A family-owned vineyard and winery located in a federally designated American Viticulture Area (AVA) in the heart of Cochise County in Southeastern Arizona, Carlson Creek Vineyard is the realization of a deep-seated dream to create quality wines and a multi-generational business.
With a generations-old history in farming in pre-war Poland and the Midwestern fields of Nebraska, the Carlson’s family future was written in the history books. While the ancestors and relatives who began this legacy didn’t get to see the new realization of the family dream reinvented at the original 40-acre plot of land in Willcox, Carlson Creek Vineyard – now 280-acres – is a nod to their life’s work and the drive to fulfill the American dream.
The 100% Arizona, almost entirely estate grown wine portfolio includes varietals of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Syrah, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Grenache Rosé, Malbec and Mourvèdre, with Chenin Blanc and Merlot varietals being locally sourced.
Two tasting rooms – in Willcox, AZ and Scottsdale, AZ – allow the opportunity to sample the wines, meet the winemakers and purchase brand apparel.
THE NAMES BEHIND THE LABEL
In 2008, Robert Carlson III – then age 28 – left his career as a stockbroker behind to live a happier, less stressful life. With an interest in his family’s history of farming and an appreciation for wine, he sought to further expand his knowledge of the industry by seeking out mentors and an education in wine-making and vineyard management. Fully immersed and well-versed, he then approached the rest of his family with the idea of getting back into the historic family business, and Carlson Creek Vineyard was born.
Alongside his parents, Robert spearheaded the operations and facilitated getting the new company up and running. Meanwhile, his brother John Carlson began taking winemaking and viticulture courses at UC Davis, as well as interning at other local wineries to get hands-on experience. Their sister, Katherine Carlson, oversaw the development of the distinctive Carlson Creek logo, wine labels and other design needs.
From planting the first vine on the original 40-acre plot of land in 2009 to the present day, their father Robert “Bob” Carlson, Jr. oversaw the process with Robert every step of the way. Having served in the Marine Corps and graduated from the Naval Academy, in addition to practicing law for over 30 years, Bob lent his years of experience – and many memories from his childhood on the family farm in Nebraska – to ensure they could properly grow not only the family business but the Arizona wine industry alongside it. He now wears many hats in the family business, including co-owner, financial advisor and day laborer at the vineyard.
Robert’s mother, Elizabeth Carlson, handles everything from accounting and retail merchandise to event setup and representing Carlson Creek at wine festivals throughout the state.
Robert now splits his time between Willcox and Scottsdale as he oversees sales, retail operations, distribution and the vineyard’s two tasting rooms. This is in addition to board positions on the Arizona Wine Growers’ Association and managing the vineyard and production facility with his brother John, who is the head winemaker. John was also recently named Wine Person of the Year by the Willcox Chamber of Commerce & Agriculture.
ABOUT THE VINEYARD
Named not only after the Carlson family, the “creek” in Carlson Creek comes from an ancient creek that once ran through the property. Due to erosion, the creek bed can no longer be seen, but it exists in the unique soil structure that is now in its place.
The original 40-acre plot of land was purchased in 2008, when the Carlsons began to tear out brush and ready the soil for the first planting in 2009. That planting consisted of Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling vines.
After much growth, both literally and figuratively, two separate land purchases took the family vineyard from 40 to 120 acres and the additional planting of Chardonnay, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache and Mourvèdre.
In 2014, the Carlsons again expanded the vineyard from 120 to 160 acres. Much of the growth was not only due to their award-winning wines, but also because of the demand for their grapes from other winemakers. During the 2016 harvest the family-owned vineyard and winery sold the most grapes in their entire history – sourcing to 10 other Arizona wineries.
The increase in demand also led to their most recent expansion, bringing them to a total of 280 acres.