With a generations-old history in farming in pre-war Poland and the Midwestern fields of Illinois, 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 realization of the family dream reinvented at the original 40-acre plot of land in Willcox, Carlson Creek Vineyard – now 320 acres – is a nod to their life’s work and the drive to fulfill the American dream.
In 2008, Robert Carlson III – then age 26 – 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 winemaking and vineyard management. Fully immersed and well-versed, he then approached the rest of his family with the idea of getting back into the family business, and Carlson Creek Vineyard was born.
Alongside his parents, Robert spearheaded the operations and facilitated getting the new company up and running. Robert now splits his time between Willcox, Scottsdale, overseeing sales, retail operations, distribution and the vineyard’s three tasting rooms. This is in addition to managing the vineyard and production facility with his brother, John Carlson.
John began taking winemaking and viticulture courses at UC Davis after learning of his brother’s desire to build Carlson Creek. He interned at other local wineries to gain hands-on experience and became the head winemaker of Carlson Creek Vineyard. John was named Wine Person of the Year by the Willcox Chamber of Commerce & Agriculture and their 2014 was just awarded a gold medal and scored 95 points – their highest scoring wine to date.
Their sister, Katherine Carlson, oversaw the development of the distinctive Carlson Creek logo, wine labels and other design needs and also handles the company’s legal affairs as a full-time lawyer at their father’s law firm, Koeller, Nebeker, Carlson & Haluck.
From planting the first vine on the original 40-acre plot of land in 2009 to present day, their father Robert “Bob” Carlson, Jr. oversaw the process with Robert every step of the way. Having graduated from the Naval Academy in Annapolis and serving as a fighter pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps, as well as practicing law for over 30 years and being a name partner at Koeller, Nebeker, Carlson & Haluck, Bob lent his years of experience – and many memories from his childhood on the family farm in Illinois – 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.
Their mother, Elizabeth Carlson, handles everything from accounting and retail merchandise to event setup and representing Carlson Creek at wine festivals throughout the state.
While Bob, Elizabeth and Katherine all currently reside in San Diego, California, Arizona is now their second home. Robert and John have homes in both Scottsdale and Willcox so they can properly divide their time and resources to continue growing their multi-generational family business.