Before we settled on an Arizona vineyard location, we examined the climate conditions throughout the state such as Growing Degree Days, climate conditions, elevations, and winter temperatures.
The location had to be cold enough in the winter to ensure that we would not have a problem with Pierce’s disease, which will kill grape vines, but warm enough to grow Pinot Noir.
It also had to have low humidity to minimize susceptibility to mildews and mold allowing us to use organic based vineyard practices.
As we started to establish our vineyard blocks we found out that our criteria came with a trade off. Our first plantings of vines were grafted onto 1103P which is a drought tolerant rootstock. However, we noticed after our first winter that we had some loses due to Crown Gaul. After contacting UC Davis, and Vintage Nursery, our vine supplier with our problem, we found out that 1103P was cold tolerant down to about 17 degrees and our winter temperatures were too cold for that variety of rootstock. Our solution was to plant future vines on a cold tolerant Crown Gaul resistant rootstock such as 101.14 or 3309. Subsequent planting have all been grafted onto those two rootstocks.
Description of Black Mesa Basin
At 4,550 ft above sea level, this basin is defined by both elevation and soil, but it is the unique weather pattern that makes this area truly special. Influenced by the cooling effects of the cool air from the Grand Canyon Flowing through the Ash Fork Gap, just a few miles to our northwest, this cool evening air creeps down into the valley basin, dropping the temperature by 35-40 degrees from the daytime highs.
During the summer months, the cool evening air coupled with clear warm temperatures and low humidity in the afternoons, allows the grapes to slowly mature retaining good acid levels while developing optimal flavors.
We are finding that the winds in the valley lead to smaller leaf size as well as smaller grape clusters. This unique phenomena in the valley will produce a higher degree of color and flavor concentration in the fruit which translates to intense and luscious wines. Due to the late spring frost, late budding varieties like Pinot Noir, Carménère, Phoenix, Vignoles, Merlot, Riesling and Chardonnay are good choices.
As a result of our Santa Rosa JC training and many tours of Premium Pinot Noir vineyards, we chose the California high density vertical shoot positioning model for our vineyard. We also have north and south row positioning to provide even light exposure on both sides of the cluster. This system will extract the maximum concentration of fruit flavors from each vine.
To achieve this high density model, we have our rows at 6' spacing and our vine spacing is 2.5'. UC Davis research indicates that this system will optimize fruit quality and produce a more balanced vine thereby reducing the need for summer hedging.
Over time we have elevated our cordon wire from 31" to 43". This high wire system reduce the vines reflective heat absorption from the soil, while promoting good air circulation leading to an even ripening of fruit throughout the vineyard.
Organic Based Sustainable Viticulture
To further maintain the health of the vines, we apply organic fertilizers through our drip system in the early spring before bud break and again in fall just after harvest.
We also do multiple pruning and several thinning (dropping fruit) throughout the growing season to increase sun exposure and lessen mildew pressure.
Birds are a concern wherever you grow grapes.
To protect our fruit from our fine feathered friends, we employ Fruit Zone Bird Netting which is placed on each side of the vine, covering only the fruiting area
All these operations combine to insure quality fruit and preserve the health of the vines for years to come. As you can tell caring for our vineyard is an intensive labor of love. We will continue to care for it with tender loving care. In return, the vines will continue to give us stellar fruit year after year.