It is no secret that at FnB we showcase Arizona’s agricultural bounty. Over the years, my business partner, James Beard Award-winning chef Charleen Badman, has continued to cement relationships with Arizona’s farmers so we can showcase what our state has to offer. We chose to also showcase Arizona wine. One question out-of-towners ask is how we can grow grapes in the desert where it’s so hot and dry.
The answer is elevation, which tempers our question-our-existence-summers.
Los Milics Winery – my family’s new vineyard and winery, which will bottle our first vintage this year – sits at 5,000 feet in the town of Sonoita. In early September, I opened the window in the morning to a 62-degree breeze. The diurnal and nocturnal range (the temperature shift between night and day) is between 20 to 30 degrees.
Guests are surprised when we tell them too much water is a challenge in Arizona. Though I love our dramatic monsoons, they occur during harvest time. Too much rain leads to damaging rot and mildew. During harvest, we had a week where it rained every other day, not giving the clusters enough time to dry so we could pick. Places like Napa in California or the Willamette Valley in Oregon do not experience this late-summer precipitation. In August, a couple of vineyards in Sonoita and one in the Verde Valley were nearly decimated by hail.
My friend Chris Bianco likes to say that “you can taste the struggle” in Arizona wine. That’s true. It’s not easy, but that’s also the allure. Our first harvest went relatively well. We have 500 liters of base wine for sparkling, 1,000 liters of Grenache rosé and 500 liters of Tempranillo rosé. Fingers crossed, my wife, Ita, and I will open the doors to our tasting room this spring.
Los Milics Winery
423 Upper Elgin Rd., Elgin