There's no exact formula for starting your own wine company. You could buy land and plant grapes, but then you'd need a place to make the wine. Or you could have the winemaking facility, but you'd need the fruit. Or you could have none of those things but the burning desire to make wine. The basics are access to well-grown grapes, a facility to process, age, and bottle the wine and the moxy to go out and sell it. Chateau Tumbleweed certainly has those basics covered.
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After years of conceptualizing, while at the same time working in the wine business in Arizona, two husband-and-wife pairs finally realized their dream of making their own wine in 2011. Chateau Tumbleweed was born. They don't own any land and they don't have their own facility but they made it happen anyway.
Joe Bechard and his wife, Kris Pothier, ended up here from Eugene, Oregon. Bechard landed a job as a journalist in Sedona and ended up covering the northern Arizona wine business. Writing about it turned into working in it, and now Bechard is not only the winemaker for Chateau Tumbleweed but also the manager of the co-operative winemaking facility Four8 Wineworks. Meanwhile, Porthier handles Shipping and Receiving for Caduceus Cellars, while doubling as chief marketer for Chateau Tumbleweed.
The other husband-and-wife team is Kim Koistinen and Jeff Hendricks. Koistinen handles the finances for Page Spring Cellars. Hendricks is the director of vineyard operations for Page Springs, essentially the head grape grower. They landed here after escaping the tech rat race in San Francisco.
A winemaker, a grape grower, a marketing guru, and a finance wiz, if that's not an all-star team I don't know what is. Couple all that expertise with a well-funded patron of sorts then you have, at least one formula, for a really successful wine label.
That well-funded patron is Maynard James Keenan, founder of Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards as well as the backer of Four8 Wineworks. Four8 is a co-operative winemaking facility in Clarkdale, where young, underfunded aspiring winemakers can make wine for relatively cheap while being surrounded by a supportive community of like-minded folks. Some of those folks include Maynard or Tim White of Iniquus, two of the most well-known winemakers in Arizona. Not bad company if you're trying to learn the tricks of the trade of winemaking. Call it an incubator of talent for Arizona winemaking.
Chateau Tumbleweed began with three barrels of the 2011 whole-cluster fermented merlot while Joe was working for Alcantara Vineyards. Three barrels is basically just under 300 cases. They made 500 cases in 2012, and promptly doubled their production in 2013 to 1000 cases.
They make seven wines, sourced from myriad sites around Arizona and Luna County, New Mexico. The Whole Cluster Merlot comes from right there in Yavapai County. Wild Will E. Cox is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Tempranillo all from Cochise County as well as a bit of Carignan and Mourvedre from New Mexico. Admiral Star Sailor is a blend New Mexican Syrah, Carignan, and Mourvedre, with a little Cochise County Grenache thrown in. The Bigness is 100 percent single vineyard Tempranillo from the Dragoon Mountain Vineyard in Cochise County. Uncle Tannat is 95 percent Tannat and 5 percent Tempranillo from the same Dragoon Mountain Vineyard. Lil' Frankie is 50/50 Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot from Cochise County. And my favorite of theirs is the Arneis which is 90 percent arneis from the aforementioned Dragoon Mountain Vineyard with 10 percent Malvasia Bianca from New Mexico blended in.
Due to the byzantine and archaic distribution laws here in Arizona, Chateau Tumbleweed is currently distributed thanks to Caduceus' license. The entire lineup can be purchased at the Four8 Wineworks tasting room in Clarkdale or at Enchantment in Sedona. Tarbell's is carrying Uncle Tannat and the Arneis in its retail store, as well as pouring some others in its wine bar. For a fun Valentine's Day, head up to the Four8 tasting room for Chateau Tumbleweed Night and taste barrel samples of the 2013 vintage.
Arizona's wine business is growing by leaps and bounds thanks to risk takers like the folks at Chateau Tumbleweed, and well-funded supporters like Maynard James Keenan. But the other reason is because of those of us who relish in being a part of a young, energetic, local industry that is producing darned good juice. Join me in welcoming Chateau Tumbleweed into the mix.
When I'm not writing this column or reading vintage charts to my daughter, you can find me pouring wine at FnB.