The theme of the day was community. The symposium participates were introduced to all the behind the scenes movers and shakers of the Northern Arizona wine community. These where the people who have worked endless hours together towards a common goal over the past couple years, building a wine community. It was then capped off with a celebration of past, present and future success's.
Here a few quotes that I believe highlight the tone and vibe of information presented on April 28th at the First Verde Valley Wine Symposium sponsored by the Verde Valley Wine Consortium (VVWC) held at Cliff Castle Casino in the Verde Valley.
"You can do good things in a down economy, look at Old Town Cottonwood, it is at 99% occupancy, up from only 45% a few short years ago, and look at the boom of the local wine industry. Both are evidence of hard work and dedication, and not using a bad economy as an excuse for failure."
-Casey Tooney, Economic Development Direction, City of Cottonwood
"The Verde Valley region has something in the dirt, I was told. The fall of 2011 we (Yavapai College) started our first viticulture certificate program, the first of its kind in Arizona. We will have three graduates this spring. And fall of this year we will offer our first oenology (wine-making) certificate program. Coming in 2013 we will have a fully operational winery and tasting room on the campus which will be powered by renewable energy sources and operated by the students. Exciting things are here and on the horizon for Arizona wine."
-Tom Schumacher, Verde Campus Dean, Yavapai College
"We needed to learn how to grow our assets, use and utilize what we already have here in the Verde Valley, we needed to define ourselves, and we have."
- Robyn Prud'homme Bauer, Founding chair, Verde Valley Regional Economic Organization (VVREO)
"Whatever you want to do, you can do it in Arizona and love it"
-Sherry Henry, Executive Director, Arizona Office of Tourism
"Verde Valley is doing an amazing and impressive job, a real case study on how a community should and does work together for each other to get a job done and keep a community healthy."
-Tom Doyle, Manager, Rural Programs, Arizona Commerce Authority
"The wine industry is going to be the heritage of the future for our state. Something this native is amazingly proud to be a part of."
-Nikki Check, Department Head, Viticulture and Oenology programs at Yavapai College
"Arizona wine has become unique and special because we are Arizona. It is now becoming our strength instead of our weakness; we are changing minds and perceptions about our wines across the nation and world."
-Eric Glomski owner and winemaker at Page Springs Cellars, and owner of Arizona Stronghold Winery
"Having a vineyard is like a puzzle, grabbing and putting together all the pieces and then stepping back and making a big beautiful picture."
- Deb Wahl owner of Oak Creek Winery
This event was the first of its kind in the busy and booming Arizona wine industry. A gathering of like-minded individuals, all with the same thing on their minds, congratulations for the recent accomplishments, and posing the question, how do we keep this success going?
The day was broken up into six categories. The morning sessions where inductions to the individuals and organizations that have collaborated together to get things moving and the vision they created. The afternoon was about the wine and the wineries themselves. In in a separate post I will write about the barrel auction which was exciting to be part of, and the wine tasting itself. Below however, I have a few pictures of some of the unique barrels that were auctioned off to raise money for the viticulture programs at the college.
"I am calling this symposium an annual event, because I know this is just the beginning. I plan on hosting this event every year and just growing it, and getting better each year, and as the industry grows and expands so will this, “says Tom Pitts current president of the VVWC and owner of the Jerome restaurant Belgian Jennie's Bordello Bistro & Pizzeria.
So what did I take away from this one day event? Well the wine was awesome of course, but I will get to that in another post. Seriously though, it was really neat to be in a room with people who saw a need and went out to fill it. Yes, it may be about wine on the surface but really it was really about so much more.
As I wrote in an earlier post (click here to read it), Cottonwood and the whole Verde Valley region has really pulled together and supported the wine. These people are massively passionate about their towns and the continual survival of the communities’ health and economy. So many times you read about rural and urban areas not only fighting for survival, but fighting with each other. Heck, my home town a prime example of that, so much in-fighting, and feuding with surrounding cities, has led to a loss of community respect. Too many people are fueled with their own agendas they thereby lose the overall vision of what a city can and should do in a down economy. I think Casey Rooney said it best in his quote, just because times are tough does not mean things have to and will fall apart. Verde Valley has rallied around the wine community and saw it as a huge asset to them, not as a blight or hindrance. They have kept their rural roots intact, yet added a new and exciting feature to its list of attractions, wine. Well made, unique wine, an Arizona original product.
Having been part of a community building committee in my neighborhood, I know the frustration of endless meeting and conservations with no action. It was amazingly refreshing to watch people in action, meeting, talking, but moving towards a goal and getting results. One of the most exciting accomplishments was the development of the wine programs at Yavapai College. What a huge step towards been seen as a legitimate wine industry! I could not be any more excited for what this program will bring to the state and the quality of wine it will craft. We already have some outstanding winemakers here, who have and will continue to make delicious stuff, but these programs will just take what we already have and notch it up a level or two. Very cool.
In closing, I am excited about the future of wine in my home state and knowing it is in good hands. Not like I wasn't already, but this just bumped it up a level. It was great to meet the people behind the scene that are so passionate about what they are doing and working to create a unique environment that benefits all. I look forward to next year, as they work out the kinks and the event grows as the industry flourishes. As Tom Pitts put is, "As long as we all work together we all win. Wine brings us together, and wine only adds to a community that is already there."
|Peggy Fiandaca and her barrel by artist Marilyn Bos|
|Red Rock Marketplace & Coyote Cafe' barrel by Steve Lawton|
Jerome Winery Barrel by Mark Hemleben in the background
|Out of Africa barrel by artist Maris Cummings|