Photo Essay by Mirelle Inglefield
AUGUST 2020: Winegrower Dan Pierce collects buckets of harvested grapes at the Rolling View Vineyard in Willcox. The Muscat grapes are earmarked for a “custom crush” wine series with Hidden Track Bottle Shop in Phoenix. Five years prior, Hidden Track owner Craig Dziadowicz approached the Pierce family – owners of Bodega Pierce winery – with an idea for a line of wines branded to historical Phoenix neighborhoods, e.g. an F.Q. Story Chardonnay, a Coronado Petite Sirah and a Roosevelt Rhône blend. Dziadowicz dubbed the project the Historic District Series.
AUGUST 2020: Volunteers, some of whom camped overnight on the vineyard, gather for an early start to the August pick. The recruits, primarily friends and acquaintances of Dziadowicz and his partner, Danielle Middlebrook (pictured, center), focus their efforts on mature grapevines six years or older, each of which on average will yield two bottles of wine. During the pick, Pierce and his wife, Barbara, demonstrate the proper technique of cutting away the ripened grape clusters (top right photo). The 11-person crew is prolific, extracting one ton of grapes per half an hour of labor, according to Dziadowicz (pictured, bottom center). Though this particular harvest day focuses on quick-ripening Muscat grapes – earmarked for an as-yet-unnamed 2022 vintage – the overall Hidden Track harvest will last more than six weeks because certain grapes ripen faster than others.
JUNE 2020: Having settled on the Encanto Historic District for his latest vintage series release, Dziadowicz turned to the matter of finding an artist to design the bottle’s unique, neighborhood-specific label. He found Valley artist Ryan Tempest. Here, Tempest uses pen and ink to finish an aerial view of the neighborhood, which includes one of its Mediterranean Revival homes and a prickly pear cactus. The Encanto wine, a red blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot, will be the fourth such oenological salute to Phoenix’s historical ’hoods. “We’ve always thought that some of the best-kept secrets in Phoenix are in the historic neighborhoods,” Dziadowicz says. “The idea [of the Hidden Track Historic District series] literally sat on our counter for a couple of years in the form of a sketch on a piece of paper taped to a wine bottle.”
Photo of label provided by Ryan Tempest
AUGUST 2020 – JANUARY 2021: Harvesting complete, the Hidden Track grapes are refrigerated and transported to the Bodega Pierce winery in Clarkdale, where they’re destemmed, pressed and prepped for fermentation. The fermentaion process takes anywhere from 10 to 30 days, according to head winemaker Michael Pierce (son of Barbara and Dan), or until it “is stable and ready to age.” The winemakers then barrel the wines in oak and routinely test them to “make sure it’s progessing as intended during the aging process” Dziadowicz says. For example, Encanto was barrel-aged for 12 months and then spent six months aging in bottles, according to Pierce. Here, Pierce, Dziadowicz and Middlebrook sample a barreled Muscat piquette, i.e. a simple, low-alcohol wine made from the remnants of grapes (known as pomace) after they’ve been pressed.
MARCH 2021: Dziadowicz and his collaborators reach the homestretch of their Encanto journey: bottling and labeling. They use the on-site equipment at Bodega Pierce in Clarkdale, printing Tempest’s final design on rolls of stickers, which are inserted into the bottle-labeling machine. The bottles are placed on an automated conveyer belt, which drives the bottles to the rotating sticker roll, which in turn slaps the label onto the bottle. The Encanto project ultimately yields 312 bottles.
first photo in slideshow courtesy Craig Dziadowicz
AUGUST 2021: Known as Boho Farms, the urban “farmette” pictured above dates to 1903 and appeared on the label of Hidden Track’s first historic vintage series, Roosevelt, where it is located. As such, the home proves a fitting gathering spot for friends and harvest volunteers to celebrate the release of Encanto. Toasts abound on the sunlight-dappled patio as the grapes come full-circle. “The perception of wine is so uppity, but it’s just an agricultural product,” Middlebrook says. “It can grow in most areas of the world and can ferment naturally into wine.” Adds Dziadowicz: “It is a very simple product that is often perceived as a complicated product that intimidates consumers.” Do the winemakers have plans for a fifth vintage? Most definitely. The grapes harvested last summer and fall are nearing the end of their barrel phase. A new vintage is imminent. What hasn’t been decided: the Phoenix historical neighborhood it will bear as its name. “We have an idea or two,” Dziadowicz says.