Exploring the Arizona wine scene is a fascinating phenomenon. There are the pioneers whose vision developed the framework of our vineyards, and the budding neophytes offering fresh ideas and innovative concepts. Each bring their own twist to Arizona’s wines. Their common ground is the never ending learning curve. Prescott Winery, one of Arizona’s newest wineries, is all about continuous education and fostering goals. I met with Lisa Russell, one of the owners of Prescott Winery who shared their courageous story with me. She so humbly wanted to me to know that she and her father are the minority owners while Bill Smoot is the majority owner. The very elegant Russell gave kudos to many people in the Arizona wine industry for the success of the up and coming Prescott Winery. She has her own hopes and dreams for the winery but is soaking up advice from everyone who is willing to share. In Arizona, that’s most people in the industry. I spent the afternoon with Russell, and Tasting Manager Barbara Rowland. Both are refreshingly real, and down to earth wine lovers.
When asked about their style of winemaking and wine growing region, Russell said “We are growing grapes in Coyote Springs of Prescott Valley. However, it will be about three years before we have our own fruit for wine. We currently source grapes from Rolling View Vineyards in the Kansas Settlement of the Wilcox Bench in southeastern Arizona. We have custom crush arrangements with several winemakers, Tim White, original winemaker of Arizona Stronghold, and Michael Pierce, of Rolling View Vineyards and director at the Southwest Wine Center.”
At Prescott Winery, they strive to develop their own brand. Smoot likes the idea of “fun wines” and “fine wines.” Both have very different styles, labeling and marketing. The image of the winery is a combination of many things that were relevant to the building and the town at one point in time. The house has been a pottery shop, tattoo parlor, tea room and a residence. They didn’t want to take any history away from the house, yet they wanted to infuse their own style. When asked about the desired look and feel, Russell said “We like the clean aesthetic look and contemporary pieces for our brand but we have to respect the culture and ancestry. We like to connect with Prescott and local legends in our décor and labeling. Hence, our 2014 Big Nose Kate Red Blend! Big Nose Kate was Doc Holliday’s common law wife and she lived and died in Prescott. We also like to include parts of Prescott on our labels. A photo of Watson Lake is the featured artwork on our 2015 Heritage Chardonnay bottle.” I can’t wait to see what will be on the bottle of their red blend called “Jewel” to be released this month.
The baby new winery, as Russell calls it, works with other wineries to keep a plenteous list in the tasting room. “As small batch producers we are happy to have select wines from Burning Tree Cellars on our menu. It exuberates their presence in the Prescott region while helping us maintain a variety for our customers.”
Russell is an experimental winemaker and student at Yavapai Southwest Wine Center. She loves to get her hands dirty. She and her father Facetime while engaging in new concoctions that just could be the future of Prescott Winery. “We are working on our first small batch of Petit Sirah. This will not be available for commercial sale but it is allowing us to shape our own style. Winemakers, White and Pierce are such valuable resources and their creativity and skill is helping us reach our goals.”
I asked Russell about hosting events and working with the local community. She said, “We love working with local restaurants for our events. We want to support each other. We may be doing some partnering with pop-up restaurants where they bring in the food and we pair our wines with their menu.” There is a huge local business model in Prescott and with Prescott Winery. They are Local First members and support local artists. The owner of the building and local potter, Carol Commins, still occupies some of the establishment and they work together on events.
Finally, I got the opportunity to taste the wines on their peace-loving patio. The old world-style of grape growing, combined with the eclectic character of their winemakers, give their wines a personal edge. Russell told me she asked majority owner and nearly retired Smoot, why he would fund this project/business at this point in his life. He said he wants to be able to look outside of his home and see a vineyard living on his property. It will be so exciting to watch this inspirited project grow, and sparkle like the “Jewel” it is meant to be.
Well, Prescott might be famous for Whiskey Row and its shot and beer establishments, but it is now a playground for foodies and wine lovers as well. Add Prescott to your list of wine travels and be sure to pop in Prescott Winery, at 216 N. Alarcon St. You will be greeted by warm, fun loving souls eager to share their lively wines! Prescott Winery is walking distance to Whiskey Row, plenty of hotels, and fine dining. For more information, visit www.prescottwinery.com.
– East Valley resident Darla S. Hoffmann is a certified specialist of wine and the owner of About Wine. She offers wine education, tastings and classes. Reach her at 480-540-7555 or Aboutwine@mail.com.