The Arizona wine industry is receiving attention as vineyard acres expand, wine production increases, and the quality of Arizona wines are recognized.

There are more than 60 bonded wineries in Arizona; up from nine in 2000.

Wine grape acres have not kept up with the demand sending Arizona wineries to purchase grapes from outside of the state.

Peggy Fiandaca, Arizona Wine Growers Association President, said, “The opportunities of the Arizona wine industry are great, and there is no reason that the wine industry cannot be the next billion dollar wine region like Washington and Oregon.”

A 2011 study by the Arizona Wine Tourism Industry funded by the Arizona Office of Tourism found that wine visitors had an estimated $22.7 million benefit in direct expenditures resulting in a total economic impact of $37.6 million supporting 405 total jobs.

“We are pretty excited about this year’s growing season because it appears we have finally skirted the frost season. It’s been a few years since we have had a decent sized harvest and if the long term forecasts out there come even close to predictions this should be the year,” according to Eric Glomski, co-owner and director of winegrowing at Page Springs Cellars.

Glomski says the company has planted 16 additional acres at the Page Springs estate and is managing the Colibri Vineyards in the Chiricahua Mountains in southeastern Arizona. The focus is on Rhone red and white varietals and also has Pinot Noir in a cool site planted in Vermentino, Teraldage, and Counoise.

In Arizona’s oldest wine region, the anticipation for a good growing season is also high. Kent Callaghan, winemaker of Callaghan Vineyards, Sonoita, had the first vintage in 1991. Today, Callaghan’s estate winery is looking forward to a good year in the vineyard.

“We have planted new varieties that will produce small crops so we can get a feel for them here (Fiano, Vermentino, Petit Manseng, Malbec, Carmenere, and TourigaNacional),” Callaghan said. “We also planted about two acres of whites (Petit Manseng, Malvasi Bianca, and Roussanne).”

Callaghan hopes to harvest a sizable crop of Graciano from 3.25 acres planted.

“It looks like a good, fun year so far,” Callaghan said.

Southeastern Arizona is the third major wine grape-growing region and one of the fastest in the amount of acres planted.

“After two spring frost years in a row, we had very minimal damage from the only frost event in mid-April,” according Curt Dunham, owner and winemaker of Lawrence Dunham Vineyards.

“So far, we have a very encouraging amount of buds in the entire vineyard,” Dunham said. “Our Viognier, which is typically considered a light producer, is absolutely loaded with buds. If we get a good fruit set and normal weather, it should be a very good year in terms of volume.”

Fiandaca added, “The Arizona wine industry is excited about the start of the 2012 growing season. The increase in vineyard acreage and the fantastic wines being produced will support our efforts to put Arizona on the map as a quality winemaking and grape-growing region.”