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Elgin/Willcox winery opening Tucson tasting rooms

Vineyards in southwestern Arizona

The 3-year-old Flying Leap Vineyards plans to open two tasting rooms in Tucson by March and hopes to eventually open a third here.

That’s in addition to the three it already operates — one at its Elgin vineyard, another in downtown Willcox and one in Bisbee that has been open about five weeks now.

Flying Leap co-founder and President Mark Beres said he hopes to open the first Tucson tasting room at St. Philip’s Plaza in February or March. A second tasting room will follow about the same time in a storefront spot on North Fourth Avenue just north of the bustling Congress Street entertainment corridor.

Beres said he and his partners — Marc Moeller and Tom Kitchens — are still shopping for the third location. All three Tucson ventures will be art gallery/wine tasting rooms in partnership with Willcox-based Trust Fine Art.

“There’s incredible synergy between art and wine,” Beres said.

The winery is in the process of finalizing lease agreements, hiring architects and applying for licenses. Beres said he will need to do very little work to the St. Philip’s Plaza space, which is fairly small, but will have to do sizable renovations to the Fourth Avenue space, which is much larger.

Beres said the space will likely become a wine tasting room and lounge .

Flying Leap sprouted up in 2010 on 60 acres in the Kansas Settlement area near Willcox. In January, the vineyard expanded its hold when it acquired the 6½-acre Canelo Hills Vineyard and Winery in Elgin.

To date, Flying Leap has 22 acres under vine between the two vineyards. Beres said it is only the beginning. He and his partners have a 12-year plan that calls for producing 15,000 cases of wine from 1,200 acres of vines. The partners, who became friends while attending the Air Force Academy in the late 1980s, also plan to open wine bars.

Flying Leap will be the second wine tasting room downtown, joining the months-old Unplugged at 118 E. Congress St. Unplugged, which calls itself a wine bar, pours craft wines from around the world.

The Arizona wine focus fits in with the recent addition of Proper and Diablo Burger restaurants downtown that focus on farm-to-table and hyper-local sourcing.

“I think that this particular focus on locally produced wine is going to be very well received downtown,” said Michael Keith, executive director of the Downtown Tucson Partnership. “It would be a welcome addition to everything that’s down here. We already have one wine tasting room that has opened up and is doing very well.”

Flying Leap’s first vintages were produced from grapes bought from California growers. The 2013 vintage is the first made from its own fruit, Beres said.

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