CAMP VERDE - On eight and a half acres of land in Camp Verde sits a small winery and soon to be tasting room. Clear Creek Winery owned by Ignacio and Sue Mesa has been a dream of theirs since Ignacio took a viticulture class at the University of Arizona at the age of 20.
The acreage includes 12 different varieties of grapes, the Mesa home, the processing building, and now a tasting room. For now, the tasting room and the wine manufacturing area are combined but the couple hopes to build a tasting room by their outdoor patio in the future, said Sue.
In 1999, Ignacio purchased the land to cultivate the grapes. He planted 10 test varieties to see how the grapes would handle the weather in the Verde Valley. Out of those 10, he chose to keep seven and later added five more. After five years, which is how long it takes to grow and have the crop be ready for harvest, Ignacio began making small batches of wine.
The Mesa's have come a long way since their first few batches of wine, now making anywhere between 11 and 15 tons of Cabernet Franc alone per yearly harvest. Ignacio currently has eight vintages that are aging on the property. Vintages are wines that have been blended together to create more flavors.
"My favorite part of it is training the vines to allow sunlight on the grapes. The clusters need sun on them 30 percent of the time to allow the juice to peak just right," said Ignacio. "I also like blending the wines to see which variables make the best wine."
The wine is currently being sold at Verde Brewing Company in Camp Verde and at Clear Creek Winery. The Mesa's have no intention of growing their winery; they said eight acres is enough work.
Students from the Yavapai College Viticulture program come and help them throughout harvest season. They even hire two of the students through harvest.
"We have students, friends, family and a few employees that help during harvest season. Afterward we have a big barbeque and drink a lot of wine," said Sue. "It's a good time and our way of thanking everyone for their help."
The tasting room will be opening on Friday, Dec. 11. The winter hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Clear Creek Winery is located at 4053 E. SR 260 in Camp Verde. For more information call the office at (928) 567-2158.