There’s something brewing in Tombstone—as a special project is about to be uncorked in an Arizona wine-inspired community. If your dream is to own a vineyard of your own, sites are improved and available now.
Tombstone, Arizona is more known for movies than Mourvedre, but that is about to change as the exciting 1881 Preserve breaks ground one mile east of town. While the developers are creating a complete community on the 21,000-acre site, they’re quick to point out that their vision is to grow over the years to highlight the burgeoning Cochise County wine region.
The elevation creates desirable conditions for residents as well, as Cochise County is an idyllic summer escape, ranked as cooler than most places in Arizona.
Wine in Arizona? The Arizona wine industry started to gain traction in 1980, and there are currently 23 wineries in neighboring Willcox, including the award-winning Caduceus Cellars Velvet Slippers Club Barbera by Maynard James Keenan of band Tool, named Best In Show at the Arizona Wine Competition. Bodega Pierce Sauvignon Blanc with grapes from that winery’s estate Rolling View Vineyard in Willcox won best white wine.
With its elevation sitting at 4,600 to 5,600 feet above sea level, the Arizona heat is tempered by diurnal temperature variations that are present in some of the world’s top wine-growing regions, like Mendoza, Argentina or the Central Otago region of New Zealand.
The elevation creates desirable conditions for residents as well, as Cochise County is an idealic summer escape, ranked as cooler than most places in Arizona, with the hottest average summer temps at 94 degrees, some 20 degrees cooler than in the cities.
Before the project got underway, extensive soil testing was done throughout the development to determine the composition and quality of soil for grape growing. With the results even better than expected, 1881 Preserve’s central focus is the more than 1,200 acres of vineyard land and future winemaking.
We talked with 1881 Preserve President Peter Benincasa and Vice President Erica Leblang who say that the soil testing led the vision of this community to have the potential to create award-winning, unique Arizona wines that have every advantage in their making from vine to wine.
“We are leading with the vineyards and building a vision outward from there, and in doing so, we plan to preserve both the natural beauty and historical significance of the land surrounding the vineyards to create a wonderful place to live and play,” said LeBlang.
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Fischl is a viticulture consultant with a PhD in molecular genomics who has worked worldwide as founder of Eartrumpet Vineyard Consulting, and he and his wife, winemaker Michelle Edwards, own Linnaea Vineyards in Australia.
Frost is one of only three people in the world to hold both the Master Sommelier distinction and the Master of Wine title. He has penned three books on wine, hosted the Emmy-winning FermentNation and owns Echolands Winery in Wala Wala, Washington. According to USA Today, “Frost likely knows as much as anyone in the world about how to make, market, serve and identify wines.”
Together these two thought leaders in winemaking are involved in every stage from vine to wine. One of the things both men hope to do is to create a new AVA (American Viticultural Area) in the area to join the two other AVAs currently in Arizona wine country, including the nearby Willcox AVA.
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Being an early pioneer in something that will be notable worldwide appeals to Frost. “No one knows what to think of these undiscovered wine regions, and it’s great fun for me to be involved right from the beginning of the story,” he says.
Fischl echos his sentiments, “I’m really keen to start a new AVA here. It has all the right components, and right now, it’s a blank slate.”
“The character and style of the wines are unique, and I’m excited to do something with varietals other Arizona vintners haven’t focused on.”
While Arizona has been producing wine for more than 40 years, it’s still in its infancy for a wine region. While the wine quality and growing know-how has improved, there is still room for new varietals and better quality to help it compete with more established wine areas.
While Arizona vintners have focused on Rhone and Spanish varietals, Frost believes that any Greek grape and many Portuguese varietals would also do well in Cochise County. He and Fischl are exploring what grapes they’ll plant on the 100-acre vineyard plot that will produce 1881-branded wines in Arizona.
“I’m a big believer in what Arizona has,” says Frost. “The character and style of the wines are unique, and I’m excited to do something with varietals other Arizona vintners haven’t focused on.”
In addition to a planned, on-site winery producing branded 1881 wine, there are currently eight 40-acre vineyard parcels available for purchase through Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty listing agents Debbie Sinagoga and Kris LaCroix. These blocks of land could be additional vineyards for an existing winery, or be the ideal site for aspiring vintners looking to get into the winemaking business, with the ability to consult with Fischl and Frost on the land and vineyard development a big bonus to buyers.
In addition to the eight parceled vineyards, 1881 Preserve has an additional 200 acres of vineyard land that can be subdivided to a buyer’s preferred acreage. The extensive soil testing done revealed that the soil is some of the best for wine in the entire development. With Frost and Fischl serving as consultants, vineyard owners can be as involved or uninvolved in creating their own wines as they want to be.
“We’re ready to hold their hand when needed and to let go when they want to take the reins,” says Frost.
Because the 200 acres have already been cleared for planting and a weather station installed, some of the expense and labor a vineyard would normally incur is already done. Additionally, Fishl and Frost have analyzed the area and already identified the best varietals to grow in this specific location, all designed to get buyers off to a great start. The best part is that land is available now and ready to go. Just reach out directly to 1881 Preserve to stake your claim.
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When completed, both the commercial vineyards and hobby winemakers will have access to the state-of-the-art equipment at the 1881 winery for crushing, fermenting, blending and bottling their wine.
“My focus is technical viticulture, and I plan to bring ecosystems into the vineyard that provide many benefits to the winemaking process,” says Fischl.
With a wealth of global experiences to draw from, Fischl and Frost will bring an unprecedented level of science and viticultural know-how to Arizona.
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“I’ve been fortunate to travel the world and see a lot of different strategies and approaches to winemaking,” Fischl says. “I can help Arizona winemakers improve by picking and choosing the best practices and developing a viticulture strategy from the design stage.”
Frost and Fischl are currently working with Irvin Farms, a boutique hotel coming to the 1881 Preserve development, on the hotel’s own 30-acre vineyard. The hotel will also have its own farm and subsequent farmer’s market for residents to enjoy with their Arizona wine.
As 1881 Preserve continues its build out, plans include the creation of The Resort & Lodge at 1881, 1881 Hideaway Motor Coach Park and The Ranch at 1881.
The 21,000 acres of land consist of more than 14,000 acres of Arizona State Trust land leased to 1881 Preserve, which is currently being used as a working cattle ranch, and more than 7,000 acres of deeded land.
Rich Arizona soil from an ancient volcanic floodplain enriching the land at 1881 Preserve, its vineyards are poised to give Arizona wine lovers a new reason to raise a glass and say “Cheers.”
The land, which included the Chandler Milk Ranch, played a role in many of Tombstone’s historical events, notably in October 1881, when Billy and Ike Clanton met up at the ranch just prior to the gunfight at the O.K. Corral between the Clantons and the Earps, which is regarded as the most famous shootout in the American Wild West.
The property plans for more than 21 miles of hiking, biking and horseback riding trails with multiple buttes and mountain views throughout. As 1881 grows, there will be a world-class equestrian center and championship golf course added to the community.
As any oenophile knows, great wine starts in the vineyard, and with rich Arizona soil from an ancient volcanic floodplain enriching the land at 1881 Preserve, its vineyards are poised to give Arizona wine lovers a new reason to raise a glass and say “Cheers.”
If you want to learn more about 1881 Preserve executive team, click here.