Earth Notes: Clear Creek Vineyard and Winery
In the late 1960s 20-something Ignacio Mesa dreamed of producing his own wine. Three decades later he began planting grapevines between the Mogollon Rim and the Verde Valley. Now, Clear Creek Vineyard and Winery is thriving.
It's located on eight acres of grapes and sustainably produces 1,500 cases of Rio Claro Wines annually.
This is the only place in Arizona where it’s certain that indigenous populations grew fruit centuries ago. They likely recognized the ideal growing conditions—fertile soil and water with a pH of 6.8.
Today, the vineyard has a 1.5-million-gallon fishpond connected to the creek. Fish and plant byproducts from it boost nitrogen levels for the vines, stimulating grape growth and making synthetic fertilizers unnecessary.
Still, as with any farming endeavor, there are obstacles. Weeds, insects, gophers, and coyotes all pose challenges to the growing process. To combat these, Mesa has implemented a simple solution—more domestic animals.
Geese wander the grounds to declutter weeds, chickens eat insects that threaten the fruit, and cats patrol against gophers that burrow in the soft valley dirt. Two Pyrenees dogs protect all the other creatures from coyotes on the premises. In fact, pest control at Clear Creek is one hundred percent organic.
In addition, in 2018 Clear Creek was recognized as a Silver Innovator-certified business through the Arizona Sustainability Alliance.
Visitors who come to tour the vineyard and taste the wine seem to appreciate all these efforts. And after spending some time, they also come to appreciate why Ignacio Mesa displays a “Pet Friendly Area” sign outside his tasting room.