2/22/2011 1:46:00 PM Two Verde Valley reps to serve on wine growers board
PHOENIX - With the number of licensed and bonded wineries in Arizona having grown from nine in 2004 to 45 today, the Arizona Wine Growers Association has also grown in importance.
As a political animal as well as an educational tool, serving the vineyard owners and winemakers of Arizona, it is the AWGA's job to ensure larger wineries and interstate distributors do not muscle out the state's small boutique wineries while they continue to grow their own market share.
To date the organization has done its job. But there are voices among the growers calling for a greater investment in the business. Call it a grow-or-die attitude.
Earlier this month, there was a major change on the board. Two Verde Valley representatives, both pro growth, Jerome winemaker John McLoughlin and City of Cottonwood Economic Development Director Casey Rooney, were elected to the board.
McLoughlin, who owns Bitter Creek Winery, Jerome Winery and Odyssey Cellars, also owns the largest vineyard in Arizona, 112 acres in Kansas Settlement, a small farming community outside Willcox.
McLoughlin has been an outspoken advocate for Arizona winemakers and vineyard owners to increase production or be left in the dust.
"If you create an industry it is inherent that you grow. That is the nature of the beast. For a long time the AWGA has been content to sit around and talk about wine," McLoughlin said. "But I think we are now at a point as an organization where there are enough of us who want to put the energy and effort into growing.
"We are a hobby group right now. We need to make it an industry."
McLoughlin will serve as the Verde Valley regional vice president.
Rooney, who is one of the founders and moving force behind the Verde Valley Wine Consortium, is the only member of the AWGA board of directors who does not either work for or own a winery or a vineyard.
"I love this industry. They asked me to serve, and I said sure," Rooney said. "I think they realize I'm a no-nonsense kind of guy and do what I say I'm going to do."
Rooney will serve as the organization's secretary.