Page Springs Cellars is part of the Verde Valley wine trail. Tucked away in a volcanic environment, the family-owned winery has an impressive portfolio of offers that range from pure whites and reds to blends and mixes.
We talked to Luke Bernard, Brand Ambassador for Page Springs Cellars to learn more about what it takes to grow such a wide variety of wines in the harsh Arizona environment.
CRUSHBREW: Can you tell us a bit about your background in the winemaking industry? When did you get started and how did you get involved with Paige Springs Cellars?
LUKE BERNARD: I moved to Arizona around six years ago and found myself in the wine industry immediately. My initial opportunity was presented fairly randomly and was due to be at the right place at the right time. I started with Vineyard Management with Caduceus Cellars in Jerome in 2009 and ended up shifting into different branches of the wine industry at the associated business of Page Springs Cellars in 2011.
I moved to Az from Asheville, NC, which is home to a major beer scene. My appreciation for beer had become quite substantial and was aided by growing up in the mountains of Virginia, where my father is a hops farmer. Although inexperienced within the wine world, a lot of my passions and knowledge regarding other products transitioned very easily into what has become an equal love. The wine industry in Arizona was, and still is, a very inviting environment with open arms and amazing products. I probably would have moved back east a few years ago if it weren’t for Arizona wine.
CRUSBREW: Can you tell us a bit about the history of Paige Springs Cellars and its origins?
LB: Page Springs Cellars was founded by Eric Glomski in 2004, who combined his passions of wine with ecology and landscape. What started with homemade apple wine, has ended with one of the largest wine companies in the state. Although we have grown in significant ways since 2004, we still maintain a focus on small, boutique, eclectic batches of wine that represent us as people and place.
C: You produce an impressive number of wines, including some blends. How did you develop such an extensive collection and what does it take to ensure the collection is varied and complete?
LB: We make an extremely large amount of different wines. We truly focus on making dry red and white wine, but also produce sweet wines, apple/pear wines, and even port. This past year, which was not out of the ordinary, ended up with over 50 different reds and close to 20 different whites.
We like to think outside of the box. We like to experiment. We like to adjust to the years farming. We like to have a rotating selection of wines for not only our guests but for ourselves as well. Due to all of this, we like to make a large variety of selections. A lot of our nearly 70 different productions are smaller than 100 case productions. Making so many different wines creates more work both in the cellar and vineyards, but we are willing to work hard to achieve our immense selection.
We can create so many wines by growing a lot of different grape varietals and partnering up with our grape growers. We also blend a lot of wines so are able to use our barrel-sized spice rack in so many different ways. It is also worth noting that Arizona is still a young industry and is still figuring out who it is. Experimenting and testing new waters is something that we feel needs to happen, and we are proud to play a pioneering role.
C: Do you have a favorite wine?
LB: I have favorites. As all wineries do, we have had better years than others, due to the agricultural elements of wine. For example, 2010 was one of our best years and I love our Reds from that year.
I have a personal taste for acidic wines so I like our tart styles of wine (Grenache, Sangiovese, etc.). I also like spicy wines along with fruity ones. I have really come to realize that my favorite wine is the one that goes best with my situation at that specific time. Environment, food, company and temperature are a few of many aspects that dictate what I want in my glass. If I had to pick one single wine of ours that is readily available, it would have to be our flagship red wine named El Serrano.
C: You collaborate with several vineyards to get the best grapes. Can you tell us a bit about how this process works and the many vineyards you work with?
LB: We are in the great position of growing/managing most of our own fruit. Certain farming practices are essential for quality grape production, which is necessary for a chance to produce fine wine. So much of wine making is dictated by the agricultural side of things. So much of the farming aspect is dictated by the year and how mother nature decides to treat us.
We are lucky to be able to grow grapes on land that we own in different climates, elevations and regions of the state. This enables us to keep our eggs somewhat out of one basket as frost, heavy monsoons, pests and diseases often affect regions instead of the entire state. Each year we do work with a few other wine growers as there are quite a few other farmers that grow grapes simply to sell them. We are open to working with other growers if it is quality grown fruit and ultimately helps us if diversifying our variety of wines produced. It should also be noted that this works both ways as we often sell some of our fruit to other AZ wineries.
C: You use mostly traditional processes in your winemaking. Can you tell our readers a bit about it (for example, what’s selective picking and sorting, hand punch downs, etc.) and why you chose to go this route?
LB: Winemaking, including wine growing, can be a very hands-on endeavor. We feel like the more dialed into our product, on every level, the higher quality and more expressive the wines become. We practice organic farming, our fruit is hand picked, we sort through our grapes by hand once it has been de-stemmed, and we hand punch our wine (which is a mixing/steeping procedure that happens during fermentation). Our less-traditional efforts are more based on the grapes we use and how we use them in blending.
C: What’s next for Pages Springs Cellars? Anything specific planned or in store?
LB: PSC is always looking to dial things in and utilize what we are blessed with. We are always thinking of ways to expand, not always in true size. We like the family style business and are constantly working to keep that vibe in existence. Our newest project in the works is developing a new space within our vineyards to adequately facilitate larger and private groups, as our current areas are less conducive to groups larger than eight.
Our plans involve an elevated deck tucked into our estate vineyard, which will be able to be reserved, and will include wine tastings and food pairing to name a few. We will also use this space to hold public events, with recent concepts including wine-blending trials and sensory training. Our hopes are to have this new space up and running by Summer 2016.