LDV Winery: How a Couple Started a Business Almost by Accident

LDV Winery started almost by accident when Curt Dunham and Peggy Fiandaca had a conversation about their future. As lovers of wine and food, it seemed natural to pursue a business that embraced those areas. When the opportunity to start a winery came up, they jumped at it.

We talked to Curt Dunham, owner, grower and winemaker of LDV Winery to find out more about what it takes to start a winery, how he chose the types of wines he wanted to produce and the awards he collected on the way.

CRUSHBREW: Can you tell us how the winery started and how you got involved with the wine industry in the first place?

CURT DUNHAM: I’ve been collecting wine for a long time, and my passion was traveling to the great wine regions of the world to taste, learn about, and purchase unique wines to fill my 2,000 bottle wine cellar. Never intending to use what I learned through the years myself. My wife and I began to discuss 10 years ago what we wanted to do with the second half of our adulthood, and we determined it was something involved with wine and food. We went to the extreme and in 2007 decided to start a winery from scratch. We began to plant grapes in spring 2008 and haven’t looked back since.

CRUSHBREW: What type of wine do you focus on (whites/reds/a specific type of each)? Is your focus a personal choice or is it based on what’s best because of the region where the winery is located?

CD: We focus on full-bodied reds and expressive white wines. At our altitude of 5,000 feet and with the Chiricahua Mountains (10,000) right next to the vineyard, we get big, flavorful mountain fruit. We chose to grow exclusively Rhone varietals (Viognier, Sirah, Petite Sirah, Grenache) because of the soil composition (rocky and volcanic) and weather characteristics of our unique spot. Personally, I would have liked to have grown Zinfandel and Pinot Noir but don’t believe either would do well in our Terroir.

C: Can you tell us a bit about your winemaking operation?

CD: We are fairly unique in Arizona as we are a 100% estate winery, meaning we only use grapes grown in our single vineyard to make our wines. We feel this is a very important feature to have the ability to express our place in every bottle of wine we make. We are a completely self-contained operation as we do all of the grape processing, aging, bottling, and storing in our temperature controlled winery building. We also do much of our lab testing on site. This allows us a high degree of quality control as the wine stays under our supervision until it is sold or is transported to our Wine Gallery in Scottsdale for consumption and sale. We have a temperature controlled cellar on site there too.

C: You produce both steel and wood fermented wines. What’s the difference between these two and why did you decide to produce both?

CD: We produce wines in stainless steel as well as age wines in oak barrels. Each season we examine the flavor profiles of the grapes and the fermented juice and determine what type of vessel the wine should be aged in. We have hundreds of choices as far as barrels are concerned, with different types of oak and different barrel preparations. We use American oak from Minnesota, Virginia, Missouri, and Pennsylvania and numerous different toasting levels. We also use French oak barrels which provide a completely different flavor profile. In any event, we are trying to find the best combination of aging vessels to accentuate each vintage and each grape varietal.

C: Of all the wines you produce, you consider the 2011 Petite Sirah your “signature wine.” What makes this particular wine special and what awards has it won?

CD: We believe at this early point in the winery’s development, the Petite Sirah grape is going to be our signature grape or the one that we are known for. The 2011 bottling we feel was a great representation of the grape from our place. The wine won the People’s Choice award at the Festival at the Farm based on an independent blind tasting.

C: What’s next for the winery? Anything new coming up soon?

CD: We will be releasing a bunch of new wines the first half of the year including our first dessert wine, new Viogniers, Grenaches, Sirahs, and Petite Sirahs and perhaps a new red blend we are working on. We will also be popping up in some of the finest restaurants in the valley. We are also partnering with some of the best chefs in the country, like Beau MacMillan and Mel Mecinas for our Farm to Table winemaker dinners at the Wine Gallery in Old Town Scottsdale.

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