Arizona toasts a new era

Arizona seems to be having a wine-fueled love fest.

After grape growers, winemakes, wholesalers and retailers reached a compromise on what sort of new legislation would benefit all parties, the state legislature and governor quickly got on board.

The result: a new law will protect growers' existing rights and help fledgling wineries.

Rod Keeling, president of the Arizona Wine Growers Association and owner of Keeling Schaefer Vineyards near the town of Willcox in rural Cochise County, said, "We made a compromise deal in an hour and a half, but it took us three days to hash out the language. The wholesalers and wineries wanted a smaller cap (for gallons produced by a winery per year) and we gave them that and got everything else we wanted.

"This is a really good bill for rural Arizona winegrowers," Keeling said in an interview with the Range News.

The bill signed into law by Gov. Janet Napolitano allows any U.S. growers producing less than 20,000 gallons per year to sell directly to Arizona consumers. Previously, Arizona wineries producing less than 75,000 gallons per year could sell directly to consumers, but wholesalers complained that too many wineries were allowed to bypass them.

The new law will also open the Arizona wine market to out-of-state wineries under 20,000 gallons per year.

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