Thursday, March 27, 2014, Flying Leap Vineyards, Inc. was recognized as a 2014 Success Award Winner by the Arizona Small Business Development Center Network in the annual Success Award program for small business success. The Arizona Small Business Development Center Network is Arizona’s largest and most accessible statewide source of assistance for small businesses in every stage of development. Each year the Network highlights and honors some of Arizona’s brightest small business successes for the vital role that they play in our state’s economy. Flying Leap Vineyards, Inc. worked with the Microbusiness Advancement Center Small Business Development Center to achieve a higher level of success. Read their story below:
Three former military pilots founded Flying Leap Vineyards, Inc. in 2010. These lifelong best friends with diverse backgrounds in the wine and farming industries – Mark Beres, Marc Moeller and Thomas Kitchens entered the Arizona wine business with a goal of developing a new brand based on local, self-sourced viticulture and high quality, small-batch winemaking. Flying Leap Vineyards is an Arizona domestic farm winery based in Santa Cruz County. The company specializes in customer and community service, and has extensive experience in operating wine tasting, fine art and retail sales operations across the region. This committed team of local family farmers, talented winemakers and passionate wine merchants grow a select portfolio of both red and white wine grapes in two vineyards, and they produce their fine wines at their estate winery in Elgin, Arizona. They are proud to be a Veteran owned business and give back to other veterans as the opportunities arise.
The first vineyard was planted in April 2011. The first block encompassed slightly more than 10 irrigated acres of exclusive French, Italian and Spanish certified grapevines on a 20-acre parcel in the Kansas Settlement south of Willcox. Additional acreage was planted in 2012, completing the company’s first 20-acre farm. In 2013, Flying Leap acquired the Canelo Hills Vineyard and Winery in Elgin, which added another 6.5 acres of mature vineyard acreage and gave the company an established foothold along Arizona’s famous Sonoita/Elgin wine trail in the state’s only official American Viticultural Area.
With the acquisition of Canelo Hills, Flying Leap commenced estate winemaking in 2013, producing nearly 1,500 cases from its initial combined harvests of the Block 1 vineyard in Cochise County and the estate vines in Elgin. The company’s Block 2 vineyard will be in production in August 2014, and an additional 8.5 acres are planned for 2015, with expected initial production in 2017. Flying Leap is a small, local producer with an annual vintage production expected to be about 3,000 cases of estate wine by 2019.
Currently, Flying Leap Vineyards owns and operates four tasting rooms and three fine art galleries, which are located at its estate winery in Elgin and in historic downtown Willcox, Old Bisbee and Tucson’s St. Philips Plaza. Flying Leap’s award-winning wines are sold regionally in specialty and major wine retailers.
Mark Beres, President and CEO of Flying Leap Vineyards commends Karen Burns and the Microbusiness Advancement Center SBDC team for being instrumental to Flying Leap Vineyards in teaching them how to develop a comprehensive strategy for requesting bank financing. “Karen showed us how to access the various sources of financing that were available and how to communicate our needs to those entities. Most people entering into the business world are generally familiar with traditional lending, such as car loans and mortgages. But commercial lending is an entirely different world with unique requirements and specifications,” remarks Beres. The MAC SBDC and Karen Burns in particular were instrumental in teaching us how to navigate these new waters. She helped us prepare bank loans requests, which were key in us successfully securing the necessary capital to fully develop our Block 1 vineyard,” continues Beres. “Our business is fundamentally an agricultural enterprise and Burn’s extensive background in commercial agricultural lending was invaluable to Flying Leap Vineyards in shaping the business plan to include specific elements of particular interest to commercial agricultural lenders. The MAC SBDC has been an important part of Flying Leap Vineyard’s growth and development, and we are indeed truly fortunate to have them as a resource,” concludes Beres.