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Route of the vine

Fall is the season for road trips – and what more inviting destination than a vineyard!

Photo courtesy of Verde Valley Wine Trail

Photo courtesy of Verde Valley Wine Trail

The number of small, family-operated wineries that have emerged in Arizona over the last twenty years is nothing short of phenomenal. The number of wineries has quadrupled since the late 1990s; a recent count puts the number of licensed wineries at 45. Presumably, as mining and ranching ventures became less tenable, people began to regard the landscape and its productive potential with new eyes. Terrain not suitable for growing agricultural staples is often excellent for viticulture. 

Today, there are three principal wine growing areas in Arizona: the Sonoita region of southern Arizona centered on the towns of Sonoita and Elgin – the only officially designated American Viticultural Area (AVA) in the state; the Willcox region in Cochise County, which produces the greatest quantity of grapes in Arizona; and the Verde Valley region in the environs of Sedona and Cottonwood, which has the largest collection of tasting rooms. The uplands of southeastern and central Arizona also offer attractive landscapes that, along with the balmy fall weather, will make your wine tour more pleasurable. 

The wineries chosen for inclusion here are only a sample of the many wineries in Arizona, but all those listed here are open to the public for wine tastings on a frequent basis and have a focus on “estate” wines, i.e., those produced on the land where they were grown. All their websites provide detailed directions for how to get there and most supply the names of other nearby wineries and attractions. Novice wine tasters are encouraged to check out Wine Enthusiast magazine’s website at winemag.com/how-to-taste-wine.


Sonoita AVA

Kief-Joshua Vineyards

370 Elgin Road, Elgin, AZ 85611; 520-455-5582; kiefjoshuavineyards.com

Tasting room is open seven days a week, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Cost: $8 (with souvenir wineglass); $5 (if you bring your own glass)

Vintner Kief Manning, who usually hosts the wine tastings, is a champion of environmentally friendly farming. His vineyards are free of herbicides and pesticides. Sustainable practices, such as attracting wild, predatory birds to control animal pests and letting sheep do the majority of the weeding, are employed. Manning also adheres to traditional methods of barrel aging. The proprietor also conducts private wine tasting events organized around special themes such as the proper techniques of wine-tasting and how to pair food and wine.

Callaghan Vineyards

336 Elgin Road, Elgin AZ 86611; 520-455-5322; CallaghanVineyards.com

Tasting room is open Thursday through Sunday, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Cost: $10 for six wine tastings (and 21 oz. wineglass)

Owner/vintner Kent Callaghan, with a Ph.D. in philosophy, was one of the pioneers of the “new wave” in wine-making, having established his winery early in the 1990s. Their consistently high-rated wines were chosen for official White House dinners on three occasions. Callaghan is an inveterate experimenter with varietal blends and the November wine tastings feature new red wine releases. Visitors to the tasting room can get a glimpse of the wine-making process and, perhaps, have a chance to chat with the owner. 


Willcox area

Coronado Vineyards

2909 E. Country Club Drive, Willcox, AZ 85643;  520-384-2993; coronadovineyards.com

Tasting room/Tapas Lounge open Monday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., and on Sunday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Cost: $7 for six wine tastings (includes souvenir wineglass)

In 2005, managing partners, Mark and Jacque Cook, planted the first vines at El Pinito vineyard on a former golf course. Today, the winery offers a heady selection of beverages including their signature Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese (reds) and Chardonnay and Reisling (whites), as well as a number of dessert wines.

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This Article appears on the November 2013 issue of LPM under Fitness

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