When John Delaney was still the sommelier at the Painted Pony Restaurant in Ancestor Square, dinner-guest Mark Bold made an unusual request: Would John like to join Mark in picking grapes at his Dammeron Valley vineyard the next day? Five years after the fact, John still recalls his immediate reaction.
“I thought ‘What? You have vineyards…and they’re in Dammeron Valley? Oh, sign me up!’” John says, laughing.
The invitation proved fateful: Along with becoming fast friends, John and Mark became business partners. In 2019, they launched the Bold & Delaney (B&D) Winery at Dammeron Valley Vineyards, for which they cultivate some nine acres of land outside of St. George, as well as the Hope Street vineyard once owned by Mark’s father-in-law, Devire McAllister. They anticipate their 2022 vintages will comprise 12 varietals—wines made from a specific grape—as well as a handful of blends.
For the duo, an evolution into winemaking in southern Utah was almost a foregone conclusion. Before moving to St. George with wife Mary to care for her father, Mark ran a brokerage firm by day and tinkered with grapes in his garage at night.
“I’d made wine with a bunch of friends in the San Francisco Bay Area for about seven years,” Mark says. “So, I was familiar with winemaking techniques and all of the equipment needed.”
Thanks to his job, John was intimately familiar with wine and adept at recommending optimum food and wine pairings.
“I’d always been around wine lists and restaurants,” he confirms. “From that first time I helped Mark pick grapes, I was hooked. To have a vineyard so close to home, and to be able to get involved in a project like this, was absolutely life changing.”
Mark and John like to think they are carrying on one of Utah’s most venerable traditions. According to Washington County Historical Society records, in 1862, Brigham Young decreed the state’s southern colonies “should supply the territory with wine for the Holy Sacrament, for medicine, and for sale to outsiders.” At one point, documents reveal, local members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints paid their tithes in grapes, leading the St. George and Toquerville tithing offices to begin wine production, and “the Church found itself to be the largest producer of wine in the area.”
The first question typically asked by visitors to the B&D Dammeron Valley tasting room is, why grow grapes in the desert? Mark’s answer: Why not? The warm, dry climate, high altitude and rich volcanic soil contribute to a “terroir” or growing environment very similar to that found in Europe’s famous growing regions. Indeed, Mark and John consciously decided to cultivate grapes more typically grown in France, Italy and Spain than in the United States, including Malbec, Tempranillo, Grenache, Pinot Noir, Petite Syrah and several others.
Says Mark, “Our wines are an authentic reflection of each varietal, and the terroir in which it’s grown. We crush the grapes, ferment them, press them, let the wine settle in French oak or stainless steel and then bottle it; it all stays here. Our wines aren’t sitting on the back of a semi while they’re being shipped someplace or getting warm on the dock at a warehouse.”
John adds that all of the pair’s wines are organically crafted. However, because their winery is located less than 600 feet from its closest neighbors, B&D has not pursued “official” organic certification.
“We don’t use herbicides or pesticides, and we’re very physical in our weeding, and how we do everything. That’s very important to us, and we communicate that to our customers,” John says.
As a prime stop on the new Utah Wine Trail, Mark and John are proud to join their fellow Washington County winemakers in creating and making fine wines available to those who appreciate them.
“We’re excited to be a destination that draws people to the area, and we love supporting the other wineries,” Mark says.
“We’re passionate about what we do,” John adds. “And let’s face it, everyone’s in a great mood when they’re winetasting!”
To schedule an appointment for a tasting at Dammeron Valley Vineyards, email email@example.com or call John Delaney at 435.703.3813.