Somm Insider Vol. 12 ~ Pillsbury Wine Company

Somm Insider: Volume 12
What: Pillsbury Wine Company
By: Darla Hoffmann

Some people just have a knack for success. But even those who do must be willing to take chances every now and then. Sam Pillsbury, owner of Pillsbury Wine Company, is one of those men. Some people wonder how it’s possible to make great wine in the desert, so Sam has made it his mission to discover and test wine practices and varietals that work in Arizona. To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, Sam would try it in a box, he would try it with a fox, he would try it here or there, he would try it anywhere! And it is precisely this attitude that has made him one of the top wine makers to show the rest of the country what Arizona has to offer.

The fearless ‘Sam I Am’ has taken on many challenging undertakings in his life. He’s been a film director and producer, a teacher, and graduate of the Bondurant Grand Prix Road Racing School in Phoenix. Now he’s making noise on the grand stage as a winemaker, winning three Double Golds from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition—the biggest and most prestigious wine competition in the United States.

He is especially proud of his 2013 Shiraz and his 2015 Shiraz, which both won Double Golds. “Shiraz is a grape and a wine that I really love, and I think we’ve got a handle on the growing and the wine-making,” says Sam. “They are classic styles, like those of the Northern Rhone in France. We are even experimenting with co-fermenting Shiraz with several different whites, finding the magic in a combo of Viognier and Symphony varietals.” This practice, he explains, is quite common, and extremely successful in France.

The 2013 Shiraz, like all of his Shiraz entries, was entered against 55 other candidates in the most expensive Syrah category of the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. “There were only three Double Golds awarded,” says Sam, “And our 2013 from my piece of dirt down by the Mexican border was one of these three.” Additionally, Pillsbury’s Grenache earned a Double Gold, and their 2016 Chardonnay and Viognier earned Golds as well.

Sam joyfully makes his wines his way, and his way alone. “My wines are made in a style I have focused on for ten years, ignoring the fashionable, easy shot of big—what I call ‘cocktail hummer wines’. In a land of endless sunshine, I make wines of depth, nuance and complexity that will pair with and enhance food.”

It certainly seems that the judges of these competitions like what Sam is doing; recognizing his talents and giving Arizona its well-deserved attention. As a huge advocate of getting Arizona wines on the worldwide map I must say, Thank you, thank you, Sam I Am!

You can learn more about Pillsbury Wine Company at Visit Sam’s tasting room and vineyard in Willcox, AZ at 6450 South Bennett Place (by appointment),or his tasting room in Downtown Cottonwood at 1012 N Main Street; open 11am-7pm Sunday through Thursday and 11am-9pm Fridays and Saturdays.

Darla Hoffmann, passed both her Sommelier Level 1 and Certified Level 2 exams with the highest score in her class, earning the esteemed “Walter Clore Scholarship”. She is a Certified Specialist of Wine and Hospitality Beverage under the Society of Wine Educators, and a member of The Wine Century Club. She works in the tasting room of Scottsdale’s LDV Wine Gallery, has written for City Sun Times, MYnewsMesa, and The Society of Wine Educators’ website. Darla is the sole proprietor of About Wine, which focuses on wine education and marketing through means of tastings, classes, and promotions. She conducts customized classes at various restaurants and events in Phoenix, such as Wine 101: ‘The Grape Expedition’ series, and Italian Varietals: Wines of Bordeaux, Spain & Portugal. For more info, visit:

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