Valerie & Daniel Wood both had professional careers in a fortune 500 company. Valerie as Vice President Real Estate & Construction for the country of Japan and Daniel as Director of International Operations. In 2003 they put down roots in the Verde Valley, coinciding with a burgeoning wine industry, including the opening of a tasting room in Cornville, followed by two more shortly thereafter. Those tasting rooms along with the re-birth of Old Town Cottonwood, more tasting rooms, and restaurants were supporting the accelerating momentum of the Arizona wine industry. Valerie & Daniel were meeting people and making new friends. Relationships are important to them and they were enjoying new friendships, the beautiful environment and the peaceful pace. They looked forward to spending more time in Arizona.
In 2009 they left the corporate life and moved from Tokyo, Japan to Cornville, Arizona for big blue skies, fresh clean air, rural setting, open spaces, diverse topography and down-to-earth people. They immersed themselves into this new lifestyle. They wanted to spend more time together, enjoying nature, and exploring the next phase of their life, with plans to contribute and participate in a growing sector of the economy. That growing sector was the Arizona wine industry.
Their quest for knowledge and a deeper involvement lead them to a pivotal conversation with a local wine maker, who patiently addressed many questions and could see that their enthusiasm was deep and sincere. He suggested they check out the brand new ‘wine program’ at Yavapai College in the Verde Valley. On December 25th, 2012, they began their journey of Heart Wood Cellars by both signing up for 5 classes, as full-time students starting in January 2013 in the Viticulture & Enology Program. They decided that getting educated about viticulture (science of grape growing) and enology (science of winemaking) was the best way to learn and formulate a path to creating a business plan.
While attending college they worked part time at the Yavapai College, Southwest Wine Center, planting the college’s new vineyard, and working in the new winery and tasting room. In 2015, Valerie & Daniel Wood graduated with honors and degrees in Viticulture & Enology.
With a clear vision for Heart Wood Cellars and a Business Plan, Valerie & Daniel were fortunate to be invited to join the Four Eight Wineworks-Caduceus Cellars winery family located in Camp Verde, AZ and the Four Eight Wineworks Wine & Beer Bar in Jerome, AZ and soon became the holder of Arizona’s first Alternating Proprietor License. They are grateful for the relationships built along their educational journey including Rolling View Vineyards in Willcox, AZ owned by the Pierce family, and D.A.Ranch in Cornville, AZ owned by the Petznick family. Heart Wood Cellars first vintage’s grapes were acquired from these two families. In 2018 Yavapai College, Southwest Wine Center offered excess grapes from the vineyard to Heart Wood Cellars. Those grapes came from vines, that both Valerie & Daniel planted as students. Valerie says it was heartwarming to witness their education and new career come full circle.
Their business model is to craft wines they love and want to share with others. It also includes a unique wine club named ‘OHANA, creating special experiences for people to enjoy the wines at private events, the old-fashioned way, face to face with Valerie & Daniel, the winemakers. Daniel lived in Hawaii for several decades, and ‘OHANA means ‘family’ in the Hawaiian language.
“Heart Wood Cellars is a boutique winery in the Verde Valley of Northern Arizona, producing award-winning bold, complex elegant red wines from 100% Arizona grown grapes, and are aged for a minimum of 18+ months in oak barrels. Our wines are crafted to be age worthy and savored with food or simply enjoyed on their own.”
In 2016 Heart Wood Cellar’s first vintage of bold, complex and elegant red wines were created by merging art, science and love. In 2018 the 2016 vintage of five (5) wines were released. Heart Wood Cellars’, first vintage wines garnered several medals and awards including: Golds and Silvers in the San Francisco Chronicle’s Wine Competition and 1st Place and Bronze in the Arizona Republic’s Grand Wine Competition. All five of the wines produced from the 2016 vintage are award winners. 2017 vintage is off to a great start with medals/ awards from Arizona Republic & and nine (9) from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.
Supporting the wine industry business and education is important to Valerie & Daniel and they sponsor Yavapai College Viticulture & Enology Scholarships to support students pursuing their dreams. They are Southwest Wine Center “Founders” supporting the capital campaign to build the teaching winery and are founding members of the Yavapai College Viticulture & Enology alumni group, named Grand Crew. Daniel serves on the Arizona Wine Growers Association & Verde Valley Wine Consortium Board of Directors and Valerie is President of Yavapai College Foundation. Together they are Heart Wood Cellars.