After winning a gold medal for Best Sauvignon Blanc at the Arizona Republic’s Arizona Grand Wine Festival in January, students enrolled in the enology program at the Yavapai College Southwest Wine Center in Clarkdale closed out the year by earning top marks at the Jefferson Cup Invitational competition in Kansas, Mo., Nov. 16 and 17.
“The latest student-crafted wines to be trumpeted [are] a 2016 Mourvedre and a 2015 Viognier,” Yavapai College Marketing and Communications Coordinator Jennifer McCormack said. “The Mourvedre earned a coveted Jefferson Cup in its category...The Viognier won a bronze medal in the same competition.”
According to McCormack, the titular cup is the top honor of the competition, awarded to 16 of 750 participating wines. Competitors from 27 different states were selected from tastings and wine competitions across the country.
“I was trying to learn all that was going on in Arizona.,” Doug Frost, a founder and director of the Jefferson Cup Invitational, said. “I found out about the Southwest Wine Center online and was fascinated by what the staff was doing there.”
Following his research into Yavapai College’s enology and viticulture programs, Frost visited the Verde Valley wine region and invited the Southwest Wine Center to participate in the 2017 competition.
“I select wines based upon many criteria, but put simply, I am trying to suss out the best wines from around the country that I can,” Frost said. “The award is a public acknowledgment by a group of skilled and experienced judges that the wine stands above its peers.”
The Southwest Wine Center’s Mourvedre, crafted with grapes from Willcox, was one of 62 double-gold finalists that Frost and his team sampled before bestowing the Jefferson Cup on it and 15 other wines. Mourvedre is an earthy variety of red wine grape not typically grown in Arizona. California and Washington are the primary states in which it is produced. Internationally, Mourvedre is grown in France, Spain and Australia.
“I think the wines produced from the Southwest Wine Center are showing well at national competitions because Arizona has a great climate suited for growing world-class wines,” Yavapai College Enology Program Director Michael Pierce said. “The potential for producing quality wines is as high as any other wine-growing region.”
According to Pierce, both the Mourvedre and the bronze-winning Viognier — a white wine grape produced in many of the same regions as the Mourvedre are “getting good responses from our customers in the Southwest Wine Center tasting room.”
McCormack said the Southwest Wine Center plans to celebrate the Jefferson Cup awards at a forthcoming event, details of which will be posted on the center’s website and Facebook pages.