Aridus Names Michael Hellman Winemaker

Michael Hellman has been named Winemaker at Aridus Winery & Vineyard, based in Willcox, Arizona. “We are delighted to welcome Michael to our team,” said founder/proprietor Scott Dahmer, in making the announcement. “His track record of producing high quality wines with meticulous management will be a great asset for Aridus.”

Hellman’s wines have won medals at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, the San Francisco International Wine Competition, the Houston Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition, the San Antonio Livestock and Rodeo International Wine Competition, and the Lone Star International Wine Competition.

“I guess grapes and wine are in my DNA since my dad was a viticulture professor and I’ve always been around vineyards and wineries. My earliest professional experience was working for a custom crush winery. Then I took a viticulture internship to get more experience in vineyards where among other things I learned how to do leaf porometer readings for irrigation scheduling. In subsequent years I’ve been fortunate to work with some great Texas vineyards and wineries, and now I’m really excited for the opportunity to work with Aridus’ high elevation vineyard to produce wines that express the best of Arizona,” Hellman said.

Hellman’s formative years were in Texas where he graduated from Texas Tech University Magna cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Plant and Soil Science, specializing in Viticulture and Enology. He was on the Dean’s List for four semesters and received the Hoss Newsom Viticulture Scholarship in 2016 and 2017 and the Viticulture and Enology Scholarship from the Wine and Food Foundation of Texas in 2017. He also received the Paul and Merrill Bonarrigo Grant from the Wine Society of Texas in 2016. He also holds a Wine & Spirit Education Trust Level 1 wine certification.

Most recently he was the Senior Winemaker at Texas Custom Wine Works in Brownfield, Texas. He managed all aspects of winery operations, including directing the full-time winery crew and seasonal part-time employees, maintaining relationships with custom crush clients and establishing wine programs for new clients. He especially enjoyed conducting research and development on new products and alternative winemaking techniques. Earlier in his career he was winemaker for Rancho Loma Vineyards and Reddy Vineyards in Brownfield and trained as a winemaking intern at Delaney Vineyards and Winery in Lamesa, Texas and a vineyard intern at Westover Vineyard Advising in Houston.

Hellman has been active in his community on behalf of diverse groups, ranging from the Caprock Society of Interpreters for the Deaf to the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce and Buffalo Gap Wine & Food Summit.

Hellman takes over from founding winemaker Lisa Strid, who was at Aridus for seven years.

This harvest will be the sixth from the winery’s 40-acre estate vineyard in Pearce, Arizona, which is about a 45-minute drive from the winery in Willcox. The vineyard is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Malvasia, Merlot, Tempranillo, Graciano, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Franc. The vineyard sits at an elevation of approximately 5,000 feet in the Chiricahua Foothills. “Our estate vineyard defines a unique mix of mountain and desert fine wine grape growing,” explains winery owner Scott Dahmer. The vineyard experiences an average of 13 inches of rain, 1 inch of snow and temperatures which average around 30 degrees in the cooler months to highs of around 94 degrees in the summer.

What makes harvest season at Aridus truly memorable? Departing winemaker Lisa Strid says she will remember the sheer amount and variety of wildlife that emerge during the season at the vineyard and on the crush pad. “Last year we saw wild turkeys, a bobcat, a mojave rattlesnake, a horned lizard, spade foot toads, and more crickets than one would wish to see in a lifetime,” she noted.

“I’m looking forward to harvest,” Hellman says, “whether we see a monsoon or a drought!”

The winery facility, at 28,000 square feet, is one of the largest winery facilities in the state, and houses state of the art wine making equipment. Surrounded by majestic mountains, the winery is an appealing combination of a historic setting and modern design. The building was once an apple warehouse; it was stylishly rehabbed with recycled local lumber and the interiors feature antique light bulbs and other unique design touches.

~News Release Submitted by Aridus

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