CLARKDALE, AZ (ARIZONA HIGHWAYS TV) -- "So I’m going to punch down the Sierra Bonita vineyard cabernet sauvignon. This is about 30 percent whole cluster. We use the entire cluster to get a little sweetness and tannen and spice from the stems. It’s a really good way to add a depth of mid-pallet," said Kris Pottier.
It’s a sunny Sunday morning in Clarkdale, a couple of hours before the tasting room at Chateau Tumbleweed opens. "This is about five days into its fermenting process, the conversion is happening, and you can really start to get hints of what the nose is going to be," Pottier said.
Kris Pottier and her husband, Joe Bechard, are busy punching grapes, steaming oak caskets, and preparing to barrel the latest harvest. Kris and Joe, along with another couple, started Chateau Tumbleweed and Tasting Room in 2015, years after first moving to Arizona from Oregon.
"I came here with Kris fresh out of college with my journalism degree and came to write for a local newspaper here in the Verde Valley," said Bechard. That’s when Kris and Joe say they sort of fell backwards into the winemaking business.
"None of us intended to work in wine, none of us intended to be in Arizona. I had never heard of Arizona wine; I didn’t know anything about it and was really curious," the couple said.
A year later, Bechard started working up the road at Page Springs Cellars, essentially putting a cork in his journalism career. "Once I started to get to see Arizona wine, I really fell in love with it, and I really believe in the wines here, and they’re good kinds of wines that I like to drink," Bechard said.
"We all walked into the industry at a time when there weren’t very many people involved, so we were given badges to do things that otherwise people would clamor for or go to school for, so we learned on the job," Pottier said.
After about 15 years of on-the-job training, Kris and Joe, along with their partners, decided to go separate ways.
"You know, it’s kind of our own little project, we get to finally say what we wanted to say about Arizona wine and do it in a way that we wanted to do it," Bechard said.
Chateau Tumbleweed has gone from making 2,000 cases to 5,000 a year, and they now work with a dozen vineyards in three counties.
"That’s one thing that’s kind of unique about Chateau Tumbleweed is we don’t have our own vineyards, so we’re sourcing a lot of fruit and what we’ve decided to do is kind of make it educational and exciting and go and show people," Bechard said. "There’s San Giovisse from three different vineyards across Arizona, here’s cab sav from three different vineyards or four different vineyards."
Like most tasting rooms, they serve wine-flights or by the glass. You can sit on the patio or enjoy the inviting living room setting.
"I’ve been into a lot of tasting rooms in my life that made me feel uncomfortable and want to hug the wall, and that was the only thing really that we intended, that we try to make a warm, engaging space where people came in and wanted to relax and drink some wine," said Pottier
Pottier says guests will find that their wines stand out, not just because of the distinctive labels that she draws, but because of their balance, and because of her husband’s creativity at developing depths of flavors. If you’re a person who likes to think and you want to get lost in wine, his wines are really good to get lost in.