Vino Stache Sells Arizona Wine Throughout Phoenix. Meet the Owner, A Former Volleyball Star and Businesswoman | Phoenix New Times
Navigation

One Winemaker's Journey from Volleyball and Corporate America to Arizona Wine Country

Vino Stache Winery is making a splash in the Arizona wine industry. Its owner traded volleyball and corporate America to follow her passion.
Vino Stache Winery owner and winemaker Brooke Lowry Ide is making a splash after trading a life in the corporate world for one in the Arizona wine industry.
Vino Stache Winery owner and winemaker Brooke Lowry Ide is making a splash after trading a life in the corporate world for one in the Arizona wine industry. Vino Stache Winery
Share this:
Thirty seconds before answering the phone, Brooke Lowry Ide was standing in a huge fermenting bin foot stomping grapes. Arizona-grown Graciano, to be exact.

“You sanitize your feet and get right in there,” Ide says enthusiastically from Vino Stache Winery in southern Arizona.

While comical, it's not merely for laughs. This is a serious part of how the winemaker and winery owner has done business since opening her Elgin-based operation in 2019.

Foot stomping, Ide explains, is an easy way to extract enough juice to start fermentation for a whole cluster-style wine, which her bottled Graciano will be.

“I am sure there are machines for large commercial wineries. But for my micro-boutique winery, my feet are all I need,” Ide says.

But Ide hasn't always been stomping grapes. She started her career as a professional volleyball player, before turning to the corporate world. Over the last three years, the Phoenician-turned-Southern Arizona winemaker has quietly grown her small business.

Vino Stache has made its way from wine festivals into wine stores including ODV Wines, Arcadia Premium, Genuwine, and Far Away Wine & Provisions, along with independent restaurants such as Southern Rail, Beckett’s Table, and FnB.

“These little shops and small businesses are my bread and butter,” she says. “It’s humbling and I feel so fortunate.”

Ide delivers cases to establishments herself, skipping the middleman. There are three distributors vying for her business, but she’s not sure. Ide is a people person at heart.

“I like going to everyone, asking how their family is, what’s going on with them," she says. "I would miss doing that."

Ide purchases fruit from vineyards in the Sonoita-Elgin and Willcox areas, where the vast majority of Arizona grape varieties are grown. For two or three months of the year, she is mostly a one-woman-show handling duties ranging from punch downs and monitoring fermentation to hauling two tons of grapes and pressing them in her 1970s-era manual presser.

“Eighty percent is the fruit. I just do my best to usher it through,” she says.

Late summer to early fall is the peak season for winemakers. It’s when the picking, processing, bottling, and shipping for the latest vintages happens. It’s why Ide is speaking from Elgin, about three hours south of her north Scottsdale home.

She talks about the monsoons and dealing with unpredictable weather. It hailed the day before. A key part of her job is procuring the fruit before inclement weather hits, and navigating when it does. She describes it as a winemaker’s version of triage, pivoting around the whims of nature to ensure the fruit completes its journey to the bottle.

And despite wine’s highfalutin reputation, the behind-the-scenes isn’t glamorous.

“That’s what’s so funny about wine. I’m driving a forklift and a tractor but the product is very white-collar. It’s two different worlds,” Ide says.

click to enlarge
For two or three months of the year, winemaker Brooke Lowry Ide is a one-woman operation at her winery in Elgin, Arizona. Depending on the day, she could be hauling tons of fruit, monitoring fermentation, or stomping grapes.
Vino Stache Winery
Her current lineup of nine wines includes single variety reds, red blends, a rose, and an orange wine which is made from white Malvasia Bianca grapes that are destemmed and fermented like red wine, producing a very pale peachy hue. Ide is preparing to launch a wine club which will grant members perks like exclusive releases and discounts.

The names of each wine reflect artist-drawn custom sketches that exude Western verve. The characters represent Ide’s family members, with her husband and winery co-owner David Ide choosing the names and matching them with a person. The Red Bird is their daughter Scarlet Wren. The Prairie Lass is their other daughter Harlow. The Gun Fighter is Ide’s late father-in-law and The Big Iron is David. The Boss, a 100 percent Graciano, naturally, is Ide.

In April, Ide called Scott Stephens, sommelier and co-owner of Beckett’s Table and Southern Rail, and asked if he'd taste her wines. After the tasting with Stephens and his wife Katie Stephens, also a sommelier and another of the restaurant’s co-owners, the duo agreed that all five wines would be sold between both restaurants.

“She’s done an amazing job of representing what Arizona has to offer and the varieties that are unique to it,” Scott says. “Her wines are really well done. The branding is certainly very fun, irreverent, and also very catchy.”

The Stephens were so impressed that Scott texted Pat Jasmin, co-owner of Far Away Wine & Provisions, and asked if she had time to taste fantastic wine from a new local winemaker. The answer was yes. Ide made the one-mile drive from Beckett’s Table to the cozy wine shop owned by Jasmin and Chris French.

Still new to the industry, Ide walked in with her wines in a cardboard box. After French and Jasmin tasted her offerings, Ide left with her bottles in a snazzy, insulated six-bag bottle holder she could tote over her shoulder.

