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IT’S BEEN QUITE A RIDE!
A Conversation with Kief Manning Story and Photos by J. Andrews
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Owner and Winemaker Kief Manning
- summer / 2016
ZWINE Lifestyle sat down with Kief Manning, owner and winemaker at Kief-Joshua Vineyards, for a conversation about grapevines, winemaking, and life. Picture this . . . sitting outside on the patio at Kief-Joshua’s tasting room . . . the sun setting over one of the most beautiful and spectacular regions of southern Arizona, with Kief’s antique car soaking up what sun is left for the day . . . looking out over the high desert grasslands with rolling hills, Arizona ash and oak trees, and endless grapevines . . . surrounded by 9,000-foot mountains . . . and a glass of wine with the winemaker himself. You see, it’s entirely possible that this conversation in this setting might not have happened. We’ll get back to this in a bit. First, let’s find out more about Kief and Kief-Joshua Vineyards. AZWINE AZWINElifestyle lifestyle..com com
AZWINE: Kief, how did you get started in this business? KJV: I worked in wine shop at 15, then started studying beer and wine at home as a hobby. I attended two semesters at UC Davis in California, and then was too young to continue making beer and wine in US, so I transferred to Monash University in Australia, where I earned my undergraduate degree in Wine Technology Management and Marketing, then continued on and achieved my masterâ€™s degree in Viticulture and Enology at the University of Melbourne, Australia. AZWINE: How did you pick the location for Kief-Joshua Vineyards? KJV: When we started in 2003, there was one winery in Willcox, three in the Sonoita-Elgin area, and only five licensed wineries in the state. Sonoita was the only AVA (American Viticultural Area) in Arizona, and still is to this day. My family had always been in Arizona, so I wanted to stay. The Arizona wine industry was young, and this area was extremely pretty,
and very quiet. We found this property through another person, but it was not for sale. It was owned by a person on east coast. We contacted her, she listed the property for sale, and we bought it. There were only two other vineyards on the road at the time. AZWINE: How did you know you could grow grapes on this property? KJV: This area was the second location in the country to be planted with European wine grapes back in the 1560â€™s, so we knew the land was right for growing grapes. Plus, we were able to taste some of the wines being made in that area, and we were able to see how their grapevines were maturing. AZWINE: How did you decide how much land to plant first? KJV: We planted approximately three acres the first year, based off of working capital and number of workers. Then, we kept planting each year. We knew if we planted
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Kief-Joshua Vineyards, Elgin, Arizona
about two acres every spring, my dad, Jeff, and I could keep up with maintenance and man power without getting too overwhelmed. The first two years of a vine are more labor intensive because we have to structure and train the vine. AZWINE: What is the average life of a vine? KJV: The oldest vine I know of is about 430 years old, but the average commercial life of a grapevine is 75 years in a vineyard. As the vines get older, replanting occurs between these older vines, so young vines can be somewhat mature when old vines are pulled out. AZWINE: Did you start with your own equipment for making wine? Yes, we started with our own equipment and always have done our own winemaking. We started small, with a few necessary pieces of equipment, and continued to add more each year, as needed.
AZWINE: What is the benefit of owning your own equipment? KJV: We have control from grape to glass! We are able to control our own schedule, based on availability and timing of the grape harvest. And, we can do what we want when we need to, in order to best fit our schedules.
AZWINE: How do you decide what barrels to use? KJV: Itâ€™s really personal preference, and track record from my experiences making wine. All of our reds are done in oak. Usually we work with more neutral barrels. Not overt oak, just background. We use medium toast to medium-plus toast. Our whites were primarily in oak barrels, but now we are using more stainless steel for whites. It gives them a lighter and fruiter taste for Arizona summers.
