Willcox winemaker Sam Pillsbury is about to complete the circle of his 14-year wine career.
This week he broke ground on a winery at Pills-
bury Wine Co., his 100-acre Willcox Bench vineyard.
He expects the facility — a prefab metal shed built around an existing barn on the property combined with a few trailers — will be finished in time for the late August harvest.
“It’s going to look like something out of ‘Mad Max,’ ” said the longtime independent filmmaker, whose credits include “The Scarecrow” and “Free Willy 3: The Rescue.”
But Pillsbury isn’t looking to create an architectural masterpiece.
“You can have a million-dollar facility and still make bad wine,” he said.
Although he wouldn’t say how much he is spending on the facility, he said it is a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of dollars a typical winery could cost.
The facility will allow Pillsbury to eliminate the middleman from his wine enterprise.
Instead of shipping the fruit from his 30 acres of vines to a custom crush facility, Pillsbury will handle all the production — from crushing the fruit to making the wine — immediately after the fruit is harvested in August.
The wine will then be barreled and aged on site, giving him more control over the quality.
Pillsbury has produced his wine through the custom crush facility Aridus Wine Co. in Willcox and, in his earlier vintages, at Page Springs Cellars in Cornville.
Pillsbury has been in Arizona’s wine business since 2000 and has nearly a dozen varieties available from 2011 and 2012, including 2012’s WildChild White, made from mostly riesling and chardonnay grapes; a 2011 chardonnay and pinot gris; and the 2011 Symphony, a cross between a grenache gris and muscat.
Pillsbury Wine Co. grows syrah, mourvèdre, grenache, petite sirah, viognier, malvasia, chardonnay, pinot grigio, symphony, roussanne and chenin blanc grapes, and produces more than 2,500 cases of wine each year.
Pillsbury said he will work alongside independent winemaker James Callahan, who lives in a renovated 1974 Airstream on the vineyard. Callahan buys fruit from Pillsbury to make his own wines under his Rune Wines label.