2007 marked an important year in wine history with the coming together of two men who launched Arizona into the fine wine scene. Eric Glomski (Founder of Page Springs Cellars and previously Winemaker at David Bruce Winery), Maynard Keenan (Owner of Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards & Orchards) are now together under the banner of Arizona Stronghold Vineyards.
Keenan and Glomski, founders of the Company, knowing that quality fruit is the key to all winemaking endeavors, set out to transform the ageing Dos Cabezas Vineyard near Willcox, Arizona into a top notch, high quality effort. Poorly performing varietals were ripped up or grafted over in the first year, and several acres of new plantings have already been planted. The core of the red plantings are Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Tempranillo and Sangiovese with Viognier and Malvasia Bianca anchoring the white plantings. (Several other varietals also supplement these grapes.)
Michael is an Arizona native who graduated from Northern Arizona University in 2004 with a degree in Electronic Media/Visual Communication and worked for a number of companies for 5 years. He enrolled in the UC Davis Enology extension program in 2005, then switched to Washington State University’s program in 2007, and upon completion there received his Certificate in Enology in 2009. Michaels’ first grape harvest was in Hawkes Bay New Zealand in 2009, followed by a stint at Delegat’s Wine Estate in Oregon, and then back for 12th & Maple in Kayena Tasmania in 2010 before getting a position with Arizona Stronghold as a cellar hand in July 2010. He quickly assumed the role of Lab Manager by 2011, and then was promoted to Assistant Winemaker in 2012, and finally Winemaker in 2013. Michael brings an excellent palate and knowledge of wines, winemaking and viticulture with him that is clearly visible in his enthusiasm and drive which will help keep Arizona Stronghold Vineyards at the forefront of the wine marketplace.
Mark started out in the wine industry as a “Cellar Rat” in 1981 working for Jekel Vineyards in Monterey county California washing tanks and flipping barrels. He had answered an ad for a harvest grunt not knowing much about the wine industry other than it was growing rapidly in the Salinas Valley; it looked like a lot of fun and was probably better than his graveyard shift cooking at a local restaurant for truck drivers, drunks and road weary travelers. In addition to having a strong back and a willingness to learn, the only real requirement for the job was “must speak fluent English”.
Alerted by an article in August, 1984’s Sunset magazine, “Here Come the Northwest Wines”, to the newly burgeoning Pacific Northwest wine industry, and having worked his way up to Cellar-master position at Jekel, Mark and his wife Colleen packed up a case of “resume” and moved to Washington State that autumn. Hired right away by Yakima River Winery in Prosser and then ultimately offered the Winemaker role with Paul Thomas Winery in Bellevue, Mark spent energies renovating an older home and pursued climbing and sailing in his rare off times either in the Cascade Mountains or the waters of the Puget Sound. Employed by Paul Thomas for fifteen years, his hard work evolved into the General/Facilities Manager role for a consortium of six wineries under the Corus Brands umbrella when the company moved closer to the vineyards in eastern Washington near Sunnyside. He had the prime rare opportunity to design, help layout and build a state of the art 500,000 gallon production winery facility starting from raw dirt, and then added an additional 250,000 gallons within three years as growth in Washington State exceeded sales expectations. The winery still stands and is in full operation to this day with few changes to the initial layout albeit with a few more additions.
Landing a job in 2001 as General Manager of Edna Valley Vineyards in San Luis Obispo on the Central Coast, Mark and Colleen returned to California in part to be closer to their aging parents. “Edna” was a fully vertical and laterally designed winery within the Chalone Wine Group and allowed Mark to continue to sharpen his teeth by learning more facets of the wine industry - Tasting Room, Event Center, Custom Bottling and National Sales working with a diverse group of likeminded individuals. Eventually, once a large corporation bought out the remaining shares of the managing partner side of the group, Mark felt the need to take a break and see if he could get back to his roots of winemaking. Working for Agenzia Enologica Bresciana, an international wine products company, traveling across the United States, including Arizona, and consulting with winemakers gave him a great opportunity to continue to learn more about grapes and modern winemaking practices.
Arizona had always appealed to Mark as his grandparents, who lived in Chicago at the time, traveled there on “Route 66” in the 1930’s. They hiked, purchased Navajo rugs from Lorenzo Hubbell’s trading post and visited the many wonders that the state has to offer. Mark’s grandfather Don Campbell reported their adventures to their local paper “back home”. When Mark learned of the position opening as General Manager with Arizona Stronghold Vineyards in Cottonwood, it was just something he felt compelled to apply for and he did after spending time talking with both Eric Glomski and Maynard Keenan. In his free time, Mark can be found mountain biking or hiking the local canyons and hills with Colleen and their dog “Cooper”, sending up plumes of mesquite smoke from his porch BBQ and having a glass of wine watching those gorgeous Arizona sunsets.
Eric’s love for wine grew during his previous profession as a vegetation and landscape ecologist. During a two year research project in Central Arizona, Eric harvested heirloom apples, pears, peaches and quince from abandoned homesteads that he came across in his field journeys. It was sniffing his first apple wine that led him to realize that wine is “liquid landscape”. More than just the fruit that was harvested, the wine somehow captured the essence of the whole landscape that that plant had grown and fruited in. The French call this term “terroir”. These first forays at home winemaking led him to California.
In the mid 90’s he briefly worked harvest at Limerick Lane, a small Old Vine Zinfandel producer in Sonoma County California. After leaving Sonoma, Eric worked for several years at David Bruce Winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Working his way up from Cellar Worker, Assistant Production Manager, Production Manager and Assistant Winemaker over the course of five years, he became Co-Winemaker and Director of Production in 2001. During his tenure at David Bruce, Eric also pursued a great deal of coursework at the University of California at Davis in Viticulture and Enology.
My mission statement and manifesto for Stronghold Vineyards, in Cochise County, Arizona, may at first glance appear to be somewhat eccentric, and all around romantically delusional. But allow me to bend your ear over a glass or two of our juice, and you may find our overall goals here to be quite utilitarian and down right grounded. By the time you get to the bottom of the glass you may very well have forgotten for a moment that I'm one of those "artist types." Or more convinced. Either way, allow me to take the long way around what should have been a relatively simple explanation.
It feels as though we as a culture have become disconnected. We're constantly dreaming up ways to give away more and more of our power. We've lost touch with our ability to make fire, find fresh water, to hunt, gather, or cultivate our own food, even to have a simple conversation without utilizing some electronic gizmo. So in a nutshell, for me, this project is about reconnecting. It's about rekindling a relationship with the Earth, to our community, to each other. A sustainable bullet-proof relationship that can withstand the most hostile of climates. In the wake of extreme changes, be they political, social, environmental, only a relationship such as this can survive.
Cochise and his family and community are the perfect examples of such a relationship. Hostile territory is an understatement. But their connection with the Earth and with each other was their salvation.
Connection, Communion, Co-existence, Compassion. Cochise. Stronghold. Salute'!