With California next door, Napa Valley is often the first place that comes to mind when “wine country” is mentioned, but unknown to many, Arizona has its own booming wine country in the northern and southern areas of the state.
The rapidly growing local industry has a large economic impact. In 2017 the wine tourism industry will create an estimated $56.2 million in economic impact, according to a study by Northern Arizona University.
Brian Predmore, president of the Arizona Wine Growers Association, said the biggest hurdle the industry faces is a need for awareness.
“Since we are so close to California, there are a lot of people in the Phoenix area who don’t know about the wine country here,” Predmore said.
Awareness of Arizona rose as wildfires impacted California’s wine country during this year’s wildfire season. Predmore said, fortunately only a small area of wineries burned and they will be able to recover by the next growing season. But the area being temporarily closed caused visitors to turn to Arizona.
“We got increased visits in our wine areas because of people not being allowed to visit California wine country,” Predmore said.
There are over 100 licensed wineries in Arizona and most of the vineyards in the state are “pretty small businesses.”
Curt Dunham, owner and wine maker at LDV Winery, said California and Arizona can be complementary wine countries because the areas have good conditions for different kinds of grapes, and therefore wine.
Dunham said once someone comes out to his winery for a tasting, they are impressed and will often become repeat visitors.
“People always have a great experience when they come down and try the wine,” Dunham said. “They will buy a bottle of wine and share it with their friends, and then we can develop a loyal base.”
LDV winery produces approximately 2,500 cases of wine a year, and Dunham said even small wineries create an economic impact.
“People will go to a winery and stay in a hotel, eat at local restaurants and go shopping while on a trip and that really stimulates the local economy,” Dunham said. “It’s a really positive thing for Arizona.”
Predmore said The Arizona Wine Growers Association is focusing on marketing to increase growth.
“We want to become something like Napa Valley where people can get out of the urban areas where wine country is just an hour drive away,” Predmore said.
The association recently hosted a festival in Tucson and in January, it will have its annual Grand Wine Festival in Downtown Phoenix on Saturday, Jan. 27.
“It’s all about getting someone to taste a new kind of wine and realize what Arizona wineries have to offer,” Predmore said.