November 20, 2017

Follow the Purple Stained Trail

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I’m a fairly seasoned world traveler. One place I’ve wandered extensively is Australia. Experienced travelers often refer to the land down under as OZ, which allows me to segue to the Arizona wine roads and bring you the tale of another small Arizona family winery.

I make the literary and travel reference because my subject this month has a strong Australian connection. It’s Kief-Joshua Vineyards and their winemaker Kief Manning, who is one of the few people in the state of Arizona to have an advanced degree in viticulture and enology. Kief-Joshua Vineyards, like most Arizona wineries, is definitely a family operation.

Father Jeff Manning is an Ohio native that moved to Arizona in 1983 and has been a businessman in the local community for a number of years. He now works as the sales manager for the family winery. Mom Charlene is an ASU grad with degrees in journalism and mass communications, who now serves as the winery press agent. Daughter Carly gets involved in helping with Arizona sales. Even the family dog, Dizzie Gillespie, makes an appearance when you stop by for a visit.

The man behind the curtain that pulls the levers is Kief. He spent a bit of time in Italy as a young man and became interested in wine there. His formal wine education started upon his return when he worked for a wine shop. Some stints at home winemaking, which he admits were “wretched” initially, began to improve, particularly with the help of a prodigious lemon tree in his backyard. He was studying film production at ASU, but when the school dropped the major he dropped out and went to UC Davis.

After taking a few viticulture classes there, Kief decided that Australia was where he wanted to be, so he transferred to Monash University in Melbourne and earned a degree in wine technology, marketing and management. That was followed by a master’s degree in viticulture and enology from the University of Melbourne and a bit of work experience down under. He returned home after that to stake his own claim in the wine world.

The family bought their Elgin property in 2003, and began planting vines in 2005. They grow Tempranillo, Mourvèdre, Petite Verdot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Zinfandel for reds, with Viognier, Chenin Blanc, Riesling, and Sémillon for whites. The winery focus is predominantly on dry, full-bodied reds, with a small selection of dry whites added into the mix. They had their first small harvest from their estate vines in 2007, but have been sourcing fruit in addition while their young vines mature. Current production is about 2500 cases, with growth planned for the 5000-6000 case range.

Winemaking and grape growing at Kief-Joshua focuses on traditional methods. No herbicides are used, and only organic pesticides and other natural inputs are part of the vineyard regime. The winery uses a hydraulic basket press and open top fermentors. No fining agents are used, and most wines remain unfiltered. Red wines are barrel aged for an average of two years, and the whole process from vine to bottle is very much a hands-on operation.

The winery tasting room has been open since 2007, but I just recently visited for the first time. The building is Europe meets the Southwest in a charming cross between brick and mortar manor and rustic open ranch. It’s well appointed to host visitors and quite welcoming with knick-knacks, wine curios, and little treats to munch on while you enjoy your wine. Dizzie is usually there to enjoy the attention, and the service is warm and friendly. The tasting room is open daily from 11am to 5pm for general visitation, with several options for private tours and tastings.

Kief may be a young man, but he’s clearly already well educated and experienced in his trade, which bodes for years of success from one of Arizona’s newest top quality producers. I’ve tried many of Kief-Joshua’s wines and they are excellent. I highly recommend adding this as a stop to your southern Arizona wine travels, and a presence in your Arizona wine cellar.

For more info, visit www.kiefjoshuavineyards.com.

Here’s a toast to your success, Kief.

 

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