ARIZONA WINE COUNTRY
hoosing to further
one’s education of the wine-r things in life can be intimidating,
especially if there has been a visit to a less-than-welcoming tasting room. The following wineries are more than happy to help- assistance without the attitude. The following vineyards, distilleries and microbreweries say they’re more than happy to demystify the product without abasing the experience.
Since buying their property in 2013, Flying Leap Vineyards has earned quite the reputation. Between planted acres in Sonoita, Willcox, and a smaller Estate vineyard in Elgin, the operation yields enough fruit to produce approximately 500 cases of wine annually. Flying Leap operates tasting rooms located in Bisbee, Tucson, Willcox, Elgin and Tubac and with a sixth opening in Prescott. Despite operating multiple tasting rooms, Vice President, Co-founder and Winemaker Marc Moeller says the atmosphere within remains the same. “Visitors will be greeted by friendly staff who’re well able to explain how a tasting flight works and the wines available,” he said. Moeller and his co-owners take the training of their staff so serious that they developed a mini training
flyingleapvineyards.com for more details. Along with the new events venue, the vineyard has recently begun distillery operations. Moeller said plans had been in the works for about three years. Distillery operations began last August. “We’ve got a lot of things going at the distillery,” he said. The state-ofthe-art facility features, among other things, German-built stills. For now, the distillery is putting out apple brandy, vodka, Irish single malt, as well as starting on bourbons. “The craft distilling industry in Arizona is in its infancy,” Moeller said. “We have vineyards, so we can distill some wines and make these wonderful vodkas and brandies from our wines. While the distillery’s tasting room isn’t open just yet, the owners welcome visitors to take a peek inside. “As we get more established and busier, we’re going to do more of a structured tour and tastings,” he adds. All told, Moeller said he’s encouraged by the Sonoita AVA’s reputation in the world of wine. “It’s encouraging that people are seeing Arizona as a stand-alone wine industry,” Moeller said. He notes that it’s always nice to entertain new visitors, not only at Flying Leap Vineyard and Distillery, but elsewhere in the region. “It benefits us all,” said Moeller. “A rising tide lifts all boats.”
COPPER HOP RANCH FARM & MICROBREWERY
Bisbee visitors Annie Casper, left, and Jan Zahner sample some wine at the Flying Leap Vineyards Tasting Room and Fine Art Gallery as sommelier Keith Dennis serves in the Bisbee facility.
When the sign at Copper Hop Ranch Farm & Microbrewery says open, that’s exactly what they mean. The five acre property is home to Santa Cruz County’s first licensed microbrewery. It is also a working farm. Located off the beaten trail, it has the laid back feel of a neighbor’s front yard, complete with barns, pets and corn hole. Owner and Winemaker Melanie Pyle
and her husband Tom describe their and microbrewery as “the place you find when you’re out in Vermont or something and you see a fruit stand on the side of the road and you have to stop.” Copper Hop Ranch & Microbrewery are known for their ciders, which include a pineapple, peach mango and their flagship pear cider. The fruit for the ciders is locally sourced from the neighbors. In fact, the farm prides itself on wasting very little. They grow their own hops. Extra grain is used to feed their chickens as well as their neighbors’ animals and even the peppers used in their Hatch chili beer are local. “We support each other and send each other business,” Pyle says of her neighbors. She and her husband have been known to pitch in during harvest time at nearby vineyards. “Ninety-nine percent of the brewers will send you around to other wineries and to us. We’re a tight knit community,” she said. None of the products from Copper Hop Ranch & Microbrewery have added sugar. Their beer shack is a converted 16-feet by 20-feet barn that doubles as a tasting room and bar, complete with tasting patio. Another, slightly larger barn holds the brewery operation. Pyle said the ambiance is intentional. “It’s like going to a farm or an antique store on a farm. We’re not fancy. We just want people to relax and have a good time,” she said. Good times and community are what it’s all about, according to the Pyle’s. They’ve been known to allow selfcontained campers to stay on their property and let visitors pick their own hops. “Sure, we take folks out and let them pick a couple of hops to put in their beer or cider,” said Pyle. This month, the hops are just beginning to sprout. When the hops are on the bine — yes, bine — they can tower well over eight feet.
MARCH 2017 • HERALD/REVIEW
MARCH 2017 • HERALD/REVIEW
FLYING LEAP VINEYARDS
program for them. “The program covers the Arizona wine industry, the history of Arizona wine, how many different wineries, even what fruit yields are,” he said. Some staff even attend lectures through the University of California, Davis. “It’s not like, ‘here are your six tastes and if you like something, buy it’,” Moeller said. “We’re about communicating the love of what we do.” In turn, he says, that knowledge is passed down to their visitors; either through informal tasting room conversations or through first-hand, hands-on experience. “We’ve had visitors come to the back and explain what we’re doing that day or the equipment they see,” Moeller said. “It gives them a connection to our vineyards and to the Arizona wine industry. There are several reasons why Arizona wines are so unique, he said. “With small wineries, you will notice a difference between the years of the same wine,” Moeller explains. “We can’t aggregate the crops, so our 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon is going to differ from the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon due to microclimate changes.” He goes on to say, “Sonoita sits around 5,000 feet above sea level and grapes do well in those conditions.” Flying Leap specializes in several grape varietals, including Tannat, Petite Verdot, Graciano, and Tempranillo. “You couldn’t grow great grapes at lower elevations because it’s just too hot and the grapes don’t have time to recover,” Moeller says. Although the festival scene isn’t Flying Leap’s bailiwick, the vineyard and distillery does offer five or six wine pairing dinners throughout the year. The next pairing is their Spring Fling, scheduled for April 8. The catered dinner takes place in their brand-new event venue. The large venue- perfect for weddings or corporate gatherings- is available for rent. Contact the vineyard at contact@
ARIZONA WINE COUNTRY
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