The name, Deep Sky Vineyard, conjures up images of deep space exploration and distant galaxies, and that was kind of the point.
Owners Kim and Philip Asmundson view Arizona winemaking as a big exploration, a journey to discover what the land can produce when you actually get your hands dirty.
“Arizona wine is all about exploration. Nobody really knows how good it can be,” Kim Asmundson said in explaining how she and her husband settled on the name when they planted their Willcox vineyard in 2011. “So we decided that it was all about exploration.”
Deep Sky Vineyard, one of Arizona’s newest vineyards, is among 18 participating in this weekend’s spring Willcox Wine Festival. The couple also took part in the fall festival, showcasing their first vintage from 2013.
The Asmundsons have been in the wine-making business since 2010, when they took a trip to Argentina to celebrate Philip Asmundson’s 50th birthday.
“Instead of coming home with a T-shirt, we came home with a vineyard,” his wife said of their Asmundson Family Vineyard east of the Andes Mountains in Uco Valley, Argentina.
Their so-called condominium vineyards — 7,500 vines on three acres — is part of the much larger Vines of Mendoza project, which has 1,500 acres under vine that is owned by 130 people from all over the world. The owners oversee their vineyards and have access to renowned Argentinean winemakers.
The Connecticut couple, who moved to Marana in 2012, usually goes back to Argentina each January or February to oversee the blending of their grapes.
Asmundson said her husband, a retired telecommunications specialist with Deloitte, first proposed growing grapes in Willcox because the terroir is similar to Argentina. Their goal from the start was to “grow the best grapes in Arizona,” so without a drawn-out business plan, they planted 20 acres of Malbec and other Rhone varietals in 2011.
They sold most of the fruit from their first harvest in 2013, keeping back some to make Deep Sky Big Bang (Malbec), Gravity (a syrah-petit sirah blend) and Orbit (made with grenache and syrah fruit). In 2014, they kept back a little more of their harvest, producing a rosé they dubbed Nebula. Their hold from the 2015 harvest was 26 tons, Kim Asmundson said.
In addition to their 20 acres in Willcox, the couple, who have three grown children, plans to plant 10 acres on Elgin Road in Elgin/Sonoita on the former Lightning Ridge Cellars vineyards. Asmundson said they are building a tasting room and winery on the vineyard — the tasting room should open by late winter, she said — and will plant the vines next spring.