Rod Keeling, President of the Arizona Wine Growers Assoc. and winemaker at Keeling Schaeffer Vineyards will be pouring at the Off the Vine Festival in Oro Valley this month.

SaddleBrooke residents have a number of occasions to sample wines at various tasting events both within our community and in the greater Tucson area.  That being said, there isn’t a better opportunity to taste a broad variety of Arizona-produced wines close to home than at the “Off the Vine” Arizona Wine Festival, which will be held Saturday, Feb. 18 at the Steam Pump Ranch in Oro Valley.

This festival is in its 4th year and organized by the Arizona Winegrowers Association: a non-profit alliance of winemakers formed for the purpose of advancing and promoting Arizona grown wines.  Attendees will have an opportunity to sample products from 21 winemakers located within the three main wine producing regions of the state and collectively pouring more than 100 wines.

Rod Keeling, the president of the Arizona Winegrowers Association and winemaker of Keeling Schaeffer Vineyards in Pearce, Arizona indicated that last year’s attendance for this one-day event topped 1,350. This year lunch will be available from Dante’s Fire and live music will be featured throughout the day.    Keeling said that the quality of Arizona wines have improved considerably over the last 10 years with a number of wines receiving national recognition in trade publications and major wine competitions.

If you plan on attending I do have a few suggestions, which apply to any wine festival: 

  • Plan on arriving early, as these events tend to get crowded mid-day, sample wines from a few wineries and then have a little lunch break before tasting again.
  • Drink plenty of water before and throughout the day.
  • It is perfectly acceptable to spit after tasting. Winemakers will have a bucket on their table for that purpose. This allows you to taste and effectively evaluate many more wines without becoming impaired.
  • Mention to the vendors what style of wine you enjoy: dry, off dry or sweet, full bodied or light, etc. and they will try to offer you a wine sample to your liking.This being said, keep an open mind and try wines outside your comfort zone.
  • Take note of wines that you especially enjoy as they will often be available for sale at the winery’s booth.
  • Practice “situational awareness”: if there are people waiting behind you for a sample don’t monopolize the winemaker’s time, step to one side and make room for others.
  • Consider a designated driver when attending.

Tickets for the Off the Vine Wine Festival can be purchased at the gate or you can pre-purchase online, receive a $5 discount and make use of the express admission line at the entrance. Event admission, which includes a commemorative glass and six tasting tickets, is $15, or $20 with 10 tasting tickets.  Additional tasting tickets can be purchased at the venue for the price of $5 for four. Advance Ticket sales and additional information can be obtained at www.arizonewine.org under the ‘Festivals & Events’ drop down list.

Salute!

Tom Oetinger holds an advanced certification in wine & spirits from the WSET in London, England and is available to answer your wine questions at tjo1913@gmail.com