AZWINE: How do you decide what to use for bottles and corks? We use 100 percent, all-natural cork for sealing our bottles. When we first started, we used several different bottles, but we soon found that one bottle was sufficient. Now we use just Antique Green Full Punt Bordeaux wine bottles. In the early days of winemaking, bottle make-up and shape seemed to be more regional and traditional to the area where the wine was produced in order to keep costs down. AZWINE: How many wines do you produce each season? KJV: We make about 16 to 17 different types of wine annually, mainly 100 percent varietal. Typically we produce approximately 60 percent reds and 40 percent whites. I also make a late harvest zinfandel. This is special because we let the grapes hang on the vines longer so they concentrate more sugar and ripeness. Personally, I like to drink whites when the sun is up and reds when the sun is down, depending on what food is being served, what the weather is like, and what is open at the time. AZWINE: As a winemaker, at the end of the day, do you pair food with wine or wine with food? KJV: Generally the wine comes to the food, but it can depend on the season and what wines are available. My opinion is that with families at home, wine seems to come to the food, and with the public, food comes to the wine. AZWINE: What can you tell me about the operation of Kief-Joshua Vineyards? KJV: My dad, Jeff, and I do the day-to-day winery and vineyard work, my mom, Charlene, works the tasting
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room, festivals, and performs other administrative duties, and we have a couple neighbors that come by to help out. AZWINE: Your tasting room, outdoor patio area, and winemaking facilities all seem to be very peoplefriendly. When is the best time for people to stop if for a tasting, buy your wines, and get a tour? KJV: We are open 11 am to 5 pm, 7 days a week, except Thanksgiving and Christmas. People can stop in for tastings or to buy wine every day, and sometimes we have food trucks during the weekends. We have festivals and events throughout the year, and live music every Saturday in the summer. Being open 363 days a year give us lots of seasonal flexibility on our covered patios, and in the large outdoor area with picnic tables near the vines. I give tours of our facility by appointment. People should visit our website for more information about all our activities.
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Winemaker Kief Manning
AZWINE: What can you tell me about future plans for you and KiefJoshua Vineyards? KJV: We have planted all of our
AZWINE: Why did you start the Southeast Arizona Wine Growers Festival and how long has it been going on? KJV: Our vineyard has been hosting the festival for five years. As I attended other festivals throughout the state, I realized there was not a festival in our area that brought together wineries from all over the state. We get a couple thousand people for the festival. They all love wine, live music, food, art, and an easy-going atmosphere.
acreage in Elgin. It would be nice to expand production and storage areas, but that will come with time. Meanwhile, we own 40 acres near Willcox in the Kansas Settlement and that is our current project. We will start planting this spring and will plant three to five acres for starters. We are going to build a production facility, storage area, and tasting room that should be open in the next nine to twelve months. Our Kansas Settlement vineyard is near other wineries in that area, so we will be easy to find.
starting in full force. Then in October, he was in a T-bone car accident as a passenger, and again in November, he was in a head-on collision when another driver crossed over the center line into his lane at 60 miles-per-hour, totaling his truck. Kief survived both of these accidents and felt he was on the road to recovery. But during a computerized tomography (CT) scan to check his neck and back from the barrel accident, the doctors discovered he had lung cancer. They found a large tumor in Kief’s lower right lung, which
Sunset at Kief-Joshua Vineyards
AZWINE: Lastly, how about those signature mutton chops? What’s the story? KJV: I started shaving when I was 12 and I always hated shaving. When I graduated high school, I had a 9” goatee that went down to the middle of my chest. When I got into the wine business, I started growing the mutton chops because it cut down about 50% of my shaving time.
There you have it. Now you know more about Kief and his vineyard. But let’s get back to the fact that this conversation might not have happened. Kief had a string of unfortunate events at the end of 2015. Although, in a strange way, one accident may have saved his life. During the first week of harvest, a full wine barrel fell off the storage rack onto his head, fracturing a vertebra in his neck. This was not good timing with harvest season just spring
required the removal of a large piece of that lung. He is now free of cancer. So, you see, as luck would have it, if the barrel had not fallen on his head, Kief may not have dicovered he had lung cancer. And now, here we sit together on the patio at Kief-Joshua Vinyards, in the warmth of the late afternoon sun, talking about his vineyard, winemaking, and life. Lucky to be alive, Kief wants to have many more conversations.
