VERDE VALLEY - The winemakers and wine growers who have invested their fortunes as well as their futures in the Verde Valley do so because they believe the valley has what it takes to produce great wines.
Dramatic temperature swings, arid climate and rocky soils are prerequisites for growing quality grapes. The valley has them all.
And any winemaker will tell you that 80 percent of the challenge of making good wine is in the grapes.
But any wine drinker will tell you that the final 20 percent, that potion that relies on the winemaker's expertise, is what often separates good wine from great wine.
Fortunately for the Verde Valley, it not only has great growing conditions, it also has some excellent winemakers.
That fact was proven time and again Sunday when the Arizona Wine Growers Association gathered for their largest event ever in Phoenix.
The competition, part of the Arizona Wine Growers Festival at the Farm, marked the largest ever gathering of winemakers and growers from throughout the state in a single location to talk wine, drink wine and measure their wines against one another.
Of the 14 gold medals awarded by the judges, Verde Valley winemakers won nine. Of the four Best of Show awards, a Verde Valley winemaker won two. And of the four People's Choice awards (800 members of the public also attended) Verde Valley winemakers took home three.
The winemaker responsible for seven of the 14 judges gold medals, both of the best of show awards and two People's Choice awards, was Eric Glomski, owner and winemaker at Page Spring Cellars.
Along with making his own wines, Glomski oversees winemaking for a handful of other wineries including Arizona Stronghold (Camp Verde), Caduceus Cellars (Jerome) and Pillsbury (Cochise County).
"It's better to be lucky than good," said Glomski, tongue in cheek. "But in all seriousness it was an honor, especially when you consider both the judges and the public liked our wines. We are proud of it.
We are trying to do it right. And apparently others agree."
But Glomski was not the only local winemaker to do well.
Alcantara Vineyard owners Bob and Barbara Predmore took home two gold medals for their 2006 Petit Sirah, one from the judges and one People's Choice, as well as two bronze medals, one for their 2007 Merlot and one for their Confluence, a blend of varietals and vintages.
Javalina Leap winemaker Rod Snapp, who only entered two wines in the competition also took home a gold for his 2008 Sirah and a silver for his 2008 Cabernet Franc.
"I'm pretty proud and pretty happy," Snapp said. "And the event went extraordinarily well. With 20 wineries attending we can say that over half of the state's wineries were there.
"And we can say that the Verde Valley, although smaller and newer than the wine growing areas in southern Arizona, is showing the rest of the winemaking world what we have always said -- this is a great place to grow and make wine."