Somm Insider Vol. 17 ~ Carlson Creek
By: Darla Hoffmann
If I had to imagine owning a vineyard, I would probably picture myself climbing a treacherous yet phenomenal mountain. There are so many obstacles in your way, the terrain is different from one spot to another, sometimes you have to re-route, you risk some damage along the way, but your end result can be beyond rewarding when you finally get to see the fruits of your labor.
Challenges such as these take patience, perseverance and a clear mind in order to stay on track and get the most out of your inspirational experience. Maybe that’s why, during the midst of opening a new tasting room in Cottonwood and a 14,000 square foot winery in Willcox, Robert Carlson thought he’d go hike Mt. Fuji in Japan. No biggie. The Carlson family is clearly fearless and confident when it comes to facing hurdles.
While speaking with Robert, General Manager, I got the feeling this valiant behavior is due to the family’s exceptional preparation and dedication to keep their creative juices flowing. Robert was still picking grapes when we spoke. It was quite windy and looked as though a storm was rolling in, and he nonchalantly said, “Well, looks like lightening. Probably time to stop for the night.” The Carlson family definitely comes with a “bring it” attitude.
They opened their first winery in 2009 in downtown Willcox, and just two years ago, a tasting room in downtown Scottsdale which hold about 60 people. The Cottonwood tasting room will hold about 100 people and the new, larger winery in Willcox will have a full kitchen and a custom crush for other wineries to use. The grounds will be a beautiful site for one to host parties and weddings, and will soon be a camping destination.
The family members each have different roles. Robert is the General Manager and works in the vineyard, his brother John is the head winemaker and works in the vineyard. Their sister Katherine works as legal counsel for the winery, and their parents, Elizabeth and Robert Jr. are a big part of making decisions around charity work, accounting and retail merchandise.
There is more to the success of Carlson Creek Winery than the coolheaded nature of the family. They met with consultants to help them plan this larger than life dream, and each member did extensive research on the industry. Their various educational and prior work experience certainly helps keep the business on the uphill as well. Robert was an engineer and a stock broker before attending UC Davis to study wine, and both he and his brother John worked for wineries in Arizona to gain first-hand knowledge. The legal and financial background of their sister and parents is also an integral part of their continued success.
Now, let us talk about the grapes. When asked about what grows best in their vineyard, Robert replied, “Malbec, Syrah and Sangiovese are consistent producers. Riesling can be difficult to pick and prune but we manage airflow quite well and make an excellent style.”
They grow wonderful Rhone style varietals as well. The next releases will include a Grenache rose, Mourvedre, more Syrah, another Malbec and some limited amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon. Keep a close eye on Carlson Creek Winery in 2019 so you don’t miss out on any of these elegant, well-crafted wines. Having had the pleasure of tasting many of their wines and meeting most of their knowledgeable staff, I think it’s safe to say you will have one of the most delightful experiences while keeping your feet on level ground.
As for the folks at Carlson Creek, I think we can expect bigger and better each year because for them, “There ain’t no mountain high enough.”
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. For more info, visit: www.aboutwineinaz.com.