Canelo Hills’ owners Tim and Joan Mueller tell their story on their website: “In 2003, a doctor, a counselor, and a classical singer, in true pioneering spirit, moseyed on down to the rolling ranchlands of Sonoita to plant some wine grapes. Now they harness Arizona-grown grapes to make award winning, old-world style wines.”
For 10 years, they’ve enjoyed the successes and challenges (freezes, frosts, hail storms, etc.) of running a family winery and producing fine Arizona wines; they are now ready to move on to other ventures.
Tim has been the winemaker at Canelo Hills. A Harvard and Stanford-educated doctor, he enjoyed turning his scientist’s mind to the art of wine making. Luckily, he liked to be busy—in addition to making the wine, he served as handyman in his ‘free time’ from a full-time position as a psychiatrist at the VA Hospital in Tucson.
Joan has served as the business manager and farmer of Canelo Hills. She left a successful private practice in mental health counseling to tend to the needs and whims of the grapes and to run the tasting room; she generally ran the family farm.
Daughter Kathryn, has served the business as director of marketing while pursuing her professional singing career.
Flying Leap to take over
Canelo Hills is now under contract to one of the newest Arizona wine ventures, Flying Leap Vineyards. The owners of Flying Leap, Mark Beres and Marc Moeller, both 1991 graduates of the US Air Force Academy and seasoned pilots, are committed to the success of their business and brand. With the help and support of their families, they have made this the primary focus of their lives.
“With developed acreage in both Sonoita AVA and Cochise County, Flying Leap will now offer a diverse portfolio of ultra-premium, carefully crafted wines from tasting rooms at its newest estate vineyard on Elgin Road along the Sonoita Wine Trail and its newest tasting room in historic downtown Willcox, opening in March,” said Beres.
Beres, a retired Special Forces pilot in two theaters of war, most recently worked in the engineering and system integration business at Raytheon. He grew up in the Walla Walla valley of southeastern Washington State and spent his formative years working in local vineyards and cattle ranching. He has enjoyed several years of successful large-scale commercial viticulture experience including all phases of vineyard development.
Among his many aviation achievements, Moeller served as an instructor pilot for Air Force II, which transports the Vice President of the United States. Moeller is a first-generation American who grew up with deep and diverse connections to his European family that owns a private vineyard, grows wine grapes, and has produced wines for many generations—he learned the wine-making craft first-hand.
These former pilots have more recently been flying much closer to the ground, plying their talents as farmers, engineers, and managers to the literal roots of establishing Flying Leap Vineyards in their Willcox vineyards, planted in 2011. Their humble mission: To be the Southwest’s most successful commercial vineyards and winery by sustainably producing premium wines from the highest quality Arizona-grown wine grapes.
It’s no mistake they chose to buy this winery ‘next door’ to Callaghan Vineyards; owner Kent Callaghan, their mentor and consultant hand-crafted Flying Leap’s 2011 vintage.
Stop in to say good-bye… and hello
Joan, Tim, and Kathryn (and their shop dogs) are winding down their stay in the Canelo Hills tasting room on Fridays and Saturdays for the rest of this month. Saturday, January 26 will be your last chance to stop by and wish them well and pick up some of the classiest wines in the region.
Beres said, “We are working like crazy to get everything ready to open. A massive sandblasted HDU Flying Leap sign—8-feet wide and almost 50-inches tall, weighing several hundred pounds—will be erected so visitors to the beautiful southern Arizona wine country can find us.”
This winery is located at 342 Elgin Road in Elgin, 7.5 miles southeast of the Sonoita Crossroads.
Cheers to the Muellers, Moellers, and Beres on their new ventures!