The art of making wine has much in common with having a baby. Both creations bring joy and happiness yet are fallible existences that will endure many trials and tribulations throughout its lifetime.

I had the pleasure of doing wine tastings with Curt Dunham and Peggy Fiancada, owners of award winning LDV Winery and Lawrence Dunham Vineyards. As Dunham shared stories about their journey, the expression on his face was one of a proud parent. Yet, there were risks associated with starting and developing their vineyard. However, the second they laid eyes on the unique 40 acres of land in south eastern Arizona, in the Chiricahua Mountain region, it became their baby. It had luscious volcano soil, the water tested well for grapes and no agriculture had previously been grown on the land. 

The land, very different from any other plot, was destined to share its character with the world. They agreed to adopt the 100 percent estate philosophy which meant all grapes would be grown, produced and bottled on the property. Grapes exposed to UV, at this altitude and with this terrain, have the potential to be like the big fruit wonder grapes of the Rhone Valley in France. “It would be an injustice not to grow what we knew would truly thrive here,” Dunham said. They made the commitment to grow quality grapes and Dunham took on the winemaker job himself. No nannies in their house! The first crop came earlier than they had anticipated and by 2009 LDV produced 100 cases of wine. The 2015 harvest has nearly 3,000 cases. The grapes, displaying an abundance of personality, have clearly increased in demand.

Still in barrels, their 2013 crop is just about ready to show its face to the world. I asked Dunham what he expected to see from this vintage and how it might differ from the previous ones. “Each year the wines will express the life of that vintage,” he said. “If you like a particular vintage, get it, because next year will be different. That’s the philosophy of a true boutique winery.”   

They wanted to establish a wider, well-deserved presence for their talented scholar. So, they decided to bring pieces of their vineyard to the Valley. In 2014 the LDV Winery Tasting Room Gallery opened in downtown Scottsdale, 6951 E. 1st St. They host monthly wine dinners and sip and learn events to showcase their wines and meet people in the community. They host holiday parties, family events and are working with nearby resorts for corporate workshops. The gallery and its charming patio gives you a feeling of a home, yet exudes the presence of a vineyard with its trees, barrels and rocks from their soil. It’s where neighbors come to hang out, cook beautiful meals together and share the finest of wine.  It is truly exquisite.  

Their Sky Islander Wine Club is a great way to taste all of the wines and feel the Rhone style without leaving the country. They have several packages to include six bottles or 12 bottles per year coupled with tasting vouchers.  Being a part of something like this is so special because you are sharing a dream. After all, it takes a village to raise a boutique winery! 

There are goals for this youthful star to include creating a wine trail/map with the other four tasting rooms in downtown Scottsdale. They are hoping people from all over the Valley will take an interest in their creation. There are plenty of hotels nearby if a staycation is on your radar. If you prefer a day trip, Ubers and Limo services are available. Eric Emmert,, has a limo service in the East Valley and does day trips to Scottsdale and Sedona. Dunham and Fiancada are also very interested in building relationships with local restaurants that are serious about good food and wine. “I always have food in mind while making my wines,” Dunham said. “I smell the grapes and think, what am I going to eat with this?”

Whatever each vintage brings, you can be sure Dunham and Fiancada will make every effort to create a masterpiece.  They are assiduous in treating their vineyard with ultimate respect and are proudly watching it evolve each year.  Some vintages might yield grapes that release soft, subtle flavors, while others will be bold and outspoken. For LDV, youth is divine with a promising adulthood. I encourage you to experience the growth of these wines. In my opinion, they exhibit a lively spirit with a softhearted old soul. 

- Ahwatukee Foothills resident Darla S. Hoffmann, CSW, is the sole proprietor of About Wine in Phoenix. The focus of her business is wine education and marketing. She is a certified specialist of wine, hospitality beverage specialist, and professional member of the Society of Wine Educators, the Wine Century Club and is Basic Title 4 certified under the Liquor Law Training of ABC.

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