Ignacio Mesa always had a passion for wine, and he pursued that passion by opening Clear Creek Vineyard & Winery in Camp Verde after working at SRP for more than 30 years.
Ignacio Mesa, Clear Creek Vineyard & Winery owner, explained that he was not quite sure what he wanted to do when he started his postsecondary education.
“I found out the University of Arizona had a program to try and attract farmers to get into the grape industry. And they offered three semesters of viticulture free,” he said. “Since I didn’t know what I wanted to do at that time, I [enrolled] in it.”
Mesa learned how to grow grapes and make wine through that program. However, he did not have the funds to pursue a career in the wine industry.
“So, I went into engineering, but I made homemade wine along the way.”
Mesa worked as a project manager at SRP, and he was with the company for 37 years. There, he was involved in the International Club.
At the meetings, “one of the employees had to bring a wine and a sample of the food that grows in their ancestral country. I was able to taste a lot of wines and the foods that pair with them.”
Mesa started the vineyard in 2000, and the winery about four years ago.
“Clear Creek Vineyard & Winery is an estate vineyard and winery, that means that we have to grow our own grapes and only use our grapes to make wine,” Mesa explained.
He said, “This area is very good for growing grapes. It has warm days and cool nights, that’s required. Verde Valley has a lot of water. We have a river and four tributaries that feed into it. So, it’s a really good place for growing wine grapes here.”
Clear Creek Vineyard & Winery is a Certified Silver Innovator as a Sustainable Business by the Sustainable Alliance for its eco-friendly practices.
“We use geese to weed the vineyard, chickens to get the bugs. We hand harvest our grapes. We have ten varieties of grapes that we grow here, and we crush, de-stem, ferment, bottle. We do the whole thing over here.”
He utilizes water from the bottom of the pond located on the vineyard because the fish produce nitrogen. He also plants cover crops that produce nitrogen such as peas, vetch and clover.
The winery facility was originally a barn before Mesa redeveloped it. He said the business is growing, so the facility’s small size is not cutting it.
“Over the last two and a half years, the business is starting to improve. It’s improving about 18 percent per year and the facility right here for wine tasting is small,” Mesa said. “So, I need to a build another facility that’s larger.”
Mesa has developed some plans for the larger facility that will be built on the property. He expects to start building within the next two years.
Clear Creek Vineyard & Winery is located at 4053 E Highway 260, Camp Verde AZ 86322 and is open Wednesday through Sunday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.