Philip Brown, manager of the Yavapai College Southwest Wine Center tasting room, refuses to take an ounce of credit for student successes — including a gold medal for Best Sauvignon Blanc at the Arizona Republic’s Arizona Grand Wine Festival in Phoenix on Jan. 6.
“It has nothing to do with me .... It’s all the students,” Brown said, adding that a major appeal of the college’s viticulture and enology programs is the emphasis on student achievement.
“It’s not so much for the wine center. It’s for our students,” Brown said. “I tell them, ‘This is how you can be accepted by your peers.’ .... When our graduates start winning awards — holy crap.”
Brown referenced Chris Whitehorn, a graduate of the Yavapai College viticulture and enology program. Whitehorn is head winekmaker at Javelina Leap Vineyard, Winery and Bistro in Page Springs.
The successes of Javelina Leap are a confirmation for Brown — proof positive that the students coming out of the college’s winemaking program are world class.
“It shows we have a direct benefit to the wine industry,” Brown said. “Our students are graduating and getting out into the industry .... They’re finding employment and succeeding.”
Brown praised the communities of the Verde Valley for embracing the region’s burgeoning wine production capacity. According to Brown, supporting the industry only makes sense.
“This only happens once a year,” Brown said of the grape harvest and subsequent fermentation — a process he said directly links wine producers to the land.
“We have to have a focus on the community when you’re in the wine industry.”
Sustainable methods of production, Brown added, are an inextricable part of making wine. A bottle of wine, by weight and by volume, requires less water to generate than most cash crops.
Moreover, visiting a wine-tasting room, particularly one located next to its vineyard, is an experience removed from walking into your typical bar.
“You take more time here,” Brown said, gesturing around the Southwest Wine Center’s warm yet industrial space and outside, to the college’s vineyards. “People want to walk through the vines.”
For more information, visit viticulture.yc.edu.