempranillo berries at our northern and southern Arizona sites had begun to change color and expect the other varieties to follow mid-July." Callaghan agreed with Beres, "Clusters are looser on all varieties, thanks to a windy May and June."

However, Manning disagreed, "Flowering and fruit set were huge this year probably due to zero rain during flowering and the fact that the spring winds started later. So there were no interruptions."

Big crop, high quality

Many vineyards statewide are predicting another big crop and high-quality vintage, which is exactly what is needed to continue building Arizona's reputation for producing great wines made from Arizona grapes.

Manning added, "We are bottling round the clock to try and get tanks emptied for the large crop we are expecting, and due to the large harvest we had last year."

Dunham agreed, "I don't want to be caught off guard like last year, which required a lot of last-minute barrel and tank orders so we are making space in the winery now."

On the other hand, Roncone said, "It is really looking like it will be a normal harvest season for us, which is late August through late October. Monsoon season may tweak that a bit, but with how the fruit looks now, it shouldn't be exceptionally earlier than what we are used to. Our Muscat Canelli, Malvasia, and Primitivo are always the first to be harvested."

Turner said, "Historically, our harvest begins the first week of August and ends with our Jerome Nebbiolo harvested in early November."

Arizona wines continue to receive much recognition with consumers and respected publications as well as awards in competitions with the best wines in the world. The number of vineyard acres is growing, wine production is increasing, and the wine quality being recognized.

Peggy Fiandaca, president of the Arizona Wine Growers Association, said "The opportunities of the Arizona wine industry continue to be abundant with our regions demonstrating the ability to grow exceptional grapes, and Arizona winemakers producing wines that are distinctive and gaining a strong reputation. If growth continues on this positive trajectory, the Arizona wine industry can be the next billion-dollar wine region like Washington and Oregon."

The Arizona wine industry will celebrate the fruits of its labor at the annual Festival at the Farm at South Mountain in Phoenix Friday and Saturday, Nov. 14 and 15. At the festival on Saturday, participants can taste the wines, sample wines while talking to winemakers from around the state, attend educational seminars, listen to music, enjoy a picnic lunch under the Pecan trees and walk away with the winning bid for a live/silent wine auction package.

The Arizona Wine Growers Association serves grape growers and winemakers in Arizona, allying its members for representation, promotion and education. The association strives to advance with integrity the sustainable growth and production of authentic Arizona-grown wines. Arizona has over 90 licensed and bonded wineries. Several Arizona wines have been served in the White House, two wineries received 90 points from Wine Spectator magazine, and more than 20 wines from eight Arizona wineries have scored at least an 88 rating.

"Across the board, everything woke up a bit early."

Maynard Keenan

Owner of Caduceus Cellar in Jerome

Copyright 2014 The Camp Verde Journal, Camp Verde, Arizona. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: August 13, 2014

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