A day and a half in Willcox was not enough. It gave us just enough time to get the lay of the land, explore the historic downtown portion of Willcox and make a couple of winery visits. We weren’t able to visit all of the wineries we wanted to. That leaves us lots to do on our next visit to Cochise County.
We wrote about historic downtown Willcox and the two winery visits we made in prior posts. We also visited two tasting rooms in historic Willcox and made a quick stop at another winery. Here is a summary of those tastings.
Zarpara Vineyard is located south of Willcox in the Willcox Bench area. Mark Jorve, who owns the winery with his wife Rhona MacMillan, was working the tasting room on the day we visited. He and Rhona are hard workers, you can tell just by the stories he told of planting their vineyard.
He described their initial planting of 5000 vines. They had been advised to start with a much smaller planting. Then, the during the winter that followed they had to worry through two hard freezes. As spring approached, most of the vines came to life, except for the Tempranillo. They did not fair well. Mark said they now know Tempranillo “needs shelter from the wind and cold”. Many had to be re-planted. They have learned by doing.
With the original planting completed in 2010, wine making began in 2011 (from California and other Cochise County vineyard grapes). 2012 marked the first vintage produced from estate grapes. We tasted two of their wines.
2012 Zarpara Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc $26. It’s crisp, citrusy and has an interesting minerality about it. Only faint herbal notes, which suits me just fine. 100% Sauvignon Blanc, from Zarpara’s own vineyard.
2010 Origen $25. Inky dark in the glass, concentrated ripe dark fruit flavors, medium bodied. New World style, as advertised. The fruit was sourced from Keeling Schaefer Vineyards at the foot of the Chiricahua Mountains in Cochise County.
We were impressed by Mark’s passion for the vineyard and winemaking. He is learning as he goes along, getting vineyard advise early on from “the Oregon folks” (Dick Erath’s group) among others. We’re looking forward to tasting their wines on our next visit to Willcox. By then, all of Zarpara’s wines should be crafted from their own fruit.
Carlson Creek Vineyard
Carlson Creek Vineyard has a tasting room in historic downtown Willcox, on Railview Avenue. It’s located in one of several cottages that have been restored along the Avenue. It has a tasting bar and casual seating area for tasting. It’s a really comfortable environment in which to taste.
2010 Carlson Creek Sangiovese $23. Floral nose, black pepper, spice and dark fruit flavors and a surprising light ruby color. Nice summer red.
Carlson Creek also makes Riesling, Chardonnay and Syrah.
Carlson Creek Vineyards are neighbors of Pillsbury Wine Company and Zarpara in the Willcox Bench area. Rhone varieties are their specialty.
Keeling Schaefer Vineyards
The Keeling Schaefer Vineyards tasting room is located just down the street on Railroad Avenue, in the historic 1917 Willcox Bank and Trust building.
It’s an impressive space. We enjoyed sipping wine and admiring the artwork.
It is the largest collection of art placed by TRUST Art & Design that we saw. Lovely.
The Keeling Schaefer vineyards, planted with Rhone varieties, are located at the foot of the Chiricahua Mountains at an elevation of 5000 ft. They’re only a few miles from Lawrence Dunham Vineyards whom we also visited. Here is a sampling of what we tasted.
2012 Keeling Schaefer Vineyards Picpoul Blanc $18. Interesting toasted almond and citrus flavors with good acidity.
2010 Keeling Schaefer Vineyards Partners Rhone blend $22. Ripe dark fruit flavors, smooth tannins.
We also tasted their 2009 Two Reds Grenache and the 2009 Farmers Rhone Blend. Both are light-bodied red wines. Good summertime reds.
Finally, we tasted their 2008, 2009 and 2010 Home Place Reserve Syrah. All are rich, dark and aged in new French oak.
Flying Leap Vineyards
Flying Leap Vineyards is a relatively new addition to the wine scene. It was founded in 2010 and has vineyards in Elgin and Willcox. It has two tasting rooms as well.
The Willcox tasting room is located just across the tracks from Carlson Creek Vineyards. It’s in the original location of the Headquarters Saloon at the corner of E. Maley Street and Railroad Avenue. Warren Earp, younger brother of Wyatt, was shot in the saloon on July 6, 1900.
Their Willcox vineyards, located in the Kansas Settlement area, are being developed in stages with the first plantings in 2011. They expect to harvest here in 2015.
In 2013 Flying Leap purchased Canelo Hills Winery in Elgin, site of the second tasting room. It is located in the Sonoita AVA, the only AVA designated in Arizona. The Canelo Hills vineyards were planted in 2003 and Flying Leap purchased the winery, vineyards and inventory. You will see a combination of Canelo Hills and Flying Leap wines in the Willcox tasting room.
Flying Leap Vineyards is a winery to watch. We are curious to see how their winemaking style evolves. We didn’t taste their wines on this trip because they were in transition to a new style, but will definitely look to taste their wines next time.
Additional wineries we did not visit on this trip, but plan to visit in the future:
Sand-Reckoner Vineyards Sand-Reckoner has a great reputation but the timing didn’t work out for an appointment.
Coronado Vineyards Coronado Vineyards also has a restaurant at the winery. We tried to make it out there but just ran out of time.
Colibri Vineyard & Winery A small producer with an excellent vineyard. We will be trying them on our next trip.
If you want help planning your visit, you will find maps and contact information for area wineries and tasting rooms at Willcox Wine Country. I used their maps to plan our trip.
We tasted a variety of styles of wine during our visit and there is something for every palate. It is absolutely a wine region we will visit again. It will be interesting to taste future vintages, especially from some of the newer wineries.
Many of these wines are available in restaurants throughout Arizona and in retail locations within the state. Next time you are in Arizona, make sure to look for Arizona wines on restaurant wine lists. Even if you don’t have time to visit this beautiful wine region, you can still enjoy the wines.