I’ve personally been lucky enough to experience the winemaking process first-hand while in Italy, and the experience was one that I will not soon forget. It was a crisp, chilly mid-September morning; the sun was just peeking out over the hills, casting a golden glow over the whole city. I sat in the back of the van, wrapped up in my sweatshirt, sipping the frothy cappuccino that was warming my hands. I looked out the window to see fields of bright sunflowers, farms with grazing cattle and old brick houses with ashy smoke rising out from the chimneys as we made our way from the city center onto a quiet dirt road in the countryside.
With the sun now fully risen in the sky, I beheld a wondrous sight before me as we stopped: row upon row of lush green vines dotted with plump purple grapes as far as the eye could see. Once on the vineyard, we were greeted by a husband, wife and their three children, who soon informed us that we would be spending our day picking grapes for the harvest. I was handed an old, dirt-laden bucket and directed to the part of the vineyard where I would be working.
Four hours later, my jeans were soaked knee deep with thick mud, my shirt had splotches of purple all over and my hands had turned a greenish-brown color—I had never felt so exhausted yet so accomplished. Luckily, upon our return to the house, a brick pizza oven radiating warmth was firing up handmade pies and a full picnic table laden with every Italian specialty in the book greeted us. After devouring the sizeable meal, we helped clean before relaxing under the shade of the trees while the kids taught the boys from our group how to really play soccer. As the sun began to set and we prepared to leave, I looked at my hands: they were calloused and a little scarred, and there was still dirt under my fingernails, but I had spent the day reconnecting with the land and had gained a true appreciation for it.
That’s what the October issue is all about, celebrating Arizona’s local wines and beers, along with the winemakers, sommeliers and brewmasters dedicated to their craft. Featured are the wonderful wines from Lawrence Dunham Vineyard, a whimsical winery in Florence, Arizona and the best brews for football tailgating with friends and family.