The History of Kokopelli Winery
Many years ago Don Minchella made a promise to his mother that he would never forget. He promised to grow a vineyard and own a winery and as Don says, “a promise to a mother is the most sacred thing in the world.” So in 1991 Don and Carol Minchella planted the Kokopelli Vineyard in south eastern Arizona, primarily the Bonita Springs Farm which is about 20 miles north of Wilcox Arizona. Don’s mother Josephine was an instrumental part in the development of the vineyard. “My mother was an amazing grower and she had so many recipes, she is actually responsible for our top selling wine Sweet Lucy that was her favorite,” said Don.
Don and Carol found that starting a vineyard was not one of their easier dreams. They received a great amount of knowledge and help from Don’s mother Josephine and the Lescombes’ family French winemakers. With the help of his friends and family Don and Carol would come up with the name Kokopelli Winery for their first ever production of Kokopelli Wine in 1994.
When choosing a name for the vineyard Don was looking for something that was a Southwestern name with a hint of Italian flair to it. When Don heard of the Indian flute player Kokopelli he knew it would be the perfect name for the winery. The legend says that when he traveled through the different villages he would play his flute loud for all to hear so all of the villagers knew that he was coming. Don and Carol wanted everyone to know that Kokopelli Winery was coming as well.
Carol’s favorite part of the winery was when the company started to grow so much that they were traveling all over areas in Arizona to attend festivals. “Everyone wanted the wine, but all we had was a little wine tasting room and production facility all the way down in Wilcox, so we decided to go see everyone else,” Carol said. This is when Don and Carol decided that it was time to grow and open a facility in Chandler, Arizona. This is how the Bistro @ Kokopelli winery came to be known, an enchanting atmosphere to go enjoy some lunch or a nosh with family and friends.
Don and Carol loved the winery and bistro so much; however, they were starting to feel that they were no longer wanting to run this continuously growing winery. “One day when Dennis was in town we were sitting talking about the winery and how I would hate to see it go especially to someone that did not have history and knowledge of the winery,” said Don. This was the day that Dennis Minchella stepped into his heritage and became the new CEO of Kokopelli Winery.
“My entire youth I worked at the pizzeria my Dad owned and I enjoyed working with him, but now I would be stepping into his shoes and running this company that he created,” said Dennis. It did not take long for Dennis to pick up his Italian roots and start where he left off when he was a boy as the 4th generation Italian winemaker. “I remember the days when I use to help Grandma Josephine making wine, my favorite part was getting the little tastes that came along with it,” said Dennis.
Dennis and wife Melissa were headed out west to become the new winemakers of Kokopelli Winery. “I have always dreamed that one day I would be able to leave something for my children to take over and run and that is exactly what Dennis and Melissa have done with the winery and bistro,” exclaimed Don. The Chandler Bistro went from a lunch café to a full time restaurant. Dennis had been working in the restaurant industry from the time that he was just a young boy working at his Dad’s pizzeria. The restaurant has become a home for Dennis. He has worked every position in the restaurant industry and has finally made his way to CEO of a company.
Since Dennis and Melissa have taken the reigns many changes have been made, but none of them that have had any guest complaints. They started monthly festivals at the Chandler Winery such as the Kokopelli Krush, Days of Wine and Roses, and our Italian American Festival. They also have started doing annual vineyard tours to see the Bonita Springs Farm were you will learn the history of our grapes and get to walk through the vineyards with none other than Dennis and Don as your tour guide. Melissa started bringing the jazz into the Bistro because what goes better with a glass of wine than some smooth jazz. Each weekend starting Friday night a new musician plays at the Bistro. Dennis and Melissa did not stop with just improving the experience for our guests, but they also brought a whole other restaurant to the valley.
Kokopelli Winery and Bistro continue their growth throughout the state, as the wines are available in over 550 retail locations and by online orders. We strive on making your dining experience with us one that you will never forget and will come back to time and time again whether its with family or friends. We cherish you as our guests and thank you for your continued support and business.