Ask the Pierce family of Willcox, AZ what wine means to them, and you’ll hear that wine shouldn’t be too serious. Even on the days you have to harvest and truck the grapes across the state at midnight just to skip the Phoenix traffic, wine is something to be enjoyed.The adage, “Find something you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life,” rings true for the founders of Bodega Pierce, a family who pursued a hobby and turned it into a thriving business. Founded in 2010, Bodega Pierce now boasts two brands (Bodega Pierce and Saeculum), a winery and tasting room space and an enthusiastic wine club.
We are excited to announce our first ever Willcox Wine Country Passport!
This is your pass to exclusive discounts, invitations and specials at one of our participating wineries! Currently there are 12 wineries participating with monthly promotions and 2 others that will have a couple of featured vineyard activities throughout the year.
In addition to the wineries’ promotions and events, Willcox Wine Country has six “Signature” events planned for 2021. They are:
The passport will be run digitally from your phone and/or computer. You will be able to visit and check-in at the wineries and your passport will be stamped! You will be able to see your collection of stamps from your passport.
Each winery participating will have a schedule of events for the whole year for you to plan your trips to Willcox! There are over 125 promotions listed in the passport. In addition to these promotions, passport holders will receive:
10 – $1.00 gift certificates redeemable at any of the participating wineries
$10 off per person at our signature events
To add some more fun and excitement, passport holders who visit and check-in at the most wineries throughout the year will be eligible for additional prizes in January of 2022. These prizes include an invitation to a private winemakers dinner, bottles of wine, hotel nights, restaurant gift certificates and more!
Here are some links to our Instructional Videos (Written instructions below)
How to Re-Enter Your Passport
When you sign up:
You will sign-up for the WWC Passport with an Email Address that you can access on your computer, phone or any other device of your choice. Please make note of this Email Address as it will be the Email Address that you will always use when prompted to get back into the WWC Passport. If you lose record of this Email Address, you will need to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to work out any issues. Important NOTE – Do not sign-up with a different Email Address in the future because we will not be able to merge your Passport Stamps with more than 1 Email Address.
Once you enter your Email Address and press the Submit button, you will be sent a unique Website Link to your Email Address. Please click on this Website Link and this will start the WWC Passport registration process.
In the next step, you will need to minimally fill out your First Name and Last Name and place a Check Mark in the box that indicates that you would like to continue to register for the WWC Passport. When finished, press the Submit button.
On the Next Page, you will be given the option to Pay for the WWC Passport (clicking this button will open another tab and take you to our Square credit card payment system — ** Please purchase ONLY 1 passport per entryas there is a unique registration Website Link sent for each person’s WWC Passport). Once you have successfully made your payment, you will then Click on your initial WWC Passport registration tab to place a Check Mark in the box to confirm that you have indeed PAID for your WWC Passport. You will then press the Continue button for the final step of registration.
Please fill in your phone number (used only if we need to contact you about any issues) and place a Check Mark in the box indicating you are 21 years and older — also place a Check Mark to Opt-In to our Email list (based upon your choice this will enter you into our system to receive special promotional emails in the future). Once you have paid and registered, you will be automatically sent to the WWC Passport Home Page. You will notice various participating winery icons and additional navigation options indicated by the three dots in the top right corner of the WWC Passport Home Page.
We recommend you Bookmark the WWC Passport in your browser and star/save the email link that is sent to you. Both methods will take you back to your WWC Passport.
Additionally, you can always return to your WWC Passport through our Website located at willcoxwinecountry.org/passport/ (we also recommend that you Bookmark this page for future reference). You will then scroll to the bottom of this page and click on the RE-ENTER YOUR PASSPORT button. When you click on this button, you will be directed to enter an Email Address (NOTE: This must be the same Email Address used when you originally registered for the WWC Passport). Once this is done, a Website Link will be sent to your Email Address which will allow re-entry to your WWC Passport. (if you are prompted to Register for the WWC Passport, this indicates you have entered a different Email Address than what you entered from your initial registration and we recommend you contact us at email@example.com to get your issues resolved.)
As final reminder, you can follow steps 6 and 7 above to access your WWC Passport on any of your devices such as phone, computer or tablet.
