40 acres of Estate Vineyard, 10250 East Turkey Creek Road in Pearce, 45 miles from Willcox, in southeastern Arizona
It currently falls under the Willcox Appellation. Aridus and other Vineyards have proposed a new AVA: Chiricahua Foothills, taking its name from the nearby 11,985-acre Chiricahua National Monument.
The Chiricahua Name:
Pronounced CHIRR-i-KAH-wə, the name comes from a band of Apache Native Americans who were based in this are in the Southwest. The most well-known names of Apaches in American history are Cochise and Geronimo. The Chiricahua tribal territory encompassed today's southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico and in northern Mexico, the mountain sanctuaries of the Sierra Madre. The name Chiricahua is most likely the Spanish rendering of the Opata word Chihuicahui or Chiguicagui ('mountain of the wild turkey'), referring to the Chiricahua Mountains.
History of the property:
The land had been used as grazing land for livestock
Primarily sustainable, using organic alternatives whenever possible as well as drip irrigation
The 2017 harvest is the first for whites from the estate vineyard---Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Malvasia Bianca.
Grape most likely to succeed on the estate vineyard:
Malvasia Bianca, Petite Sirah, Malbec
5,200 feet, higher than the town of Willcox
The estate vineyard sees extremes of weather, from as hot as 100 degrees in the summer to wind, rain, hail (in July) and snow. During harvest season (July – September), the weather is initially hot (an average of 95 degrees) and dry; in July, August and September there are monsoon rains, which lower the temperature and raise the humidity. Temperatures range from the 70s to the 100s. Nights get down to an average of 45-55 degrees in the summers/during harvest.
The 40 acres are divided by Turkey Creek, which is the largest water flow coming down from the Chiricahua Foothills. Planted in 2015, the “North Side” is planted to white varietals on a 20-22 degree angle and north-south configuration. It has three clones of Sauvignon Blanc, two clones of Viognier, one clone of Malvasia, totaling approximately 2,000 vines. The vines are planted at 8’ x 4 Bi-lateral.
Planted in 2017, the “South Side” consists of approximately 1,500 Cabernet Sauvignon vines planted in an east-west configuration, designed to allow the strong winds to blow through the vines but not damage them. The spacing is 10’ x 5’. The spacing differs to accommodate irrigation and accessibility.
A nearby ranch raises wild turkeys and then releases them into the wild. Four miles up the road is the historic gravesite of the outlaw Johnny Ringo, who died of a bullet wound to the head alongside Turkey Creek. To the west is Cochise Stronghold, and to the east the incredible hoodoos of Chiricahua National Monument, both of which boast some of the most beautiful hiking trails in southeastern Arizona.
The South Side soil is rich, red loamy sand and river rock. When the Cabernet vines were planted here the soil had so many river rocks that the rocks had to be jackhammered and then augured for holes large enough to insert the vines.
On the North Side the soil changes from a dark gray to a reddish brown.
From fish in the creek, frogs on the banks, turtles, lizards and rattlesnakes, to white-tail deer, mountain lions, black bears, fox and javelina, this area has a wide variety of roaming reptiles, birds, insects and large and small predators and prey.
This is primarily an agricultural growing region, so the property is designed with irrigation in mind. The property---uniquely---is divided in half by Turkey Creek. We may one day be able to use water from the creek but currently we have two wells.
There are signs distinguishing the different varietals in the vineyard.
Specialized for this Terroir:
The vines planted on the North Side came from Nova Vine and Herrick Vines (in California). The rootstock is drought tolerant. We decided on particular varieties and clones after talking to other Arizona grape growers and considering our unique weather, soil, sun and water conditions. The vines planted on the South Side for the Cabernet were purchased from New Mexico.
Grapes are harvested at night so that they can arrive at the winery in the early morning. The trip from the vineyard in Pearce to the winery in Willcox takes about 45 minutes.
Why Farm Grapes in Arizona:
Proprietor Scott Dahmer explains, “Hot days, cool nights, minerality of the soil. Our state’s motto has five Cs----Climate, Cattle, Cotton, Citrus and Copper. Why not add a 6th? Cabernet? That said, southeastern Arizona has been compared to the same climate as Argentina with semi-arid desert-like climates, less than 13 inches of rain annually, an average temperature of 90-100 degree days with cool nights in the mid 40’s and 50’s. Malbec and a number of Spanish varietals grow extremely well here. I believe Arizona is the next up and coming grape growing region which will produce unique, world-class delicious wines.”
History of viticulture in Arizona:
Proprietor Scott Dahmer answers, “It’s what people might assume; ‘it is cowboy country and the pioneers who planted vineyards in Arizona just decided to plant whatever they wanted.’ They planted….and we learned what not to do. We are still learning what works and what doesn’t.”
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