WILLCOX, Ariz. (KSAZ) - It may be one of Arizona's best kept secrets, although winemakers in Cochise County wish it weren't.
Near Willcox, located in the far southeast corner of Arizona, is where some of the country's best wines are produced. The so-called "Willcox Bench" has just the right soil and climate to grow grapes and make wine that regularly wins national taste competitions, but to get more people to the tasting rooms, the wineries need help.
Barbara Pierce recently showed the new spring growths at the Bodega Pierce vineyard. Video taken by the SkyFOX Drone shows some of the 40 acres Pierce's vineyard cultivates.
"Lucky where we are located, here in Willcox on the Willcox Bench," said Pierce. "It's the right elevation, right climate, and right soil types."
In 2014, they opened a tasting room.
"What we find with wine tasting, which people have experienced when they go to a tasting room, is that its just a nice release. A nice, relaxed environment," said Pierce.
There have been plenty of customers
"Off the top of my head, several thousand," said Pierce.
However, there could be a lot more.
"We have asked them, first and foremost, to help us with roads because we still have dirt roads, and for some people, that's very concerning," said Pierce.
There are about 15 vineyards with tasting rooms in the Willcox area, but getting to them can be problematic. Dirt roads are often the only access, so vineyards reached out to Cochise County for help, and they are getting it.
"We see the wine industry becoming one of the main economic drivers for Cochise County," said Amanda Baillie, who is getting out the word for Cochise County. They are hoping to land a grant so the roads can be paved, and new signs can be put up.
"We've applied for a $500,000 grant from the Commerce Authority, and we will provide some matching funds as well," said Baillie.
Even with these acres and acres of grapes now growing inside the county, times have been tough in this part of the state.
"Cochise County, we've lost population the last few years, and we have struggled due to the recession," said Baillie.
The county hopes the vineyards can help turn that around.
"The economic output for the wine industry is about $56 million for the state," said Baillie.
To get more people out here to taste some of the country's best wines, however, they need better roads.
"They don't really care to drive their vehicle down," said Pierce. "It's not easy when it rains. We have the monsoon."
Still, while they wait for better roads, these vineyards will keep producing wine.
"The wine in Willcox, in Cochise County is high quality delicious," said Pierce.
The wine tasting rooms will also stay open.
"You will not be sad or sorry you came down," said Pierce. "You will not only be able to meet the owner or winemaker, you will also be able to taste high quality Arizona wine."
An area event, the Willcox Wine Festival, takes place twice a year. The next one is on May 19 and 20.
Willcox Wine Country