Good morning from the cold, wintry world of southeastern Arizona. We have received two full snow storms in February and accumulated several inches of snow at both of our vineyards. We welcome the winter snow, as it’s desperately needed moisture for our area. Santa Cruz and Cochise counties are in moderate drought conditions right now (as farmers, we carefully watch drought conditions regularly … see http://www.drought.gov/drought/content/products-current-drought-and-monitoring-drought-indicators/us-drought-monitor), and while it is nothing like the extreme drought conditions of the American midwest, we are still and will always be thankful for water in our parched desert home.
To say we have been busy at FLV is an understatement. One of the biggest challenges I have is deciding on which topics to share with you in our blog postings, as I could write on so many different activities, because there is so much going on. One of our goals at FLV is to bring our customers a personal connection to our vineyards and winery by providing you with unique, interesting information about our operations, as well as valuable insight into how a vineyard is made & developed, operated and harvested. The world of wine is absolutely amazing, and we want to share some of that with you.
FLV’s Willcox Tasting Room Takes Shape!
As you know, we have been working hard in downtown Willcox, Arizona to remodel the old Headquarters Saloon on the corner of Maley & Railroad avenues. This has proved to be a monumental task, primarily because we’ve been painstakingly working to preserve the old saloon’s history and character, while updating & modernizing it to provide our customers with a first class setting for tasting FLV’s wines. So, we’ve been carefully at work to strike a balance between these two aims. In our previous posting, we went into some detail about the restoration of the historic old 1880s vintage fir plank floor. We’ve completed the project and are now applying coats of urethane over a well-sealed & stabilized decking. I’ve attached a single picture of it here, at FLV_First Coat Urethane.jpg (Note: A photo browser/slideshow with all the photos can be found at the end of this blog posting below). In the picture, you’ll also notice the interior carpentry we’ve done to fix the walls, add walls, storage space and we’ve put track lighting up. The tasting room is also going to be an art gallery, so we’ve painted the walls a special color to highlight the art and put up the tracks to give us the flexibility to use focused lighting to accentuate the colors and textures of the artwork. Our art gallery will be managed by Tom & Kim Johnson, who own & operate Trust Art & Design (http://trustartanddesign.com/), and we’re all excited to include their fine art sales in with our wine and tasting operations there. Wine and art have an exciting synergy, and the two coming together in Willcox are really making the downtown experience there an exciting development. All of the artwork that Tom & Kim select comes from local and regional artists, who they carefully screen and select for their showings, and the art is absolutely amazing.
We contracted with a Tucson mural artist to paint our company logo on the exterior western wall of the old saloon. They did the work on a windy Saturday, which made it challenging. I’ve attached three (3) pictures of the mural for you. The first, titled “FLV_Preparing Wall Art.jpg” shows Chris and his assistant affixing their stencil pattern to the wall. He made the pattern on his computer at home and scaled it up on dozens of sheets of paper with his printer. When stitched together, they formed a large pattern for the image. We scaled it ourselves to fit the wall just perfectly. After they had carefully traced out the outline of the artwork, they set to work hand-painting the image with the colors we had selected. In the picture titled, “FLV_Artists_Painting_Logo.jpg” you can see Chris carefully painting the “s” on the word “vineyards”. The amount of attention to detail that goes into a muralist’s work is really amazing, and it was fun to watch. The finished mural, shown in the attached picture called “FLV_Finished_Logo_Sundown.jpg” is a great shot of the mural at sundown.
Mesquite Tasting Table
Another item for the new tasting room is the tasting table itself. We wanted something truly extraordinary & spectacular, where the table itself would be an attention grabber and conversation piece – a work of art. We wanted the craftsmanship of the table to compliment the work and craftsmanship we put into our wines. With those design goals, there was only one choice for the table – Mesquite. There is no wood that I know of that represents the American southwest more than Mesquite. This curvy and densely slow growing tree is found in northern Mexico throughout the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts, and up into the Southwestern United States as far north as southern Kansas, west to the Colorado Desert in California, and east to the eastern fifth of Texas. It’s wood grain is striking, multi-shaded and never straight. Because the tree grows so slowly and in such twisted fashions, the wood is as hard as steel and has tight, meandering color streaks through it. It is so hard that it literally destroys carbide saw blades quickly when cutting, and woodworkers both love Mesquite (for it’s amazing beauty) and hate the wood because of the difficulty in working it and cost of cutting it.
