Sunday, February 10, 2013

Until we meet again

We have formally transferred ownership of Canelo Hills Vineyard and Winery to Flying Leap Vineyards.  For all the years of support, encouragement, good vibes and happy times we thank you. This has been a fantastic journey for us all.  One we would gladly do again.  Joan, Tim, Kathryn, Rhian and Ian.

Monday, January 21, 2013


Come join Joan and Tim as we pour wines in the tasting room one last time this Saturday, January 26, 2013.  We will be joined by Kathryn, Ian and Rhian.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Coming Round the Corner

Who blogs anymore?  What used to be a active and vigorous activity by Joan and me has been replaced by Facebook and Twitter. Strange how things change, how life changes.  "Change is good", Joan frequently reminds me.

Change is afoot for Canelo Hills Vineyard and Winery.  Joan and I, having come to the realization that the winery and vineyard require more energy and strength then we had, made the decision to put the business on the market.  After a summer of discussions with and advice from Josh Moffitt our realtor, we put it up for sale in early September, fully expecting it to take 1-3 years to sell.  We thought we'd need that time to let go of all we had created.  CHV&W is a very special place to us, our baby, born and nurtured by the blood, sweat and tears of our children, their spouses, a special group of friends and ourselves.  We did not think the right buyer would just drop out of the sky. Six weeks later we had our third offer. The three partners who own Flying Leap Vineyards will add CHV&W to their vineyard in Willcox and are developing their grand vision for the Arizona Wine Community.

This has been a fantastic adventure - "living the dream" as we are often reminded by our friends and customers.  Indeed building CHV&W to the success it has become has exceeded our wildest hopes.  We have no regrets.  Joan and I have been able to work together as partners to fulfill a long held romantic plan to have our own vineyard and winery.  We have created something with our family. We have come to meet wonderful customers and made some fantastic friends.

Joan and my last day in the tasting room will be January 26, 2013.  Come visit us.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Looking Back 5 Years: Ian & Rhian's story

On the empty land in 2003
Our introduction to the Canelo Hills Winery was in its original state as rolling grassland. Tim and Joan walked us through the acreage, pointing out where things would be; which grape varieties would be where, what would be preserved as wild fields, and the location for the then-distant future tasting room. It was only a matter of seconds before we realized how special Sonoita was as we peered out across the grasslands and mountains lining the horizon.

Rolling forward a few years, many planting trips and a few moves later, Tim and Joan called asking if we could help them design the tasting room. The tasting room was planned to occupy the front portion of the winery building. Ian had just finished up his second year at graduate school studying
Planting Day 2004
architecture in NYC and was thrilled to get his first consulting gig. Rhian had already established the brand for Canelo Hills with designing the logo. We were the perfect team to tackle the challenge. Together we started asking what feeling did they want to give the space? What would make sense to bring inside the tasting room? The surrounding landscape & colors were so important. When we asked these questions we received great feedback from Tim and Joan. We knew it was critical to turn this raw space into an environment that would compliment their incredible wine and the beautiful landscape.

Since the space was used both as a tasting room and as a winery, we had to make sure it could be easily adaptable for whatever use may be needed. Also, seeing the actual barrels of wine and the
The tasting room on Opening Day, 2007
process is something you don’t usually get experience first hand. We didn’t want to cover up this side of the winery. So we used the barrels of wine as a ‘wall’ on one side. Tim had found these great old doors, rusty tin and windows, with the idea that they would make a great screen to separate the space. That left the pouring table itself—they had already selected a beautiful piece of mesquite to serve as a counter, but we needed a way to direct people to it. Being from the East Coast, it’s common to see painted carpets in old houses, and this seemed to be an easy way to visually direct people to the table. Using the purple and green shades found in the surrounding landscape, and some help from Cassie and Emma (check out the paw prints when you visit!) Joan painted the carpet, and the tasting room was ready to open.

The Canelo Hills design team

Whether we were planting vines, building structures and landscapes or helping in the winery, our trips to the winery have continued to served as a respite from our hectic lives in the busy cities we've called home. We're very proud of what Tim and Joan have cultivated from the raw grasslands and are happy to have been part of it. We hope that every visitor, friend and family member who spends time at the winery leaves with a unique memory and lasting impression of the winery and their wine.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Looking Back 5 Years: Tim's Story

When I started making small batches of home made wine, I quickly realized that it was the quality of the grapes that made the difference between a not-so-good and a great batch. Over my years of hobby winemaking, my quest became the search for better and better fruit, and I began to realize that if I was going to make the best wine possible I needed to grow my own fruit. Who would have thought my quest would have led to this point in September 2012?

Joan and I dreamed of creating a vineyard and winery for many years and over many miles of travels that always included trips to the local wine regions. A chance trip through Southeastern Arizona in 2001 showed us that Sonoita was the place that we could realize our dreams. And here we are now, in 2012, celebrating Canelo Hills Vineyard and Winery’s Fifth Anniversary! 

