Somm Insider: Vol. 5 ~ The Arizona Vignerons Alliance

Somm Insider: Volume 5
What: The Arizona Vignerons Alliance
By: Darla Hoffmann

The acronym AVA is the nationally-known term for American Viticultural Area, which is a designated wine-grape growing region in the United States distinguished by geographic features and boundaries as defined by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). An AVA must meet specific requirements including evidence that growing conditions such as climate, soil, elevation, and physical features are distinctive. We have two AVAs in the state of Arizona; Sonoita, which was designated in 1984; and Willcox, designated in 2016. To demonstrate the current sizeable difference, California’s Napa Valley has 16 AVAs.

That brief lesson on AVAs is to give my readers a visual of the country as a whole, including where Arizona stands in the wine industry. The Arizona Vignerons Alliance, also called AVA, was established in 2016 to promote quality wines grown and produced in Arizona. The founders include Kelly and Todd Bostock of Dos Cabezas Wine Works, Kent and Lisa Callaghan of Callaghan Vineyards, Rob and Sarah Hammelman of Sand Reckoner, and Jennifer and Maynard Keenan of Caduceus Cellars. The goal of this organization is to put Arizona wines on the worldwide map.

When asked what the AVA is doing to reach this goal, Kelly Bostock replied, “There are a lot of components including evaluation panels, collecting data on viticulture and wine making, and bringing in renowned wine writers so that we can be recognized on the national stage. We want people to take notice that we make great wines in this region.”

Valeree Halsey, who holds her Sommelier Diploma from the International Somm Guild, organizes the tasting panels for the AVA. Tasting panels are held throughout the year; winemakers submit their wines, along with an extensive form on elevation and soil to rain anomaly for that particular vintage. The day of the panel, volunteers come in and perform a sensory evaluation to ensure the wines meet specific criteria regarding flaws. If the wine passes, it gets a certification logo stamp which can be placed on the wine’s label.

“The panels benefit winemakers because it gives everyone a history of what’s going on and what works well here,” says Valeree. “Our wine industry has come around tenfold in the past ten years.”

There are currently over 110 wineries, vineyards and cellars in Arizona. Needless to say, we are fast becoming A Valuable Addition (AVA) to this country’s exciting wine industry. For more information, visit

Business owner, 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, a Certified Beer Server/Level 1 under the Cicerone Program, and a member of The Wine Century Club. Additionally, she works in the tasting room at LDV Wine Gallery, an award-winning winery in Scottsdale, has written for City Sun Times and MYnewsMesa, and has been a guest writer on The Society of Wine Educators’ site. Darla is the sole proprietor of About Wine, which focuses on wine education and marketing through means of tastings, classes, marketing, 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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