Keeping Southern AZ wines away from wildfire flames

Updated: Jun. 13, 2017 at 6:36 PM MST
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COCHISE COUNTY, AZ (Tucson News Now) - It's not a case of sour grapes, but nobody wants smoky wine in southern Arizona.

The Lizard Fire, which sparked on June 7 near Dragoon, has burned near parts of southern Arizona's wine country.

Fire crews kept the flames from causing any damage to the vineyards but some owners did, or still do, worry about smoke taint.

It's not a flavor that wine enthusiasts, or even occasional tasters, want to experience in their glass, according to Jim Graham with Golden Rule Vineyards.

Early tests indicate that Graham's crop does not show any signs of the savor saboteur

He and his wife Ruth watched as the skies around their home/tasting room turned into an air show over the weekend.

"It was constant," he said. "At any given time, we could probably see a dozen different planes or aircraft flying around this area."

Graham said wildfires are a part of the farming business that he's always known posed a threat but the Lizard Fire was the first close call he's had in nearly 20 years.

"This is the first time we've been this close," said Graham. "Yeah, it was pretty scary."

Approximately 40 percent of the fire, including the portion closest to Graham's property, is contained, according to the incident management team handling the fire.

With nearly five times as many acres of pistachios trees as he has of grape vines, Graham said he's for the firefighters who covered so much ground.

The wine may attract all the attention of visitors from Tucson, but it's the pistachios that are the major moneymaker for Golden Rule Vineyards.

Looking at the red stains from aird rops a couple days earlier, Graham said the Lizard Fire was a strong reminder of the potential dangers for farmers in rural parts of southern Arizona.

"There is still a lot of grassland out here," he said. "A lightning strike on the valley floor could cause a lot of damage."

Golden Rule Vineyards is one of nearly a dozen in the valley, according to Graham. He said most of the grapes grown in the region remain in Arizona for wine production.

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