By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
A drive down Salt Mine Road in Camp Verde is comforting, with its draping trees, green grass and mountain views. But hidden within them is a slew of pecan groves, homegrown produce stands and Salt Mine Wine.
The Salt Mine Wine driveway takes visitors along part of the vineyard, through a gate and to the cozy building housing the tasting room.
The winery was founded by brothers Chip and Kevin Norton, and their wives, Kathy Davis and Leann. Kevin is the shy one, but the brainchild behind Salt Mine Wine. The former Phoenix residents retired from the family’s construction business and moved to Camp Verde.
“We really liked the idea of living in a smaller town like Camp Verde,” Chip says. “Kevin was always really into wine. He took a wine class at Yavapai College and decided he would like to create a boutique vineyard. After all, the brothers and their wives visited vineyards in Italy.
“He asked if I’d like to do that as well and I agreed. We’re a fairly tight-knit family and so they moved up here, too. We didn’t want to do anything on a grand scale, something smaller and more intimate. We wanted to meet a lot of people.”
In 2013, the Norton family began planting Italian varietal grapes on their historic farm. They sourced fruit from other budding wine regions in Arizona like Willcox, while their own vines reached maturity. The vintages are made in Camp Verde.
They produced only 25 to 77 cases of its crisp 2015 Malvasia Bianca (fermented in stainless steel), rich 2016 Malvasia Bianca (aged in oak barrels), bright 2015 Sangiovese, complex Uno (a red blend of Tempranillo and Syrah), and dry Graciano.
Primitivo, Montepulciano and Aglianico vines are planted in a former pasture where the soils are fertile and winter temperatures cold. Malvasia Bianca, Sangiovese and Barbera vines are planted on the hillside where the soils are well-drained and the summer temperatures are warm.
“Guests have liked the wine, but more than the wine, they just liked the idea,” Kevin says. “They think it’s neat that someone wanted to do something small and personable.
“They can just come in, sit down and chat with us. They’re really interested in our story, too. It’s nice to meet those people and learn from them.”
Visitors have asked the Norton to carry local products in their tasting room, which features an entry room, kitchen with full refrigerator, and a living room.
“I’d like to be able to sell other products like cheese,” Kevin says. “It’s fascinating to learn about these different things that would fit well with what we’re doing.”
The labels on the bottles stick with the family theme. They feature artwork by Chip and Kevin’s artistic mother, Mary Joyce Norton. The Nortons are proud of sharing their family business.
“Kevin and his wife, and my wife and I are the people who are here pouring the wine and chatting with the guests,” Chip says. “We wanted to keep that family feeling throughout.”
The Nortons say they feel Salt Mine Wine also adheres to Camp Verde’s vision.
“You can go next door and buy pecans and fruit or go down the road and pick your own tomatoes and vegetables,” Chip says. “That’s how it works here. That’s why we really liked this place. You can buy eggs near here, too. You can probably even grab a chicken.”
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