AZ Wine Industry Boosting Ties to UA

Article excerpt

CORRECTION RAN JULY 23, 2013, A2

Arizona has more than 1,000 acres of wine grapevines planted around the state, contrary to the By the Numbers box on A4 with "AZ wine industry boosting ties to UA" on Sunday.

University to expand research, coursework for surging sector

The Arizona Wine Growers Association is rolling out a plan to bolster the state's burgeoning wine industry with the help of the University of Arizona.

The UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences will establish the Southwest Wine Library in Tucson to complement Yavapai College's Southwest Wine Center in Clarkdale, which includes a working vineyard.

The programs anchor the association's "Emerging Wine Industry Strategic Plan" to strengthen the state's fast-growing wine industry. The payoffs would be especially big for rural economies of the Verde Valley and Southern Arizona wine regions.

The UA has committed to working with the winegrowers association, but many details have yet to be decided, said Jeffrey Silvertooth, the college's associate dean for economic development and director of Arizona Cooperative Extension.

The UA's role will include research, working with wineries to test soil for things such as the deadly Pierce's disease and establishing the library to catalog the industry's history and future, from vine to bottle, he said.

"That is a young organization, and they don't have the mechanism in place for collecting funds among their growers to direct toward research," Silvertooth said.

The UA also will offer advanced educational programs in such areas as plant, food and soil sciences, horticulture, food safety and retail management that could support the wine industry.

The courses will bridge an associate's degree program Prescott- based Yavapai College launched three years ago that offers courses in viticulture and enology. Yavapai's program is modeled after the University of California-Davis program that teaches students the business of producing and marketing wine.

In addition to classrooms, Yavapai's Southwest Wine Center has a 17-acre vineyard where students plant and harvest grapes then produce their own wine.

This is the strongest push in the 40 years that wineries have existed in Arizona to grow and market the industry.

Elgin and Sonoita are home to Arizona's original wineries, which popped up in the 1970s. That region now supports about a dozen wineries, said Kent Callaghan, whose parents started their namesake vineyard in Sonoita in 1980.

In the past decade or so, nearly a dozen wineries have sprouted in the Willcox area, which also supplies grapes to several Verde Valley wineries in Northern Arizona, including Pillsbury Wine Company in Cottonwood and Arizona Stronghold in neighboring Cornville.

"The growth that we've had in just the past five years has had a major impact on the economy," Callaghan said. "The spinoff effect from tourism is people going to wine regions ... who stay at hotels, eat at restaurants."

The growth shows no signs of slowing.

"The amount of wine produced doubled in just the last year, and I expect it to do it again," said Peggy Fiandaca, the wine association's president. She and her husband own Lawrence Dunham Vineyards in the Cochise County town of Pearce.

"We have the potential of becoming a truly unique, fine wine, grape-growing region. Our soils are so unique, and they are producing really fine wines," she said.

Arizona has 80 bonded wineries and about 1,000 planted vines. In 2012, wine production topped 180,000 gallons - more than double the total produced in 2011, according to the association's yearlong study "Emerging Wine Industry: New Economic Engine for Arizona." The strategic plan was born from that study.

"We have grapes in the ground all the way to Mohave County, Graham County. …