On my jaunt through the Sonoita AVA in southern Arizona, I came across a budding young winery that shows potential. I would not normally make that assertion without tasting the produce of the vineyards, but in the case of Kief-Joshua, that is not possible.
Kief Manning planted his first vines on “winery row” in 2005. It takes three years for the vine to produce a commercial crop, thus the 2008 harvest, which will be released this fall, was the first on the estate. To sustain themselves on the path toward 100% estate production, the winery purchases grapes and juice from California and Arizona. They currently feature Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and a blend of Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and Tempranillo. New plantings are progressing at an acre per year and the vineyard is expected to fully supply the winery’s grapes within a decade. He has planted an eclcectic range of ten varieties: Tempranillo, Mourvedre, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Chenin Blanc, Syrah, Zinfandel, Reisling, Semillion and Viognier.
Kief has created a sustainable model for his vineyards – foregoing the use of pesticides and herbicides. He was trained in biodynamic viticulture in Australia, and he has adopted many of its principles. He said he will never be able to put the term “biodynamic” on his labels because his estate cannot produce enough fertilizer for its needs. Everything on an official biodynamic estate must come from the property.
I have been attracted to the idea of biodynamics because it emphasizes symbiotic relationships as a substitute for chemicals. In the case of Kief-Joshua, they promote the presence of praying mantis, owls and hawks to control pests. My favorite animal that they employ are the Baby Doll Sheep. Full grown these mini-munchers stand two feet tall, too short to reach the grapes, but the perfect height to feed on weeds and grass.
The combination of thoughtful viticulture and well made wines (albeit from other sources) promises a bright future for Kief-Joshua. I will be checking back in with them regularly.