“Let me give you a wine bag. Please,” French implored. He and Jasmin knew Ide would go far and that bag would come in handy.

French describes Ide’s wines as not overblown or too bold, even her reds, which he says adds to their appeal and versatility whether pairing with food or solo sipping. The labels are also attention grabbers.

“The packaging is awesome but what’s in the bottle is what impressed us,” says French, who carries five of Ide’s wines. “They are not heavy and [they're] super drinkable for Arizona weather.”

Occasionally, Ide sends French and Jasmin barrel or tank samples and asks for their input.

“We have a personal relationship with each producer, importer, and winemaker. Brooke is an amazing human being and we want to make sure she does well,” French says.

click to enlarge
When Vino Stache Winery winemaker and owner Brooke Lowry Ide started out, she cold-called Valley restaurants and wine shops asking if she could do a tasting. Among them was ODV Wines in Tempe, which carries several of Ide's wines today.
Georgann Yara
Ide’s Arizona roots are not restricted to the ones beneath the vines. Born in New Mexico, Ide was a baby when her family moved to Phoenix. She graduated from Xavier High School and attended St. Mary’s College on a volleyball scholarship. She went on to play professionally in Spain.

Her love for good food started as a kid, when her mom and stepdad brought her along on their dinner dates.

"My mom married a food and wine connoisseur and I was their plus-one,” Ide says.

Attending college in the Bay Area and traveling through Europe only reinforced her appreciation of food and wine. When Ide returned to Phoenix, she got a job in marketing and technology, got married, and decided to raise her family here.

But corporate life started to take its toll. She missed being active. The daily office grind, babysitters raising her kids, and a nasty bout of shingles convinced her a change was needed.

“Being confined to a desk, I thought, there’s gotta be something else out there,” Ide says.

That something was wine.

In 2014, Ide left her career and went back to school in pursuit of a viticulture and enology degree at the Southwest Wine Center at Yavapai Community College in Clarkdale.

After graduating, Ide honed her skills working at some of the state’s most revered wineries including Maynard James Keenan’s Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards, and Callaghan Vineyards, where owner Kent Callaghan became her mentor and introduced her to vineyard owners and farmers that provide her fruit today.

Callaghan encouraged her to open the winery on the land she and David purchased. Their goal is to plant their own vineyard, maybe when their daughters, ages 12 and 10, are in high school.

click to enlarge
The names of each Vino Stache wine reflect artist-drawn sketches of characters representing Ide’s family members. This bottle of Graciano is named The Boss and represents Ide.
Georgann Yara
During the busy season, David, a tech entrepreneur, and the couple's daughters head down to help on the weekends. Their two oldest sons, 22 and 18, live out of state but help out when they’re in town. Friends and family also lend a hand and Ide has met people at wine festivals and tastings who have come down and assisted with picking.

“Being married to an entrepreneur gave me the guts to believe I can actually do this. Having him help me along the way has been amazing,” Ide says of her husband and business partner.

Ide embraces a hybrid lifestyle between her big-city home and quiet rural farm in wine country. She’s struck a satisfying balance between winemaking, doing tastings, being a mom, a wife, and coaching her daughter’s club volleyball team.

The journey was not without trepidation and constant self-questioning, however. She made a huge investment and brought her entire family along for the ride.

“The doubts? Yes, 100 percent. And the guilt. Are we making the right financial decision? You think, how am I going to sell this wine?” Ide says. “Failure’s not an option.”

Last fall Vino Stache produced 500 cases. Today, she has barely 20 left as she prepares to bottle this year’s harvest.

“Our wines sit next to those of some of the most respected people I know in the industry. I still can’t believe people pay money for my wines,” she says.

Once, her 18-year-old son was watching her pack cases of wine she would personally deliver to vendors. After a few minutes, he said, “Oh, you’re really doing it.” The realization that what his mother had been working for and dreaming of for years was happening.

“Yes! Isn’t it amazing?” Ide says of her response. “That I can go back to school, learn a new business, and be successful at that business. I want my kids to understand that you can do this too.”

As a woman winemaker and winery owner, Ide is rare. She credits other women who hold key roles in the Arizona wine industry with helping her get her footing. Ide’s supportive resource list reads like a who’s who of Arizona wine royalty, including Todd and Kelly Bostock of Dos Cabezas WineWorks, FnB co-owner Pavle Milic who has his own winery Los Milics Vineyards, and Callaghan and his wife Lisa.

But when she pours at festivals with her husband, Ide is reminded she has more chipping away to do. Not only for herself, but for other women with dreams of doing what she does.

Often, tasters assume David is the winemaker and does all the heavy lifting. When he points to his wife and shares that she’s the one who makes the wine and does 90 percent of the work, many have difficulty wrapping their heads around that fact.

“I still think people are saying, ‘Does this chick know what she’s doing?’ They’re looking at a middle-aged woman saying, ‘How can you possibly be doing that?’” Ide says, laughing. After a pause, she adds, “Yes, my hustle is real.”
BEFORE YOU GO...
Can you help us continue to share our stories? Since the beginning, Phoenix New Times has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix — and we'd like to keep it that way. Our members allow us to continue offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food, and culture with no paywalls.