The early days
The effort has been its own reward; particularly early on when we saw the never before cultivated grasslands take on form and purpose; particularly as an ever growing group of friends and helpers added their shoulders to the work of growing, making, bottling and selling our unique Southeast Arizona wines.

The 2006 Estate Syrah that was made from our first harvest is now 6 years old. I am very excited to share that mature wine with our special guests on the evening of September 22. How a wine ages and changes and matures over the years is a matter of personal pride for me as a winemaker.  How Canelo Hills Vineyard and Winery has blossomed into a very personal expression of Joan and me, our families and our friends, the soil and the climate, is unimaginably gratifying.   

On the weekend of September 22, we will be sharing our success with y’all. Come join us.

With our volunteer crew, harvest 2010
(can you spot Kathryn and Original Nathan?)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Looking Back 5 Years: Nathan's Story

Planting 2005
First of all, Congratulations to Joan and Tim and the rest of the Canelo Hills family!  I have many wonderful memories of my time in Southern Arizona and my time spent at Canelo Hills.

Planting 2006
My history with Canelo Hills actually started with my decision to accept a teaching assistantship at the University of Arizona. The assistantship paired me with Kathryn, and I guess the rest is history. 

I made my first trip to Sonoita, shortly after I moved to Tucson from Chicago, on Labor Day of 2004. After taking in the Rodeo at the Sonoita Fairgrounds, I got my first glimpse of the Mueller's vineyard. At this time it was just that, a vineyard and a small shed. I immediately fell in love with the area and eagerly offered my assistance whenever volunteers were invited to work. (click photos to enlarge!)

Bottling with Joan and Kat in 2007
At first it was just planting, where I was one of many eager participants, securely planting the rows of Sangiovese, Merlot and Tempranillo (the promise of free beer and a future bottle of wine was enough to entice even the 30-something year old graduate student). Little did I know that this was just the start of my involvement.

I learned the basics of bottling, the hard work of harvesting, and even spent some time in the field pruning and tying vines. Under Joan's tutelage, I actually felt at home in the vineyard, not too bad for a city boy (and the grapes continued to come, so I must have being doing something right!). As a reward, I had the honor of attending two consecutive Arizona Wine Growers banquets, where I got to meet many of the other wine producers in the state

Pouring at the tasting room, September 22, 2007
When Kathryn asked me to help her pour at the Grand Opening in 2007, I was eager to assist. I was already a fan of Tim's wine, and was honored to represent Canelo Hills (i.e. tell everyone how great it was, and provide well practiced tasting information). This lead to many great afternoons spent in the tasting room, meeting many wonderful people and talking about wine.

In 2009 I moved to Wisconsin, and haven't had many opportunities to go back to Arizona. I was excited to get the chance to visit this past spring for Kathryn and Nathan's wedding, and the opportunity to taste a variety of Tim's wine was a real treat. I'll be thinking of everyone in Arizona this September, and as the trees up north change from green to reds and oranges and yellows here in Wisconsin, I'll be imagining the golden fields of Elgin and the purest of blue skies over the Canelo Hills. For those of you who have the opportunity to visit the weekend of Sept. 22-23, do me a favor and go!
Visiting the Canelo Hills tasting room in 2009 as a guest, with George and my father

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Looking back 5 years: Joan's story

Grand Opening day, 2007
Sept. 22, 2012 will be five years to the day that I first stood behind the tasting counter eagerly awaiting our first customers. I can still see the first vintage of our Estate Syrah at the end of the lineup. My first grape babies, from the grape vines I nurtured for three years, were in those bottles. I knew people would appreciate the great wine Tim made from those grapes. But when I looked at the bottles of that wine I saw so much more.

Emma helping, first planting day, 2003
It all started many years before. We purchased the land in 2001, began the infrastructure work in 2003 and started growing the grapes in 2004. The challenges for me were many, from learning how to grow grapes to setting up an agribusiness to trying to squeeze one more productive hour out of a day. There were many days of exhaustion, sore muscles and what sometimes seemed like too many problems to solve.

The rewards have far outweighed the challenges. This has been a family endeavor. My children, Kathryn and Ian, and my daughter-in-law, Rhian, have all given generously of their time and talents.  Sharing in this with them has been priceless. When I walk the vineyard or look around the tasting room, I am filled with a boundless pride. We all built this together.

Some of our friends and frequent bottlers:
Nikole, Matt, Mike and Steph (and Ella,
who was adopted at Canelo Hills)
Many other people have been part of our success. The other AZ grape growers and our friends have all helped out. One of the best things that came from the tasting room has been meeting so many wonderful people, many of whom over the past five years have become good friends, volunteering their time to help.

When you come in the weekend of Sept. 22-23 to join in our celebration, I will behind the same tasting counter. When I am filling your glass I will be pouring all the love and experiences of the last five years along with our wine.