CONCHO – At one time Concho was Arizona’s state capitol due to its prosperous farms. Though it may not be the state capitol today, the community is attracting many individuals with dreams and plans of changing the area’s economy through a return to farming and more. One such individual is Robert Lansford who has a lofty dream for his 40 acre property next to Red Rock Lavender Farm. Lansford recently received approval from the Apache County Board of Supervisors to rezone his Unit 2 of the Rancho Alegre Subdivision from agricultural to commercial for Lansford Vineyards.

Lansford’s vineyard is already established, having harvested its first full crop last year. In Arizona a vineyard is exempt from zoning, but with the change from residential to light commercial, Lansford will be able to add amusement or entertainment establishments.

The vineyard will also be a venue for weddings and the plan includes having a historical area featuring information on St. Johns and the tribes of the area. Lansford has plans for a conference center, a waterfall, a canopy for wine tasting, 15-car electric train for tours around the vineyard as well as a storage facility, two steel buildings, a crushing facility, a new well and another house for guest workers.

Lansford, who owns Lansford Roofing in California, bought 40 acres from Mike Teeple of Red Rock Lavender Farms around 2004 with the plan of eventually moving to Concho. In 2006 he built a house on the property. “Mike talked about a vineyard and I said I am into it, and we tried it on mine,” explained Lansford.

With a lot of hard work and trials with the grapes in 2014 and 2015, Lansford still had a bit of a set back and lost 25 percent of his crop. Things turned around for the positive in 2018 and he actually harvested his first full crop.

“Right now the buds are just about to break and watering will begin in the next couple of weeks,” said Lansford. “The vines are still two to three years old and need pruning. Last year was the first time of right pruning. I just re-did all the water lines and put in 3-inch pipe around the vineyard.”

Just like his 20-year roofing business, Lansford is putting in the sweat equity to ensure his venture is a success. He drives 600 miles each way from California to Concho and back every two weeks so that he can be hands-on as things proceed towards his 2020 goal. “I know that Mile Marker 9 when I double back,” said Lansford. “It is eight hours.”

He is also confident that the he has finally found the right vineyard manager and contractor. He has also put in many hours learning about viticulture. He has four classes under his belt and is working on the fifth. So far he has had classes on geography of all vines, sommeliers (wine stewards who specialize in all aspects of wine); a detailed business course, and a basic hands-on pruning and fertilization class at Wilson Creek which is a premiere family-owned winery in the heart of wine country in Temecula Valley. “They are good instructors,” said Lansford.

Lansford has 30,000 vines in the ground which include Malbec and Pino Nior. He pointed out that in Argentina Malbec grows well at 6,000 feet elevation; Concho’s elevation is 5,942. Malbec vines also do well with hot days and cold nights. He is adding three white varieties that include Moscato and Riesling. The Arizona wine circle is continuing to develop within the State of Arizona and at the 6,000 foot elevation.

Asked if there would be competition between his vineyard and that at Red Rock Farms, Lansford replied, “Yes and no. I hope we will both be sold out.”

The hope that Lansford Vineyards will become an Arizona tourist destination meets some of the goals of the Concho Community Plan which discusses the need for economic development and tourism. The one caveat placed on the new zoning for the winery is that “the majority of the Lansford’s project must be completed within three years or it reverts back to the Agricultural General Zone.”

Lansford still owns Lansford Roofing in Pasadena and is not sure if he will continue with ownership or if he will sell out. He and his wife Karina and their three children, however, will be moving to Concho and making Concho their home.

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Barbara Bruce is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering arts and entertainment on the Mountain and the Pinetop-Lakeside town government.

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