Kief-Joshua Vineyards 370 Elgin Road, Elgin www.KiefJoshuaVineyards.com 520-455-5582
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. . . more about Kief-Joshua Vineyards
Kief-Joshua Vineyards production facility and tasting room
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of producing memorable wines of outstanding quality, he needed to start in the vineyards and not focus solely on the winemaking. Inspired to meet present goals while preserving the land for future generations, Kief made the commitment to implement sustainable farming techniques from vineyard to bottle. The vineyard is free of herbicides and pesticides, and this environmentally sound approach will continue to be implemented over the years. Baby Doll sheep, an ancient breed measuring only two feet tall at maturity, have been integrated into the vineyard rows to graze on the green grass and weeds, enhancing both biodiversity and nutrient recycling. This practice will decrease the use of harsh pesticides to eradicate weeds and grasses, as well as cutting down on emissions to the air. The Audubon Society has placed several bird houses around the vineyard in hopes of repopulating a rare Bluebird found in Mexico. These birds are known to eat the “bad” bugs, and studies have shown they do not eat the grapes. Kief-Joshua Vineyard ensures natural crop nutrition by recycling organic matter, such as discarded and collected grape stems, for use as mulch in the vineyards, and the use of naturally occurring cover crops. These practices have many benefits. The use of mulch in the vineyard and planting of cover crops adds back desirable, rich, moist and long-lasting nutrients to the soil, and helps prevent soil erosion. The integration of desirable plants throughout the vineyards attracts advantageous insects, which helps to naturally resist pest and disease attacks from undesirable species. In lieu of discarding the wine barrels, Kief and his father, Jeff, are turning the old barrels into high-top barrel tables, end-tables, candle holders, bottles racks, clocks, chandeliers, and baskets. All are reasonably priced and for sale in the tasting room.
Kief-Joshua Vineyards is a small family business with 20 acres in beautiful Elgin and 40 acres in Willcox Wine Country. The Elgin tasting room is open daily and is situated in the middle of what is known as “Winery Row.” Kief practices traditional winemaking methods of minimal interference, open fermentation and barrel aging. In 2006, Kief eliminated the use of herbicides and pesticides in the vineyard. “We strive for excellence in winemaking and sustainability in our vineyard,” says Kief. “I produce Arizona wines that demonstrate the intensity, richness and complexity of the area.” Kief-Joshua Vineyards is a winery defined by family, passion and enthusiasm. At Kief-Joshua Vineyards they specialize in dry, full-bodied wines, that are crafted by hand using traditional methods of barrel aging and gentle handling to produce top-quality wines for any occasion Their Vineyard practices are customized to match the particular characteristics of the soil to help the vines produce the best fruit possible, and to in turn, achieve the best wine possible. At the directon of Kief Manning, his team implements irrigation and nutrient regimes, trellis system and canopy management, rootstock and clone combinations, and pruning and cane selection for each block within the vineyard. Because of the land’s diverse geological makeup, even within one vineyard parcel there may be several different types of soil with different degrees of nutrients for vines and water-holding capacity. In addition, Kief practices sustainable farming techniques, such as composting, planting cover crops and other plant species to avoid soil erosion, adding desirable nutrients back into the soil to attract desirable insects, and integrating animals to naturally enhance biodiversity and nutrient recycling. Kief-Joshua Vineyards is practicing sustainable farming techniques to help protect the land. Kief realized early on that to achieve his goal
April 18 & 19
Southeast April Arizona 16 & 17 Wine Growers Music Festival Southeast Arizona and Chili Cook-off Wine Growers Music Festival MayCook-off 1-8 and Chili Line Represents Dieline Magala, Spain to Rome, Italy DOES NOT PRINT SeaDream Yacht Cruise with June, July & August 100% Winemaker Manning. Summer Wine Kief Concert Series Contact Monika at Avenue every Saturday, from 1-4 pm of the World Travel 800.230.3322 July 18 or Monika@AvenueoftheWorld.com Dinner in the Vines
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370 Elgin Road, Elgin, AZ 370 Elgin Road, Elgin, AZ85611 85611 spring
(520) 455-5582 (520) 455-5582
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"It's been quite a ride!" A Conversation with Kief Manning of Kief-Joshua Vineyards in Elgin, Arizona