The leaves of the Petite Sirah are just beginning to unfurl here in the Verde Valley. We're at Page Springs Cellars' House Mountain Vineyard talking with vineyard manager Jeff Hendricks about growing grapes in Northern Arizona.
Is there anything special about this year and growing?
Nothing too special yet… we had a wet and mild winter. This might lead to uneven bud break because of the mild winter, or excessive growth and vigor because it was a wet winter, but we'll have to see.
How do you deal with water shortages?
We’ve never dealt with a water shortage. Vines use less water per acre than most food crops and much less than grazing animals… they are desert plants and watered infrequently. The Page Springs area has natural springs and Oak Creek and healthy pumping wells; we’ll have water when many others in the state might not and planting vines is a very responsible use of the water resources.
What makes that region good for growing?
There’s a lot that makes this area special. We probably have bigger differences between day and night temperatures than anywhere on the planet that’s growing grape vines. This difference (called a diurnal shift) is often thought to give the eventual wine many of the subtle characteristics that make wine special. We have lots of sun which is great for grapes in so many ways. Then there are our cold winters and monsoon rains which are problematic… but those who love doing this in Arizona see it all as positive and whether it’s good or bad it contributes in some way to the terroir and the general taste of Arizona. Many wines have gotten prestigious awards and world wide recognition so we figure this climate must have something special.
This report is part of the Vintage 2015 project. To see how the 2015 vintage is shaping up in other parts of the country, visit www.vintage2015.com.