New Owners at the Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery in Moab, Utah
In 2009, when I first visited the Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery, I must admit, the place was hard to find. Apparently, the State of Utah does not consider its only surviving estate winery worthy of a cultural information sign on U.S. Highway 191 South. Therefore, I took several wrong turns prior to arriving at the vineyard. At the time, the Dezelsky family owned both the winery and vineyard. Along with a neighbor who had taught them the art and science of viticulture, the Dezelsky’s had spent decades developing both the vineyard and the winery operation.
When I returned to the Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery in the fall of 2013, a sign on the tasting room door indicated that the property had sold and was in escrow. Disappointed that the winery closed, I drove away. In October 2014, I again visited the vineyard and winery. To my surprise and delight, the place was again open for business.
Mr. Curt Stripeika, the new proprietor and winemaker greeted me and invited me on a tour of the place. Although it was mid-October, the vines looked lush and green. The few visible clusters of Riesling grapes looked healthy on their vines. What I did recall was that in December 2013 and into January 2014, Moab had experienced a deep freeze.
As we walked around the estate, Curt explained that the vineyard had experienced killing frosts during two of the last three winters. Within his newly acquired vineyard, however, there was a redeeming feature. The vines at Spanish Valley Vineyards had their root balls planted well below ground level. In the Spanish Valley's well-drained and sandy soil, the crown of each vine and its shoots had enough insulation to survive all but the hardest of freezes.
Although his vines survived both hard freezes, most of the previous year's new wood froze and died. Since grape clusters normally occur on second year growth, there were precious few flower buds capable of supporting a 2014 vintage. Wine grapes are available to vintners from both the Western Slope of Colorado and from California. With those reliable sources, Curt did not expect any shortfall in grape supplies over the next few years. Still, we both hoped that Moab and the Spanish Valley would not experience another hard freeze in the coming winter.
During our tour of the vineyard, Curt pointed to a new storage and bottling building that was going up on the site. He also said that Grand County would soon approve his plans to develop a Bed & Breakfast adjacent to the vineyard. With a view of the vineyard and the spectacular Moab Rim, to the south, it looked like the perfect place for accommodations to me. With acres of the vineyard acting as a natural buffer to the property, we had an unimpeded view of the Moab Rim at its highest point. With the vineyard's quiet, bucolic feel, I could image harried city dwellers coming here for peace, quiet and a glass of fine wine on the veranda.
After our vineyard tour, Curt and I repaired to the tasting room. Although Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery makes white wines and even fruit wines, that day I was interested in tasting Curt’s hearty red wines. First, I sampled the last estate wine produced by the Delsky family. It was a 2012 Utah Cabernet Sauvignon, grown, produced and bottled at Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery. As such, the wine was a thoroughly enjoyable, right down to its legacy label. Soon, I predict, this rare Utah wine will become a collector’s item.
Next, I tried the Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery Syrah, Tempranillo and Zinfandel, all made with California grapes. All three wines had good structure, which hinted at their aging potential. Even with similar robustness, each wine was a good representative of its varietal essence. With its brown-accented label featuring the new “logo lizard”, my favorite of the three wines was the Zinfandel. Immediately, I bought a bottle of each red wine. Looking back now, I wish I had doubled-up on my purchase.
During the tasting, I sat on a stool at the small bar and stared out the window to the North. As I looked along the rows of vines, I could see some tall trees along Stocks Drive. That road serves as the entrance to the vineyard from U.S. Highway 191 South. Beyond the trees, I could see the famous Moab Slickrock, gleaming in the sun. Spontaneously, I said to Curt, “We need a live webcam here”.
After explaining that I had just lost access to a webcam at an RV Park down the highway, I proposed that we reposition it there, at the Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery. I went on to explain the easy setup of a webcam in the window of the tasting room. With that, Curt readily agreed to the plan. The next afternoon, I installed the webcam and published it on the homepage of MoabWine.com. The results were spectacular, showing the vineyard, its surrounding topography and any weather approaching Moab from the northwest.
While I was testing the webcam, Curt’s wife and business partner, Alesia arrived home from her work in Moab. To commemorate the occasion, I asked Curt and Alesia Stripeika to pose for photos in their new vineyard. Looking now at those pictures, the Stripeikas seem like a modern-day pioneer couple. They also appear ready to take their Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery to a new level of winemaking excellence. In that noble endeavor, I wish them well.