Arizona wine industry sipping on success

Posted at 5:27 AM, Aug 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-03 13:30:36-04

Twenty years ago Rod Snapp decided to open a winery in Cornville – a little less than two hours north of the Valley. His friends thought he “was just nuts,” and Snapp admitted he never expected the business, Javelina Leap, to grow like it did.  

“I never thought it’d be more than a roadside farmer’s fruit stand.”

Snapp holds the 13th winery license issued in Arizona. The industry has more than doubled in the last decade with over 100 wineries now operating in the state. Snapp told ABC15 around 30,000 visitors are stopping by Javelina Leap’s tasting room each year. The winery’s bottling around 3,000 cases and could easily produce more but Snapp doesn’t want to jeopardize the quality. 

“I always wanted to be able to make a product, to put something in a bottle, that people would enjoy,” he said.

A newly-released study by Northern Arizona University shows Arizona wine tourism generates more than $56 million a year. State and local municipalities are un-corking $3.6 million in tax revenue. Surprising even tourism officials, more than 40 percent of winery visitors come from out of state. 

“They get to come here and have an experience at an Arizona winery that can rival California,” said Debbie Johnson, Director of the Arizona Office of Tourism. “It’s great news,” she said.  

The study found nearly 80 percent of wine tourists had an experience "exceeding" their expectations.

“It’s a like an early Temecula – and early Napa Valley,” said Brian Predmore, President of the Arizona Wine Growers Association. 

“When you go to a winery, you can meet the owner, you can meet the winemaker, and people like doing that,” he said.