We found a guy named Tom Boneme out in Picture Rocks, Arizona who travels around the Southwest looking for Mesquite logs. He looks everywhere – abandoned property, worksites, etc., and he purchases logs from landowners. He has a big trailer and a lift that he uses to put the logs into his trailer, and he hauls them back to his wood yard where he has designed and built a custom sawmill to handle logs of tremendous diameters. His unique sawmill allows him to literally slice huge logs like a loaf of bread, essentially.
We scrounged through his mesquite pieces to locate a perfectly book matched set. If you look at the attached picture titled, “Raw Unfinished Mesquite Slabs_FLV.jpg” you’ll see what a whole log that’s been sliced up looks like in the lumber yard. Each slice is about 2.5″ thick, and he puts small sticks between the slices to allow air to flow across the pieces so that they dry evenly. A “book matched” set is one where the slices came one right after the other, such that when you fold them out and set together the grains appear to be symmetrical with each other, but opposite (this is what a tie-dyed shirt looks like). The pieces we selected were cut from an abnormally large log that had a gentle curve to it. By book matching two curved pieces, they form a sort of “blackjack table” layout when folded out, end-to-end (see Mesquite layout.jpg, attached). This is ideal for wine tasting, as our tasting room manager can pour wine and serve several customers at once more easily, similar in function to a blackjack dealer dealing cards from the pit behind a curved table layout.
To finish Mesquite, we start by filling all the holes and cracks with black or clear epoxy and running them through a gigantic belt sander. It comes out flat, but the surface is rough. It looks like the attached picture titled, “Mesquite Sanding & Filling.jpg“, which shows the filled piece after a few passes through the belt sanding machine with the bark still on. We continue to smear epoxy on the wood, then sand it off to make sure the cracks and pits are completely filled – see Mesquite Epoxy Fill.jpg, attached. Once the piece is filled, we remove the bark and hand finish the edge with natural sealer. The finish is amazing when done – see Mesquite Edge Finish.jpg, attached.
The final step is to use hand sanders to smooth the rough top down to 400-grit, then we apply several even coats of mineral spirits to raise the grain and work in as many as 20 full coats of Danish Oil into the surface to preserve and protect it from wine spillage. When it’s finished, the wood is simply amazing to look at. We are nearly finished working in the oil, and one of our two pieces is still in the shop – see Finished Pieces.jpg. These Mesquite pieces will make an incredible tasting table for the Willcox tasting room, and we hope you’ll enjoy coming in to our new location and checking them out.
Vine Bud Break Approacheth ….
We are eagerly awaiting the first spring buds to break on our vines. We are ready for the coming frosts, though. We recently installed a massive wind machine out at our vineyards in Cochise County. We are setting the fuel tank on Tuesday, and the machine will be locked & cocked as of this Friday. You ought hear it run – sounds like a massive helicopter running over your head. I’ve attached a picture of the machine as the final photo in this blog posting. The wind machine doesn’t push air – it pulls it down. The large gear box on top of the tower rotates around once every two minutes, and the machine pulls warm air up in an inversion layer down to the vineyard floor. This breaks up the cold air mass at the vines and prevents frost from forming on them. A wind machine such as this is very expensive, but it significantly increases fruit yield and quality. Our goal is to make the finest wines possible, and to do this we need excellent fruit quality. This wind machine is part of that strategy.
That’s a Rap!
As always, thank you for your continued interest in FLV. Our absolute commitment to our customers is to continue to bring you the finest wines and the best tasting room experience possible. We hope you enjoy our blog posts. We are working very hard to develop our new website, which should be up and running in a few weeks. The new site includes a complete online shopping system so that you can order our wines online. We shot the photographs of the bottles yesterday, and we spent the last several days in discussions with e-commerce providers and solutions. FLV is also now a proud member of the Willcox Chamber of Commerce and the Willcox Wine Community (see http://www.willcoxwines.com/). We hope you’ll come to Willcox and experience the explosion in Arizona wine that’s taking place there. Flying Leap is a proud part of that, and there are some wonderful wineries now pouring in downtown Willcox and the surrounding area. Willcox, Arizona is just an hour east of Tucson on I-10 and makes a great day trip out to Arizona’s largest wine growing region.
And remember – we aren’t spammers. We are a very dedicated group of hardworking Arizona family farmers, winemakers and wine merchants looking to bring you a fun, informative connection to our vineyards and a first class wine tasting experience. If at any time you wish to be removed from our blog list, just send me an e-mail and we’ll promptly do so. However, if you know of other folks who would like to hear about FLV and would like to be included on our blog posts, just have them send me an email and we’re happy to do that, too.
Adios & Via Con Dios 🙂