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|Three piece suits to replace cowboy chaps as Silver Streak Winery comes to town|
|Written by Andrew Schaeffer|
|Thursday, 13 October 2011 04:22|
Silver Streak Winery, opening for business around Thanksgiving, will offer wine tasting for those curious about an alcohol with more class than beer or whiskey. In addition to their tentative hours of noon to six, the winery also will host occasional private parties.
Jann Bengel and her husband Hank, owners of the winery, have stood outside the property for numerous days, handing out business cards and talking to countless people about the addition of the winery to Tombstone’s already plentiful alcohol business.
“The response was wonderful,” Jann Bengel said. “A man would like beer but his wife likes wine, a woman would like a scotch and the man would like a glass a wine.”
Several passersby walking the dirt road commented about the winery, expressing their delight of a good place to get wine and asking when it would open.
“People are excitedly watching to see how we’ll do because it’s something new to Tombstone,” Hank Bengel said. “We’re not another beer bar or t-shirt shop; already 16 of those in town.”
“The town seems to support us,” Jann Bengel said. “We won’t be producing a lot of drunks or noise, so they don’t have anything to complain about.”
The winery will be a tasting bar where patrons can choose from local wine to sniff, swirl and sip in a commemorative stemless wine glass and then purchase bottles of their favorite flavors. The wines, which are created by hand, are made from juice squeezed grapes grown in southern Arizona.
When guests step into the original historical walls, they will find themselves in the middle of a 1880s mining camp. Eyes will focus on a huge mining derrick on the wall opposite the bar. Suspended from the derrick will be a bucket filled to the brim with some of the homemade wine straight from the Silver Streak Winery barrels, Jann Bengel said.
“Tombstone is already filled with too much of the cowboy theme,” Hank said, adding he didn’t want to create a hackneyed store modeled after the town’s gunfights. “This town was started as a mining town and we wanted to get back to that.”
The idea for a winery was planted into the Bengels’ heads when they visited California’s famous wine region.
“We were on a cheese tour 15 years ago when Jann Bengel spotted a sign for a winery and said, ‘turn here, turn here,’ ” Hank said. They ended up at the Topolos Russian River Vineyards, owned by brothers Michael and Jerry Topolos.
“After tasting their wines, I told the assistant I thought this would be a wonderful way to make a living. She then went and grabbed Michael who taught us everything about the business,” Jann Bengel said through a smile as she remembered the event. “He talked with us for a few hours and gave us stacks of books to read about making wine.”
“The more we read, the more we wanted to do it,” she said. “Once the idea got in our heads, it was like an infection. We decided to go for it.”
After that visit, the Bengels established contacts in the wine business throughout the world.
“The wine community is closely knit,” Jann Bengel said. “We all try to help each other out.”
Jann and Hank still have all the books and papers the Michael Topolos gave them and passed along the information they learned to other aspiring winemakers.
“We owe everything to Michael Topolos. Our first bottle of wine will be saved for him,” Jann Bengel said through a wholehearted smile.
For the time being, Silver Streak Winery will be using grapes grown in the Village of Elgin Winery’s vineyards, but Jann Bengel said they hope to generate enough funds from the tasting room in Tombstone to cultivate their own grapevines. “We couldn’t afford to put the wells, the vineyard, the house and have electricity—it would have cost us $20,000 to $40,000 to run a line 700 feet.”
With the help of other local vintners, Jann and Hank decided to open up the tasting room separately from the vineyard in Tombstone. They mentioned that the owner of the Village of Elgin Winery, Gary Reeves, has been very helpful with tips for making wine in southern Arizona. He also gave them the idea to open the tasting room before breaking ground on the vineyard.
Jann Bengel said their winery will help out the town in the long run. “People will look online for wineries in the area, find us and swing down to experience the wine and the gunfights.”
She is hopeful other winemakers will come to the area as well since Tombstone is such an ideal setting. “Summer is always a slow season for winemakers and, since tourism is slow in Tombstone during the summer, too, we can take a few months off,” she said while laughing. Hank and Jann are planning to visit some wineries in Australia this summer. “We can even call it a business trip,” she said excitedly.
“The wine business is the only business I know of that one is good and 10 is better,” Jann Bengel said. She anticipates Silver Streak Winery could be the beginning of a new wine tour centered in Tombstone.
“We feel like this is the first thing in our lives that we just absolutely love,” Jann Bengel said, her smile almost audible. “We’re just tickled to death.”
For more sipping in southeast Arizona, visit the Willcox Wine Country Fall Festival Saturday, Oct. 15 and Sunday, Oct. 16 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Willcox Railroad Park