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Arizona winemaker gets distribution in Australia

PHOENIX — One Arizona wine is going to be distributed in the Land Down Under.

Pillsbury Wine Company grows grapes about 200 miles southeast of Phoenix in the deserts of Cochise County.

“I planted Shiraz grapes in the Arizona desert, because I figured they would like that climate and in fact, they did,” said Sam Pillsbury, Pillsbury Wine Company owner and winemaker.

Arizona’s dry climate and high altitude in that area affect the aroma, color and flavor of the Shiraz grapes, he said.

“I made wine from these grapes and then brought them back to Australia,” said Pillsbury, a New Zealand emigrant who has spent most of his life as an accomplished film director.

Pillsbury said he held his breath as he poured an Australian grape — which he had actually grown in Arizona — for Australian wine critics.

“They all let out exclamations of astonishment and they seemed to be very impressed,” he said.

Now that Arizona wine will be enjoyed in Australia, a gamble to grow grapes in the Arizona desert seems to have paid off.

The winery planted the first vines on the Arizona Willcox Bench in 2000. Today, the winery has 30 planted acres of Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, Petite Sirah, Viognier, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio, among others.

Pillsbury Wine Company produces more than 3,000 cases of wine annually.