When I first moved to Tucson in 2007, I had no idea that wine could be successfully produced here. With the parched climate in the high desert it does seem an unlikely proposition. However where there’s a will there’s a way, and thanks to irrigation, wine is now flourishing here in Arizona.
The first attempts to grow grapes in Arizona were made by Franciscan missionaries in the late seventeenth century, but the state’s modern wine industry didn’t emerge until the 1980s.
There are three major growing regions. The first is in southern Arizona, in the Sonoita/Elgin area. The Wilcox area in Cochise County was the second area to come on board. And now the Verde Valley is the third region for growing grapes.
Located an hour south of Tucson, Sonoita is Arizona’s only official AVA. The greater Sonoita/Elgin area offers 12 tasting rooms. They are Rune Wines, Dos Cabezas Wineworks, Wilhelm Family Vineyards, Rancho Rossa Vineyards, Callagan Vineyards, Flying Leap Vineyards, Kief-Joshua Vineyards, Village of Elgin Winery, Sonoita Vineyards, Lightning Ridge Cellars, Hannah’s Hill Vineyard and Silverstrike Winery.
Located in Southeastern Arizona, the Wilcox area produces the highest quantity of grapes in Arizona. Currently there are 11 tasting rooms. They are Gallifant Cellars, Keeling-Schaefer Vineyards, Carlson Creek Vineyards, Coronado Vineyards, Lawrence Dunham Vineyards, Zarpara Vineyard, Golden Rule Vineyards, Pillsbury Wine Company, Passion Cellars and Bodega Pierce/Saeculum Cellars.
The Verde Valley Region, located next to Sedona, is host to 12 tasting rooms. This area can be enjoyed as a quick day trip from Phoenix or from Tucson you can make it a fun overnight or weekend excursion. The Wineries are, Alcantara Vineyard, Caduceus Cellars, Arizona Stronghold, Pillsbury Wine Co., Page Springs Cellars, D.A. Ranch, FourEight Wineworks, Oak Creek Vineyards, Javalina Leap Vineyard, Passion Cellars, Burning Tree Cellars and Chateau Tumbleweed.
These wine trails can be found on a website called <arizonawine.org/growingRegions>. All told there are over 100 wineries in Arizona, growing a wide variety of grapes, including, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Concord, Counoise, , Gewurztraminer, Grenache, Malvasia, Merlot, Mouvedre, Muscat Canelli, Nebbiolo, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Viognier and Zinfandel.
I invite you to get out and explore the wealth of wines being produced in our state.
“Men are like wine – some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age.” ― Pope John XXIII
This month our White Wine of the Month is Pierre Chainier 1749 Sauvignon Blanc. It’s a 2013 vintage, from Loire, France, with citrus fruit, beautiful balance and crisp acidity. Our Red Wine of the Month is Dona Paula 2013 Malbec, from Mendoza, Argentina, with soft red fruit, herbal notes and a velvety finish. Wine club members please come in and pick up your wines before they’re gone. We have some great tastings coming up, with the change of temperatures, the patio should be very pleasant. I hope to see you all on Friday nights.