In order to receive a Passport Stamp by visiting any participating winery and/or events – you will need to visit a tasting room associate on the premises and have the WWC Passport Home Page open on your phone in order to Check-In. You will follow further instructions from the tasting room associate.
To obtain a Passport Stamp, you may Check-In ONCE per Dated Promotion listed on the Calendar of Events for a participating winery and/or event. This One-Time Check-In is only valid whether it is listed as a 1-day promotion, 2-day promotion or a month-long promotion. Please remember there is only ONE Passport Stamp that will be issued for these events or promotions.
You can pick up your Gift Certificates at Keeling Schaefer Vineyards Tasting Room at 154 N Railroad Ave, Willcox, AZ 85643. You will use a similar method mentioned in Step 9 to Check-In for your Gift Certificates using the bottom right Gift Certificate icon.
Throughout the 2021 Calendar Year, please refer to the Calendar Events for each participating winery to view which Event(s) a particular winery is hosting. We will also have a listing of our WWC Signature Events as well (this listing can be found by clicking on the Signature Events icon at the bottom of the WWC Passport Home Page or by clicking the WWC logo). We are also working with local businesses that will be offering specials and discounts (these can be found on the WWC Passport Home Page by clicking the three dots in the top right corner and clicking the respective link)
Help us make 2021 the best year ever and help us make Willcox Wine Country the premier wine region in Arizona and the Southwest.
The Holiday village is up and has lights at the Commercial Building downtown old Willcox, tasting room for CHV, GRV, & soon Strive…come and see it.
The tradition of the Holiday Village started last year in the Commercial Building (180 N Railroad Avenue in Willcox) soon after the Tasting Room for Golden Rules Vineyard and Copper Horse Vineyard opened.
But the tradition of the Holiday Village started over 20 years ago in Seattle, WA, at the residence of Eric & Gina Desfachelles, owners of Copper Horse Vineyard. It started small around the Christmas Tree and grew slowly, one building at a time every year.
It is now a full village with very detailed buildings and people, and there is now a mountain side, a country side and a shore side in addition.
You can see people playing pool in the Billiard building, and further a Cop calling Animal Control while a lost dog pees on his leg. A Lady is walking by the Restaurant/Bar/Hotel waiti ng for the love of her life, or just for the night? In the mountain a skier is looking at his friend who fell from a cliff, or did he? There are many other situations and characters on display.
It is on display every day from Wednesday to Sunday, when Golden Rule Vineyard is open.
Copper Horse Vineyard is there only on Saturday though!
If you can find the winery in the Holiday Village, we’ll give an extra 10% off your purchase, so come and look for it.
If I’m not there, take a picture of it and send it to me and I’ll send you a coupon for 10% extra.
(Valid only with Copper Horse Vineyard wines and until the end of the year)
Arizona may not be as well-known for its wines as other U.S. regions, but farmers nonetheless are producing varietals in demand across local markets and beyond in a region capable of producing premium wines. As one would expect with all that has happened in 2020, the state’s wine grape industry was challenged by record heat that will likely affect yields more than it will quality.
Rod Keeling grows wine grapes across the valley from where famed Chiricahua Apache Chief Cochise fought the U.S. Army in the 19th Century. Keeling uses a south Australian approach to farming wine grapes on a gentle-sloping hillside that include Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvedre, Viognier, Picpoul blanc and petite Sirah.
Weather and climate
Keeling says visitors are sometimes be surprised by Arizona’s wine grape production. While its neighbor to the west can be more popular among wine drinkers, he says folks can be surprised to learn that the natural climate in his region of Arizona is cooler than popular California regions like Paso Robles and the Napa Valley.
Not so this summer.
Arizona is coming off a record-breaking summer that saw temperatures in some parts of the state exceed 110 degrees for 50 days. This is uncharacteristic for even Phoenix, which can see between 20 and 30 days a summer above 110 degrees.
Keeling Schaefer Vineyards is nestled in a basin and range area of southeast Arizona. These basins and ranges tend to run north, south, creating rain shadows and wetter microclimates. At nearly 5,000 feet in elevation, Keeling’s vineyard is on one of those wetter westward facing slopes that overlooks the Willcox Playa. His microclimate on the side of the hill tends to be cooler than the valley below. It is also along the wetter side of the valley. Because of this, bud break and harvest are about two weeks later than nearby vineyards.
