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.