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.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Looking Back 5 Years: Kathryn's story

Gearing up for our 5th Anniversary Celebration in September, we’re asking each member of the Mueller family to remember back to 5 years ago and share their story.


Kathryn, 2012
Exactly five years ago, I was in New Mexico for the summer, singing with the Santa Fe Desert Chorale. It was a wonderful summer of music and I got to share a house in the juniper-dotted hills with my dear friend and colleague Nathan (we call him Original Nathan – you’ll see why when you read on), but I was eagerly anticipating my return to Tucson to get ready for the Grand Opening of Canelo Hills.

Since I arrived in Tucson in 2004 for grad school at the U of A, I’d become more and more involved in Canelo Hills over the years: rounding up music student friends for volunteer planting days each spring (we were rewarded with lunch, beer and tractor rides), helping my mother in the vineyard, building our website, and doing publicity for our pre-opening Wine and Farm Festival and the Grand Opening. By August we had our first vintage in bottles, and we were ready for September 22.

Opera Tailgating in 2007
Tailgating at the Santa Fe Opera, I shared a bottle of Canelo Hills wine with my Chorale buddies. They were amazed, first of all that it was good (of course my parents’ wines are delicious and well-crafted!), and second that my parents were really going to do this winery thing, to live their dream. In the months leading up to opening it was fun to talk with friends, colleagues, and new acquaintances about this big adventure my family was about to have.

Opening Day: Sept. 22, 2007
And then the adventure arrived. For Grand Opening day I rounded up Original Nathan to help pour, and we shared my parents' wines from behind the thick mesquite slab of our brand-new tasting table. The varnish was about 95% dry. We were busy! Many friends came down to Sonoita to be a part of the excitement, and new customers wandered in to try our wines, which were a hit. At the end of the day the whole family was exhausted, but happy. It was the first of many exhausting but rewarding days at Canelo Hills.

I now live in Raleigh, NC with my husband Nathan (New Nathan, or now, just Nathan) and I still do marketing work for Canelo Hills remotely. I’m super excited to fly to Arizona for our 5th Anniversary Celebration in September. Please come visit us that weekend, and share your story of Canelo Hills!
Kathryn and New Nathan at Canelo Hills

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Winemaker's Dinner May 15

On May 15,  come join Joan and Tim at Baratin in Scottsdale as Charleen Badman and Pavle Milic create a three course vegetarian dinner paired with Canelo Hills Wines.  At 5:30 we will be pouring a sneak preview of one of our Memorial Day Summer Wines - Sonoita Dawn, a Sonoita grown Grenache blush with a touch of Malvasia juice as a fruit kicker.

For reservations and more info click this link:   

Thursday, March 22, 2012

An online "I spy" game

Can you spot some new things in our winery park in front of the building?


We've been adding to our winery park since Ian and Rhian did the initial landscape design and manual labor almost two years ago. Last summer Ken Karrels of Diamond JK Nursery in Sonoita did some beautiful landscaping with plants that fit our grassland landscape, and the plants are coming back to life after their winter's rest.

This spring we had a steel ranch sign custom made for us by Mark Gillo in Chino Valley, AZ (click here for his website). Tim installed it over our entrance gate, and it looks great, don't you think?

In January  Tim built a bottle tree to echo the empty bottles Ian and Rhian had installed in the ground, and we "planted" it in the park. It catches the light beautifully at sunset.

If you haven't been to Canelo Hills in a while, come visit and see our new installations for yourself. Got any ideas for more additions? Send us an email!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Wine+Food=Baratin(AKA FnB)

I know it's old fashioned to post blogs these days with facebook swarming all over the communication networks, but I'm an old fashioned guy. And anyway I'll probably post this on facebook also.

Pavle Milic and Charleen Badman are tweaking the AZ winemaker's dinners a bit and moving them to their new enterprise Baratin. The evening will begin at 5:30 with wine sampling only and then segue into a three course pairing at 6:30. All the dinners look great, but ours on May 15 will feature the usual completely vegetarian pairing. Call for reservations. Here's the LINK to the flyer.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Kathryn and Nathan

We are tickled to share with our Canelo Hills family that on Saturday, March 3 Kathryn wed Nathan Leaf in Tucson. It all started with a winery reception as friends and family from as far away as Mexico City and London converged on the winery Friday night to celebrate and experience Arizona wine first hand. The winery was transformed through the talents of Lisa and Scott Schoneman. Wayne and Cheryl Tomasi and Allison Roncone poured wines and answered questions about the history and challenges of making wine in Sonoita. On Saturday, the wedding ceremony in Tucson was followed by a reception at the Savoy Opera House at Pinnacle Peak adding the perfect old west ambiance. Kathryn and Nathan had even arranged to have an authentic cowboy sheriff entertain the crowd. Although Kathryn has moved out of Tucson she is still very much a part of Canelo Hills and accomplishes most of her web and marketing work on-line. Once in a while we are lucky enough to have her return. Now Nathan has joined the family.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Winter Red Wine Release - 2012

I’ve been looking forward to the release of these wines for a long time. 2009 was a near perfect year in terms of the weather and growing season, near perfect that is in Southeastern Arizona grape growing terms. The fruit was not injured by any summer “weather events”, it was warm and dry at the end of the season and we could time the harvest around the ripeness of the fruit instead of a threatening hurricane from Mexico. We will be releasing the 2009 Estate Tempranillo, 2009 Sonoita Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009 Estate Finalé (an intense port style dessert wine), and 2009 Estate Scavenger’s Blend (a Syrah based blend). Also for the first time the 2008 Sangiovese Select will be available. It is comprised of the Brunello Clone of the Sangiovese grape and was barrel aged for 36 months. These are big wines with very limited production. We will have all of them available for tasting the weekend of February 10 – 12. It will be the only time all these fabulous wines will be on the tasting table at the same time. Come pay us a visit; you’ll be glad you did.