Jeff Wallace holds a bottle of his Rugby Red. He made the wine and the label has a photo of him as a young rugby player.

Jeff Williams has made wine a big part of his career.

Now he’s adding winemaking to his resume.

Williams, who is planning to return to Ahwatukee soon after living the past few years in Chandler, has made a wine he calls Rugby Red, partly to honor the sport that he played 12 years in college and in a club league.

And once he moves back to Ahwatukee, he also is planning to revive the Ahwatukee Foothills Wine Society, which he helped start in 1997 with Liz Echeverria and Kristy Loftus when he was working at the El Chorro Lodge in Paradise Valley.

“We met once a month at Caffe Boa on the patio,” he recalled, noting that owner Scott Rennard offered his Ahwatukee restaurant as a permanent home for the society.

A broker for a Napa, California, winery, Williams, who lived in Ahwatukee for seven years, made the wine from a 2012 vintage with the help of Doce Roble Winery in Paso Robles, California.

He directed the mixing of grapes and would sample the mixtures until he felt he had the right combination to produce a wine that is 60 percent Syrah and 40 percent cabernet sauvignon.

He even picked the label, showing his name and a photo of him as a rugby player on the front while the back contains the usual list of ingredients, a thanks to the winery that helped him and his favorite statement: “Water separates people, wine brings them together.”

The wine was not bottled until last Sept. 21 and it needed a couple more months to recover from “bottle shock,” Wallace said.

But now he has been distributing it to restaurants, for people who want to buy it by the glass, and several stores, for those who want to take a bottle home.

The restaurants include Caffe Boa in Ahwatukee, Niktoni's in Gilbert, the Mesa and Ahwatukee Nello’s, the Italian Grotto in Scottsdale, El Vinaio and Desert Eagle Brewing Company in Mesa, Angelina’s Italian Restaurant in Lake Havasu and A Latte Vino in Casa Grande. Stores that have stocked it are Sun Devil Liquors in Mesa and Jerry’s Liquors and Tops Liquors in Tempe.

Williams developed his wine sensibility working in the restaurant industry starting in 1984 – his sister is a chef as well. But then he gravitated to the wine industry, and at various times has been a partner or regional sales manager for different distributors.

As a broker, he said he has developed an extensive network, particularly in California’s wine industry.

So, will he try another batch once his 70 cases of Rugby Red run out?

“Maybe down the road,” Williams said.



Contact Paul Maryniak at 480-898-5647 or

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