Entrepreneur Rod Snapp built businesses in Northern Arizona including a Sedona landscape company, a Page/Lake Powell magazine and a Verde Valley bed and breakfast with his eye on creating enough capital to build a vineyard and winery.
That dream became a reality in 2006 when Snapp planted his first vineyard in Page Springs with grapes for red wines. With help from an Arizona Commerce Authority 2013 Rural Grant, Javelina Leap Vineyard & Winery – one of the first Northern Arizona wineries – will soon begin producing white wine.
The $18,000 grant helped Snapp purchase two stainless steel tanks and a $12,000 five-ton chiller. “So we will be adding to the APS economy, too,” laughed Snapp, managing partner. 3-D Refrigeration, Inc. of Cottonwood will install the 550- and 450-gallon Custom Metalcraft tanks.
The grant opens the door for Javelina Leap to expand into the white wine market, grow the business, put local contractors to work and create jobs. “$18,000 is not much money, but at the right time, it will open doors,” said Tom Pitts, founding president of Verde Valley Wine Consortium, Inc. (VVWC). “A little catalyst at just the right time is crucial for a business,” said Pitts, who was instrumental in writing the grants that awarded $208,500 to the VVWC, for business expansion at six Verde Valley wineries.
The wineries pledged to spend more than $1 million on capital improvements at their Verde Valley locations, increase their payroll to more than $900,000, and create at least 41 new jobs in the Verde Valley this year. Snapp estimates that when all is said and done, he will have invested $24,000 in addition to the $18,000 grant. “We’re going to have to buy a new bottling system for the whites,” added Snapp, who will add one full-time, one part-time and one seasonal employee for the production expansion. “And that will be forever,” Snapp said.
Javelina Leap has grown from a small beginning of 250 cases in 2006 to 2,600 cases in 2013. Next year they plan to do 500 cases of white bringing the 2014 projected production to 3,000 cases.
“The grant will help us grow to where we need to be,” said Cynthia Snapp, Javelina Leap wine maker and wife of Rod Snapp. “When someone gets a little, then we all go up. It’s a ripple effect – tour companies, graphic artists, warehouse owners, roofers, shops that sell wine-related items – they all benefit. In addition, the wineries keep agriculture here. This land could be just another housing tract.”
“Producing white wine is completely different than red wine production. That’s why we asked for the grant. We didn’t have the equipment,” explained Rod Snapp. “The cold fermentation of white wines requires stainless steel tanks, a chiller and maintenance of equipment.”
Stainless steel tanks are required for production of the cleaner, drier tasting white wines that the Snapps prefer. “Stainless steel vats allow us to drill down to the right temperature. Wine makers are nitpickers, it is very precise work,” he said. The duo will use Chenin Blanc and Pinot Grigio grape varieties grown near Willcox. He is looking at planting white varietals in Kirkland where some of the grapes for Javelina Leap’s reds are currently grown.
“The Verde Valley Wine Consortium has been a blessing. It is the first economic development group that embraced our industry and recognizes what can happen with vibrant wine commerce. They have done so much, including getting Yavapai College involved,” said Snapp.
Yavapai College began a viticulture program in 2009 that now attracts people from as near as the Verde Valley to as far as California. “I am amazed – I thought these things would happen in maybe 20 years, but in a short five years Verde Valley has become a wine destination complete with food, wine, hospitality and a college program,” he added. Javelina Leap will host Yavapai College’s practicum this fall when students get hands-on experience in the vineyard and winery.
Wineries in northern Arizona had become a thriving tourist destination by 2011. A study done by the W. A. Franke College of Business at Northern Arizona University reported that the total economic impact of visitors to Verde Valley wine country was $30.1 million and visitors had an annual household income higher than the average visitor to Arizona. Pitts used the study while writing the grant to document that in the same year, Arizona wine tourism created 405 jobs with a labor income of $13.5 million.
“This has become the trigger to start it all,” agreed Pitts. “The Arizona Commerce Authority has been a major help both financially and psychologically. To have the State of Arizona recognize this new core industry is encouraging for local wine producers.” The Arizona Commerce Authority is a public/private partnership co-chaired by Governor Jan Brewer and Jerry Colangelo.
Snapp revealed that he is continuing expansion plans by looking for a partner to invest in an on-site eight-casita bed and breakfast. “We have two implantable acres of solid rock and I know how do B&Bs,” he smiled. FBN
Javelina Leap Vineyards & Winery
1565 N Page Springs Road, Cornville