by Staff Reports
More than four years after the initial petition was submitted, Northern Arizona’s Verde Valley is now an American Viticultural Area (AVA).
This designation identifies the unique geography, topography, soils and climate of the Verde Valley AVA as a federally recognized grape growing region.
Alongside Arizona’s first two AVAs, Sonoita and Willcox, being designated an AVA gives Verde Valley AVA vintners the opportunity to describe the specific origin of the grapes used to make their wines.
The designation was awarded to the area by the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau in November.
“Publications are coming out of nowhere congratulating us and singing our praises about this accomplishment,” says Tom Schumacher, president of the Verde Valley Wine Consortium. “It’s a great feeling.” Attendance in the tasting rooms also appears to be on the increase, as are bottle sales, he adds.
Located in the geographic center of Arizona, the Verde Valley AVA covers an area of 219 square miles in northeastern Yavapai County centered on the junction of Oak Creek and the Verde River. Approximately 36% (79 square miles) of the AVA is privately owned land, while federal and state entities manage the remainder.
According to the Verde Valley Wine Trail, the Verde Valley AVA includes 19 commercial vineyards farming more than 136 acres of wine grapes. Twenty-four additional vineyard acres are planned within the next three years.
The region boasts 25 tasting rooms. Also located within the Verde Valley AVA is Yavapai College, an accredited educational institution that offers classes, certificates and an associate degree in viticulture and enology.
Vineyards in the Verde Valley AVA grow more than 40 white and red wine grape varieties.
Paula Woolsey, vice president of the wine consortium, said there has been an “amazing amount of media inquiries, articles, podcasts and influential wine industry publications speaking our praise. Tourists to the area are asking about the AVA and enjoying more wines every day.”
The first bottles officially produced under the AVA designation will be on the market soon, she says, with the white wines being released as early as March or April and the reds released later in the year.