Flying Leap's Willcox Vineyards
Flying Leap Vineyards currently farms 60 acres in southeastern Arizona, and 10 acres in southern Arizona. The Cochise county development is divided into three blocks, and the winery estate has a 10-acre vineyard co-located with our winery. At current agricultural maturity, Flying Leap’s total vineyard production would produce approximately 8,000-cases of wine if vinified. However, the Company’s winery and distillery share the annual harvest, so annual wine & spirits production varies according to market demand. Flying Leap is one of the largest growers of wine grapes in the Arizona market. At present, we do not sell any of our crop to other wineries, choosing instead to vinify or distill our crop to support our own production needs.
Approximately 90% of FLV’s fruit is sourced from our Cochise County vineyards in the Kansas Settlement south of Willcox (the remaining 10% is sourced from our estate vineyard in Elgin, AZ). The soil there is perfectly pH-balanced with good drainage, making it ideal for growing grapevines, and the land itself is situated on a gentle downslope just west of the Dos Cabezas Mountain Wilderness area in the Sulphur Springs Valley. At 4,359 feet, our Cochise County vineyards enjoy sunny warm days and clear cool nights – perfect for grape ripening.
Grapevines do not require a lot of water, and our Company is committed to the ethical use of our limited groundwater supply, and we’ve put our money where our mouth is by investing in equipment that allows for very precise and miserly application of water where and when it’s needed with very little waste or excess. We irrigate our grapevines using an efficient drip irrigation system fed from two very deep wells onsite. We pump groundwater collected from snowmelt and our annual monsoon rains. The water is pressurized and directed through a vast network of underground pipes to various valves, which we turn on and off to direct water to separate irrigation blocks. We have designed and installed equipment allowing us to inject both fertilizers and acids into our irrigation water to enhance plant growth, fruit quality and maintain proper soil chemistry. In 2016, we developed a 2-acre reservoir to capture surface water runoff which naturally flows through an unplantable section of our Block 3 vineyard.
Blocks 1 & 2 contain approximately 30,000 vines on 15.6-acres of planted space, giving us the highest vine density of any vineyard in the state of Arizona, and our rows are just 6-feet wide. We work our vineyards the old fashioned way – by hand, using quads and special custom-made equipment for getting efficiently down our narrow rows. Block 3 contains 20,000 vines on 9.6 acres. Planted in April 2016, Block 3 will come into production in the Fall of 2019.
In our Cochise County vineyards, about 75% of our vines are red winegrape varietals. These include Grenache Noir, Petit Verdot, Mourvèdre, Sangiovese, Tannat, Graciano, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. The remaining 25% are white winegrape varietals including Marsanne, Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Piquepoul Blanc, Malvasia Bianca and Ugni Blanc (Trebbiano). Each of these carefully-selected grapevine varietals grow well in Arizona’s clay sandy-loam soil and are ideally suited for our dry, arid climate.
Approximately 70% of our portfolio is on grafted rootstock, and the remaining plants grow on their own roots. We do this to reduce the risk of Phyloxera damage, which is a root louse that can devastate a vineyard. Grafting is an age-old process by which old-world vines susceptible to Phyloxera damage are grafted onto native northern American roots, which are resistant to the louse. There is currently no known presence of Phyloxera in Arizona’s vineyard acreage, but FLV plants some grafted vines in order to ensure protection should a grower inadvertently import it in the future.
We have taken great care to make the Cochise County vineyards guest-friendly, and we are licensed to make & sell wine onsite. The western border is shaded with native cottonwood trees, and we’ve planted grass and built a beautiful picnic area to entertain our customers when touring the fields. In 2013, we built comfortable restroom facilities on the property, and we have a large organic vegetable and flower garden planted onsite. The vineyard is beautiful in full bloom, and we conduct guided tours of the farm for parties of 8 or more with reservations. During these informative tours, we serve lunch and conduct wine tasting at the field. Guests will get to see a working Arizona vineyard up close, meet the work crews and learn about viticulture in this exciting new area of wine activity.