Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Verde Valley Wine Consortium

Last Wednesday I attended the monthly meeting of the Verde Valley Wine Consortium. This is a group composed of many of the movers and shakers in the valley's wine industry. I hate to call it an industry. It's not, clearly, and hopefully never will be. We've got enough industrial wine in this country. Anyhow, on the recommendation of Lisa Pender, manager of the Pillsbury Wine Company Tasting Room in Cottonwood, I went. The meetings are open to the public and very interesting. Anyone who thinks the valley's wine thing is some bunch of hippies trying to grow grapes instead of weed or a poorly funded flash in the pan that's doomed to failure will quickly have their eyes opened to exactly the opposite. It's not my place to publish their meeting minutes, but here are a few quick tidbits that I found quite amazing.

A representative from Yavapai College was present. Yavapai college has jumped on wine full force. They've planted a vineyard, albeit a demonstration siezed one at present, are offering viticulture and wine appreciation courses, and plan a full blown curriculum in winemaking and even hope to one day bottle their own wine! They have a very interesting painted wine barrel project ongoing wherein barrels are painted by local artists and placed at local wine businesses for a time. At the end of the project they'll be auctioned off, I suspect for big dollars, to help support the viticulture program. This endeavor is being heavily promoted by the wine trail discussed below. Here's a PDF that explains the program. Quite a few noted local artists are jumping on board and you can expect to see their barrels ultimately go for big bucks.

I think it's generally understood that the Chamber of Commerce is and has always been essentially an arm of the Republican party. I make no judgments in that regard, it's just how it is. As such, they're traditionally a very conservative bunch who do not eagerly embrace the newest business craze until they're sure it's got serious dollar potential and long legs. They are ALL OVER Verde Valley wines. I'd love to have been at the members only C of C meeting sometime in the recent past where they all slapped themselves in the forehead and realized "holy crap, tourists are actually COMING HERE FOR WINE!! WE GOTTA JUMP ON THIS!!" Well god bless 'em they have. Check out The Verde Valley Wine Trail homepage.

The First Crush

  No, not the first crush like that girl in first grade. The first crush like the first pressing of grapes in a new season after the harvest. This blog is going to be a journal of sorts. I have recently found myself with the time to pursue a lifelong interest: wine.
  I've had a sort of peripheral association with wine for many years. God knows I've consumed enough. I've also served a lot as a bartender and waiter, and I've cooked my share of it into recipes as a chef many years ago and as the family cook at home. What I've never really had the time to do is just explore and learn about it. Being in the middle of a region literally exploding with grapes and wineries and tasting rooms and having finally the time, I figured it's now or never. Many thanks to my pal John for pushing me into chronicling this venture on a blog. I decided in this first post that maybe I oughta let any readers out there know what they may and may not expect to see on this page. So here we go.

My intention here is to journalize a personal exploration into the growing wine business in the Verde Valley. Not all the wines I'll be talking about will be completely local wines. Most will be Arizona wines and wineries. Many of the wineries in the Verde Valley are using grapes grown in the Wilcox Arizona area, which produces 80% of the wine grapes grown in the state, and some are still using California grapes. As vineyards in the Verde continue to expand and mature, that percentage of grapes from someplace else will naturally go down.

I'll try to post daily, but no promises. When the muse leaves me I can't even remember how to type.

You can expect irreverence. Sorry, it's just me. Here, I'm guessing a lot of that irreverence will be directed towards wine snobs, who deserve to be derided and made fun of at every opportunity. Anyone who's ever described me as jaded and snarky wasn't entirely mistaken!

You'll see lots of opinions and reviews posted, but you'd be well advised to take them all with a large grain of salt. I'm no expert. If I tell you in some tipsy writing session to run out and buy a particular wine and it turns out to be swill, don't say I didn't warn you. Remember, you are taking advice from a palate heavily influenced for decades by cheap beer, chile peppers and chewing tobacco. Hey, it's Cornville!!

I'll be talking about pretty much anything that's remotely related to wines in the Verde, but might ramble off into left field at times. For example, I adore beer. Beer's  a food group. I'll make every effort to keep beer on the fringes of this blog, but it may sneak in from time to time.
Enough introductions, here we go. If anyone's actually reading this, thanks. Your feedback is welcome!