One of my favorite things about living in Vail is the quick access to fun places like Sonoita. As a lover of wine, I appreciate how easy it is to escape the heat and chaos of the “city life” and take a trip to our Southern neighbors for an afternoon of open air, open spaces, and fun times with friends – old and new.

One vineyard that always seems to attract a big crowd is Kief-Joshua. The estate is beautiful and the namesake has an interesting life story.

Now, you get to hear his side of life in Southern Arizona. Presenting, Kief Manning, founder and winemaker at Kief-Johsua.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I studied for a while at UC Davis, got my undergrad from Monash University in Australia in wine technology, marketing and management, and a masters degree from the university of Melbourne in viticulture and enology. I was born in Ohio, but have lived in Arizona off and on since I was 6 months old. So, this is home. I started my winery in 2003 when I was twenty years old and love being able to be part of a young industry in Arizona with all the different personalities, successes, and trials.

You have some fun animals on your property. What made you interested in giving them a home on your vineyard?

We currently have 17 animals on property, mostly rescues. 4 dogs, 5 cats, 6 sheep, 2 goats, and a wallaby. I have grown up with animals all my life, so it wouldn’t feel right without them. The dogs are primarily companion animals, although they do help keep other animals off the property. The sheep and goats keep down the weeds, the cats keep down the rodents, and the wallaby just kind of hangs out.

What’s your favorite thing about Southern Arizona?

The weather, the views, and the peace and quiet. There is relaxed pace to life and no traffic.

What’s your favorite inside tip about day tripping to Sonoita?

We are 5000 feet in elevation and our summer temperatures average in the 80’s. There are a number of beautiful B&Bs in the area and with 12 tasting rooms currently open unless you are a spitter you will not be able to safely do them in a day. Get out of the heat and congestion of the city and experience some great wines and some of the most beautiful sunsets you are likely to experience

What is it about being a winemaker that you love?

I have always like to create, whether it be art, cheese, music, beer, or whatever. I did finish carpentry and custom wood shutters for a number of years. Wine makes people happy.

Who is the most famous person to try your wine that you know of?

Sandra Day O’connor comes in often.

Of all the wines you make, which is your favorite?

I don’t really have a favorite. It depends on what we are doing. Wine can really match just about anything, your mood, the weather, what you are eating, the time of day, the season. A number of different things can affect the perception of a wine at any giving moment. The old adage is “my favorite wine is the one we are drinking now.”

Can’t argue with that last bit! So there you have it. Feel inspired to make a trip to Sonoita this weekend? Read these Sonoita wine tasting tips and be sure to put Kief-Joshua on your list of stops.

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Lucretia Free