Page Springs Cellars
Page Springs Cellars, Vineyard Works to Add a New Segment to Local Industry
CORNVILLE, AZ - Owner and director of winegrowing at Page Springs Cellars, Eric Glomski, was able to reach his goals of producing wines that express the unique character of their Arizona landscape while also creating a destination for all to love. This was made possible with some financial help from the USDA Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program. Glomski has continued to find great success with his business and has big plans for the future.
Page Springs produces the majority of their wines from their Estate Vineyards. Three northern and one southern vineyard make up this quartet and each site has a unique climate and soil characteristics. They also source grapes from other top vineyards in the state. Page Springs Cellars is located in Cornville, which is just a short drive from Phoenix. Along with the roster of wines that is available, the vineyard also offers a bistro style menu and an accommodating atmosphere that sets them apart from other wineries.
When visiting the Page Springs Cellars, one can look forward to enjoying their wine on the outdoor patios with an excellent view of the vineyard, indoors at the bar, or in a cozy room set aside for wine club members. At the bistro customers can experience Chef Michael Wolfson and his team’s menu, which consists of a variety of wood-fired pizzas, salads, cheese boards, and Mason jar rillettes. Page Springs Cellars also offers wine tastings, tours, and other special events, including massages and yoga classes. As stated by Glomski, “It's important to us that we strive to create the ultimate destination, whether or not the guest is there just for the wine or not.”
In 2018, Glomski was awarded a $250,000 VAPG grant to assist the business with hiring new employees and expanding current employee positions in the area of sales and marketing. The addition of the grant money to the working capital allowed them to build new profit centers for the farm in terms of expanding tours, private events, and off-site events.
“The VAPG grant really allowed us to improve packaging and create more internal flexibility in terms of capital. The grant allowed us to buffer the additional baseline costs, which allowed us to shift money to the areas where funds were needed the most” explained Glomski.
The most important thing that the farm looked to do with the grant money was to invest in their future.
The ability to implement the expansion of the departments opened new channels of sales for their wines. It also allowed them to upgrade packaging, which allowed them to move into more high-end niche markets. A portion of the grant was also used to source higher quality grapes to create more top tier wines. They are also looking into the option of adding more signage and educational boards around the property and on the farm to educate consumers and those who visit the vineyards.
The wine and vineyard industry is relatively new to the area. It is traditionally a rural and residential area with vineyards making a stronger presence around the last decade. One of their vineyards in southeast Arizona is the only vineyard down in an area that is traditionally populated with nut farms. The idea of having a vineyard in Arizona is relatively new since prohibition.
“I think Arizona has a lot of potential in terms of wine production. Vineyards work to bring something new to the local farm and tourist economy. It's hard on a small scale farm to make a living on just the grapes. It's important to have that value-added aspect, where we can turn those grapes into wine to make additional money,” said Glomski.
The biggest portion of their sales comes from the tasting room on the farm and the wine club that consumers can join. Page Springs Cellars receives ninety percent of its sales profits from direct to consumer sales, whether it's through the wine club, online sales, or from the vineyards tours. The other ten percent of their sales come from selling to a distributor.
The farm hosts a festival in June called the “Tilted Earth Wine and Music Festival”. This event functions as a marketing opportunity for the farm, as well as a way to connect with wine lovers. Page Springs Cellars focuses heavily on the relationship that exists in their direct to consumer marketing efforts. They believe that the farm should play an important role in the community and work to warmly welcome visitors.
A strong component of the farm’s ethics is that the farm itself must be sustainable, as they have a responsibility to the land and the practices must benefit it. “It isn't just about making money, there is the importance of stewardship, and the need to farm sustainably. If you do the right thing, it is also the right thing for business,” noted Glomski.
Page Springs Cellars has long been known as a leading winery in environmental practices. Their vineyards are no-till, and they mow native grasses and utilize other green cover crops. Most of their plant debris is composted and put back into the vineyard. The farm uses solar panels that currently produce 85 percent of their electricity and they are looking to make that 100 percent in the future.
When asked what the future plans are for the vineyard Glomski states, “We want to continue to grow to a point and once we reach that point we will focus on how to improve margins, profitability and ultimately the quality of the products we offer.”
Some of those future plans for improvement may include implementing a solid waste program for the winery. They currently have a system in place in which they use all of the liquid waste and recycle it as irrigation water for the grounds. Another future plan is to begin a composting system for the solid compostable waste that comes from the kitchen. Page Springs Cellars would also like to think about reducing their carbon footprint possibly through switching from traditional paper products to items such as pressed palms plates as well as other actions.
About USDA VAPG
VAPG funding has been offered by the USDA periodically since the early 2000s. A new round of funding is anticipated to be announced in the coming months. To be considered value added, projects must show how products are differentiated in specific ways from commodity crops. Typically, projects must also show how they may deliver greater returns to producers.
Independent producers, farmer or rancher cooperatives, agriculture producer groups, and producer-owned business ventures, including non-profit organizations, may apply. In previous cycles, applicants were required to be producers of the raw commodity who will maintain ownership of that commodity through the process of creating a value-added product. Grants have been available for planning projects (such as marketing and business plans and feasibility studies) and working capital projects (which might include wages or packaging supplies). (http://www.rd.usda.gov/)
Ag Marketing Resource Center (AgMRC) Assistance
Producers and ranchers, cooperatives and other agricultural businesses can find a wide-ranging set of tools and information to help them in pursuing VAPG funding at the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (AgMRC) (www.agmrc.org). On a variety of value-added topics and across products, AgMRC is a rich resource for agricultural businesses, from startup to advanced growth stages. Directories for state and federal resources, specialty crop information, legal guidance, assessment, and spreadsheet tools and other types of business training are available.