Take some time to enjoy Arizona wine, grown from the vineyards all throughout the state.
The Arizona Office of Tourism has divided the state into three definitive wine regions. Think you can visit them all?
Situated two hours north and 2,000 feet in elevation above Phoenix is Verde Valley. Vineyards are scattered all throughout the region—from Jerome to Sedona—where visitors can participate in wine tastings, try Southwest-themed food pairings, and explore small-town Arizona, wine in hand, during a number of seasonal events.
The Cottonwood Chamber of Commerce has even established a Verde Valley Wine Trail Passport, boasting 25 wineries ready for exploration.
Claim to Fame: Caduceus Cellars, located in Jerome, is owned by Maynard James Keenan. Metalheads might recognize the name, as this descendant of winemakers is also the vocalist for the Grammy Award-winning band Tool.
Extended Stay: In addition to wine tasting and vineyard tours, Page Spring Cellars in Cornville offers visitors a chance to relax with yoga and a creekside massage.
Tucked just south of Tucson and just north of Mexico lies Sonoita Valley, the only region in Arizona recognized as an American Viticulture Area by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. The designation as a viticulture area—meaning the region is scientifically suitable for the study and cultivation of grapes—allows vintners to put the AVA designation on their wine labels, and, according to the TTB, allows them to “describe more accurately the origin of their wines to consumers and helps consumers identify wines they may purchase.”
The AZ Wine Magazine describes the Sonoita region as “home to several wineries that offer some of the best wines found outside of France.”
The Sonoita Elgin Chamber of Commerce has mapped out 17 wineries along a 10-mile stretch of Arizona State Route 82, where visitors can explore at their leisure, or take a more structured approach with an official wine tour.
Claim to Fame: Sonoita Vineyards is not only the first winery to open in Sonoita but also the oldest commercial winery in Arizona. Their wine was selected for former President George W. Bush’s Inauguration Gala in 2001.
Extended Stay: Looking for a little rhythm to go with that wine? Sonoita’s AZ Hops and Wine hosts free live concerts every Saturday night.
In the southeastern reaches of the Sonoran Desert lies the Willcox wine region, where an array of vineyards have been planted at the Chiricahua Mountains, Dos Cabezas Mountains, and Dragoon Mountains foothills. Locals claim that more grapes grow in Willcox than every other wine region in the state combined.
Willcox also has a Wine Country Travel Passport. The full passport costs $40 and offers the wine-curious over 100 special deals for 12 wineries in the area. For those looking for a passport-free experience, Wines of Willcox has put together a map featuring 21 vineyards and tasting rooms.
Extended Stay: For those looking to get in touch with nature on their wine-laden escapades, look no further than the Harvest Festival at Pillsbury Wine Company. This year’s festival will be held Sept. 5. For $15, attendees can camp out at the vineyard, and for an additional $75 per person, enjoy a glass of the vineyard’s own along with a meal prepared with all local ingredients.
Emerging Wine Regions
While Arizona’s main wine regions could take a week or more to explore, the Arizona Office of Tourism has identified three smaller regions that would only require a day or two to fully enjoy. While not as robust in offerings as Verde Valley, Sonoita Valley, or the Willcox area, these have made their way on the state tourism agency’s Arizona Wine Passport.
The passport boasts one winery from Kingman: Cella Winery. Built in 2007, this winery is situated just north of Route 66, and invites visitors to, as the website states, “taste our large selection of wines, help in the vineyard, or just hang out.”
Young, Arizona, might have more grapes than people: With a population of 666, this small town is home to the only winery in Gila County featured on the Arizona Wine Passport. Details are sparse on this vineyard, but what is known is that reservations are required, and for $10, guests can also reserve a meet-and-greet with the neighborhood llamas.
Last to make it on the passport is Maricopa County, where six wineries dot the Valley from Scottsdale to Peoria. Wines produced statewide can be found right here in the Phoenix metro area, so if a trip to the far reaches of the state isn’t possible, wine lovers have a variety of options right in their backyard.
Have you visited any of Arizona’s wineries? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you plan to check any out in the near future, make sure to call ahead to confirm hours of operation and make a reservation if necessary, as availability may be limited due to COVID-19 restrictions.
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