|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 01, 2011
CONTACT: Charlene Manning
KIEF MANNING: FEATURED WINEMAKER IN ARIZONA VINES AND WINES
Summer 2011 Issue Written by Jay Bileti
As you drive through the gate at Kief-Joshua Vineyards, you feel like you are in Tuscany for a brief moment. The magnificent masonry building with turrets and a tile roof is all Italian. Then you notice the desert colors and vegetation, feel the bone-dry air and are abruptly yanked back to Arizona.
Kief Manning, owner and operator of Kief-Joshua Vineyards, is one driven young man. He has an unassuming manner with a splash of laid-back 1960s hippie, though at 28 years old, he’s too young to even know what that is. His quiet easy style, however, conceals the fire in his belly. Kief has a real passion for making world-class wine.
He was born in eastern Ohio, but moved to Phoenix when he was quite young. During high school he worked in a Scottsdale wine shop and was mentored by a passionate and experienced manager. Like many of us, he found wine fascinating but unlike most of us, he decided to try his hand at making wine. His first winery was a closet in his college dorm room and then later the garage of his parents’ Scottsdale home.
Most successful vintners are extremely curious and taken with experimentation. Kief took curiosity to the extreme, making wine out of anything he could find that had fermentable sugar. While attending ASU, he made Sake, all sorts of fruit and vegetable wines, and even a wine made from bread. When asked how the bread wine turned out, Kief described it as tasting like “Everclear with a hint of yeast.” He had some successes though, most notably a delicious lemon wine made with fruit from the back-yard tree.
The garage wines were fun, but serious winemaking was inching its way into Kief’s life. He started taking some UC Davis extension classes on viticulture and winemaking while bouncing around between schools in Arizona, California and Oklahoma. He met an Italian girl with family in Tuscany and had the opportunity to travel all over Europe and experience traditional wine culture. It was then that he decided that wine would be his career and that it was time to get serious.
He considered studying in Europe but the language challenges gave him pause. California was an obvious choice, but Kief still had a little wanderlust in him and knew that Australia had a national focus on becoming a serious wine exporter. He decided to study viticulture and winemaking in Australia, where they speak a workable form of English. He spent two years at Monash University on the Mornington Peninsula – the southernmost and coldest section of Australia. After completing studies and earning an undergraduate degree in Wine Technology and Marketing, he enrolled in the University of Melbourne’s Viticulture and Enology program.
Kief purchased the property that is now Kief-Joshua Vineyards in 2003. While completing his studies in Australia, he traveled back and forth to Arizona, building the winery and his living quarters.
In 2005 he began planting the 20 acres at the winery site in Elgin. Another 40 acres in Kansas Settlement is scheduled for planting this spring. His early wine releases were from California fruit and some purchased Arizona fruit. His first
estate vintage was 2008.
Australia was one of the pioneers of environmentally responsible, sustainable farming. Kief shares that philosophy and Kief-Joshua's vineyards are managed without the use of herbicides and pesticides. His ambition is to keep the vineyards healthy and productive for decades by using sustainable techniques such as composting, planting nutritionally appropriate “cover crops” between the vine rows, establishing symbiotic animal populations such as owls and hawks and even using sheep to control weeds (see sidebar). Rather than using chemicals to control problem insects, Kief is building an army of praying mantis.
The time Kief spent studying wine marketing turned out to be quite valuable as well. The tasting room at Kief-Joshua is very inviting and offers a number of interesting food and spice items to complement their wines. Most wine enthusiasts are also food enthusiasts so this is a smart and lucrative extension of the tasting room. The winery offers a number of special tours, seminars and wine programs for the curious and those customers that want to learn more about wine. The programs include wine tasting classes, a sensory evaluation program, a food and wine pairing program as well as several others. On Sunday mornings Kief-Joshua hosts Locally Arizona, a very popular low-cost omelet bar made exclusively from local products.
Kief-Joshua currently produces about 2800 cases of premium wine. It’s largely a family affair as Kief’s entire family is very involved in the operation. His father Jeff helps in all areas of production as well as sales, and his mother Charlene handles the books and tasting room. His sister Carly also helps with sales. Even the family dog, Dizzy Gillespie, is involved with public relations as he helps greet tasting room visitors.
Running a 2800-case winery doesn’t leave a lot of time for other activities but
Kief manages to squeeze in a lot of reading. Pretty much anything about wine captures his interest and he’s a history buff as well. Kief’s a very skilled pool and snooker player and it seems that many of his youthful activities might have been financed by some unfortunate, less skillful players. There are two tables at the
winery which he uses to maintain his ability with the cue stick.
Kief is optimistic about the future; despite the sometimes inhospitable weather and growing challenges in Arizona, he points to the success of the increasing number of local wineries. His ambition is to expand his production to about
5,000 cases and experiment with some new varieties.
You can meet Kief and the entire Manning clan at the winery daily from 11AM – 5PM.
SHEEP IN THE VINEYARD
You don’t spend four years in Australia without becoming very familiar with sheep. During his studies there, Kief became taken with Babydoll sheep, a smallish breed that originated in England. They are an ideal animal for use
in the vineyards since they don’t grow taller than about two feet and are unable to reach the grape clusters on the vines.
Kief-Joshua employs the services of between three and four Babydoll sheep to graze on the grasses and weeds that grow around the trellis poles, vines and perimeter. In exchange they provide a rich, natural fertilizer – a perfect marriage. In addition, they are very cute and fun to have around.
The downside? Well, as Kief-Joshua Vineyards uses grape pomace composting as part of their sustainable farming program there are often piles of alcohol-rich pomace lying around the place. The sheep love it and it doesn’t take long
before their eyes narrow and they begin to stagger around. Not soon after follows an afternoon nap.
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All News Releases
KIEF MANNING: FEATURED WINEMAKER IN ARIZONA VINES AND WINES (September 01, 2011)
American Wine Society first Southwest Regional Event held at Kief-Joshua Vineyards (June 12, 2010)
Arizona wineries rise above the desert climate By Terry Tang, Associated Press Writer (October 14, 2009)
Kief-Joshua Vineyards Announces Wine Club (August 28, 2008)
Experience Private Tastings at Kief-Joshua Vineyards (August 08, 2008)
Kief-Joshua Vineyards Selected as one of 100 wineries nationwide to be featured in Gifty.box.com (July 13, 2008)
Kief-Joshua Vineyard Winemaker Earns Graduate Degree (June 14, 2008)
Kief-Joshua Vineyards Announces Grand Opening (October 14, 2007)