Anita Bradford never intended to be a wine producer, or a businesswoman. She fell in love with the Moab area and envisioned vineyards like those in Greece and Turkey that she visited as an anthropology student in 1980. Due to the similar climate and landscape, she thought that the Moab area would grow grapes well.
Unknown to her, the University of Arizona thought the same way, testing the climate with eight plots. When the local economy crashed in 1983, Anita worked with the original growers of the test plots to form a co-op and receive grants from the Utah State Department of Agriculture and other agencies to continue growing grapes. The goal was to combine the grape yields of several growers to sell to wineries in Colorado to be made into wine or juice.In 1986, the co-op disbanded due to protective laws that encouraged Colorado wineries to buy from Colorado growers. Grapevines, and wine making, require capital up front, and it may take years before there are any results or profit. Anita didn't want to see the vineyards destroyed or abandoned. In 1988, she bought the entire local crop of grapes and drove to Colorado to make wine. The profits from that year's wine was put directly into wine-making equipment. That was when Anita became a businesswoman, and Arches Winery was created."We did surprisingly well with how little we knew," said Anita.
Beginning with 800 gallons of wine in 1989, Arches Winery is now producing more than 20,000 gallons of wine a year, including five dry white wines, three off dry whites, three sweet wines and four red wines. While the yield is still small compared to other wineries, the growth in five years is considered phenomenal. Space limitations prompted the winery to move from the small building on South Highway 191 to the old park service maintenance building on Kane Creek Boulevard last fall.
The remodeling of the old warehouse has been a labor of love by all winery employees. Alan Bradford and Jack Foy skinned the bark from large pole pines bought from Timber Products in La Sal. Ted Telford, the official vintner, or wine maker, laid the tile. Grape grower and production manager Jack Foy built the bar. New windows are in place, providing beautiful views of red rock and the La Sal Mountains.
The gift shop has many wine accessories as well as beautiful photographs by John T. Parkinson, which are also featured on the wine labels. There are specialty T-shirts pointing out the differences between a Chianti stain and a Merlot stain. For the younger, not-quite-ready-for-wine set, there are T-shirts pointing out the differences between a chocolate ice cream stain and a jolly stain.
Sales and visitors have increased by 50 percent since the winery and tasting room have moved to the new location. The majority of visitors are from nearby communities in Colorado and the Wasatch Front, as well as far away from Germany and France. Anita said that it is fun to work with foreign tourists and to learn from their experience. European tourists expect a regional experience and never compare with wines from their own country or region. "They know exactly what they like." They must like the wine, as England and Zurich, Switzerland, are currently working with the winery to have wine exported to them.
Arches Winery uses grapes from 15 local growers in Grand and San Juan Counties. Grapevines thrive on hills in thin, dry soils and the intense heat of a long growing season. While the winters are a tad cold, local growers are working with winter-resistant strains and using methods to reduce the stress on the vines.
It hasn't been easy making the winery work. Several obstacles had to be overcome, including Utah laws. Most states offer a tax break to wineries that use local grapes. None were in place when Arches Winery began business. A law was passed in 1989, allowing the winery to keep more of their profits.
In 1990, the state provided a new law allowing the winery to have a tasting room. There was only one glitch, the winery was not allowed to sell any of their wines from the tasting room. This glitch was corrected when Arches Winery was licensed by the state to sell their own wine.
Despite these obstacles, Anita loves working with the winery. "It has been a labor of love. You take one step to make it work, and another, and another until you're a businessman meeting the bottom line."
Anita would like to provide wine-tasting classes. She feels that people often become uptight about the "rules" associated with wine. You don't have to be a sommelier, or a master of wine, to appreciate the subtle, and not so subtle, differences between the many wines available at the winery. The wine-tasting classes will be fun, as well as educational. "Don't worry. Feel free to experiment. Wine is a food. The character of wine changes with food, and they can enhance one another."