Arizona’s record heat earlier this summer may have impacted yields about 25%, Keeling said. Time will tell whether this year’s crop has a favorable flavor, or it too suffered under the relentless heat.
“Our temperatures were consistently in the high 90s around here this summer with little nighttime recovery,” he said.
Keeling says this is uncommon for his location on the western slope of the Chiricahua Mountains. Also uncommon this summer was the lack of monsoon moisture, heavy rains borne by tropical moisture and thunderstorms that move northward from the Gulf of California from mid-June through the end of September. Much of the annual precipitation his vineyards receive falls during the summer monsoon period. The balance falls during the winter months.
“We usually reduce our irrigation by now, but this year we haven’t been able to,” he said.
Keeling says his summers are typically cooler than popular regions along the California coast, including Paso Robles and the northern Napa Valley. This can surprise some people, he said.
Winter and early spring can sometimes be challenging in the high elevation desert region. It can snow, but worse than that can be those rare cold spells like he saw in 2011 when the temperature hit zero degrees for two nights.
“It really damaged a lot of vines,” he said.
The dry climate in late winter and early spring also lends itself to inopportune frosts during bud break. Since he installed fans a couple seasons after planting his first vineyards, he has seen an improvement in frost management.
Part of that management includes a good vine health program at harvest and irrigation management during the drier winter months.
Keeling likes Australian wines and has developed a south Australian approach to producing those wines. His approach includes planting clones from various credible sources.
Producing his own wines from his small winery isn’t about producing large volumes. One of the reasons he likes what he does is how wine varietals can differ in taste from year to year. It is not like beer or cola where each can taste the same, regardless of container or when it was made.
“Wine is not a commodity in many ways,” he said. “While there is some of that, what makes it interesting is that there is so much variety and difference.”
Though there are vineyards in the region, they are not wall-to-wall and other crops that can harbor leafhopper and other pests are not present in the area. Still, this did not prevent the Glassy Winged Sharpshooter from hitchhiking in loads of plant material to a popular store in Sierra Vista years ago. Keeling, a past president of the Arizona Wine Growers Association, said the State of Arizona got involved after discovering Pierce’s disease in some of the state’s wine grape vineyards. Though Arizona did not eradicate the leafhopper, “we haven’t had a problem with it since then,” he said.
Keeling and his wife, Jan, own Keeling Schaefer Vineyards, located about an hour’s drive south of Willcox, Ariz. Sampling and buying their wines is as easy as visiting their tasting room in the historic 1917 Willcox Bank and Trust building in downtown Willcox, a small community easily accessible to travelers along the I-10 corridor.
Keeling crushes his own grapes and helps nearby vineyard owners crush some of their grapes.
Arizona consumers like their wines, he says, noting that the state of seven million people is one of the top wine markets per capita in the United States. Keeling says one popular grocery store in north Scottsdale is the top retail location for wine sales in the world.
Arizona has a “buy local” agricultural campaign, which seems to fit well with the attitude of wine drinkers in the state, he continued.
Unlike other wine regions, which can charge over $100 per bottle for their premium wine, Keeling likes to keep his prices less expensive – typically under $40 – as he perfects his niche for premium varietals. Wine is available through his tasting location in Willcox and from his wine club.
Keeling grew up in a farm family near Casa Grande, Ariz. His brother farms their grandparents’ place, which dates to the early 20th Century when the family moved to the area from New Mexico. As an adult, Keeling stayed out of farming. He spent part of his adult life as a pilot. Later he worked with the Arizona Department of Commerce in economic development.
“My first career was flying.”
Keeling Schaefer Vineyards is in its 17th leaf and he is in his 16th commercial vintage as a wine maker.
Today Keeling is happy growing wine grapes and producing wine from a location he says can produce grapes for premium wines. Some of his wines have scored in the low 90s in different competitions.
“I make all the wine here,” he said. “I’m more interested in the farming side of things, but when you’re this small you’ve got to be vertically integrated.”