Hot, dry summers, freezing temperatures, monsoons and dust storms are just a few of the struggles that Verde Valley winemakers endure. But this high desert area, with its red rock mountains and lush valleys, situated 100 miles north of Phoenix, is also home to a growing number of grapevines. The Verde Valley has become a key part of Arizona wine production, and a local college hopes to build on that.
The biggest challenge facing the Arizona wine industry is not its climate–it’s keeping up with rapid growth. In the past 10 years, the industry has grown to more than 60 bonded wineries, from nine in 2000, so Verde Valley’s Yavapai College is building a teaching winery and planting vineyards on its Clarkdale campus to keep up with the accelerated growth. “We are building the Southwest Wine Center to ease the growing pains of Arizona’s rapidly expanding wine industry, and simultaneously developing a resource for the entire Southwest,” said Nikki Check, the college’s director of viticulture and enology. Much like UC, Davis, in California has become a top winemaking and grapegrowing resource for California, Yavapai hopes to bring that level of experience to the Southwest.