Arizona may not occur when thinking about a trip through red wine country, but it is more than worth the journey. The number of Arizona wineries grows every year– and so does the quality of the red wines they’re producing. Vineyards are spreading out throughout the state, and the Sonoita AVA, in specific, provides a perfect day of wine tasting and beautiful landscapes.
Tucson, the house of the University of Arizona, provides a terrific base for checking out Sonoita AVA. The small city brims with wonderful hiking and terrific dining, including lots of genuine Mexican dining establishments. You can stay in the lively communities near the University of Arizona or stash on the edges of town immersed in natural areas.
An hour’s drive south through the craggy Santa Rita Foothills brings you to rolling fields dotted with cattle, pronghorn antelope, and vineyards. The Sonoita-Elgin location sits at 5,000 feet in elevation, which implies cooler temperature levels than the Phoenix valley while still getting a big dosage of sunlight. Temperatures just reach the 80s in summer season and stay pleasant for most of the year. When I visited in mid-November, the sun quickly warmed up the cool early morning and produced a marvelous day.
The desert environment triggers the owners and managers of vineyards to pick their areas carefully and embrace sustainable practices. Pests and molds do not multiply here, allowing a significantly decreased requirement for pesticides. Many varietals grown in more popular vineyards around the globe grow in this area, embracing an unique Arizona flavor due to the particular minerals in this soil. With practically 20 wineries in the area, a lot of choices for red wine tasting wait for.
Keep in mind: The majority of the wine tastings I took pleasure in were provided by the vineyards. All opinions are my own.
Los Milics Vineyards tasting room with Mustang Mountains in background
Picture credit: Los Milics Vineyards
1. Los Milics Vineyards
On my go to, Pavle Milic happily related a fateful encounter he had with a number of diners at his downtown Scottsdale dining establishment, FnB.
Speaking to Mo and Stephanie, his apparent interest for red wine and dream of owning a vineyard convinced them that they had actually discovered an excellent partner for their own dream. They searched Arizona for the perfect area and found it at the base of the Mustang Mountains. Pavle started the Los Milics red wine label in 2014 and received the James Beard Election for Outstanding Drink Program at FnB in 2017.
The vineyards quickly took shape and have grown to produce 13 varietals of white, red, and rosé red wine. Among my favorites was a rosé, which I typically would pass by. The pale ruby rosé, Sandra’s 2021, includes petit verdot and Montepulciano grapes, which give it a distinct intricacy.
A Few Of Los Milics’ white wines are aged in ceramic, cement, and steel containers to impart interesting flavors. Tasting the sample made with the exact same grapes but in various containers highlighted the clarity of the wine from the ceramic urn and the oak tones of the one from the wood barrel.
Tommy and Patricia of Chen + Suchart Studio designed a spectacular tasting space to totally showcase the beauty of the vineyards and mountains. The soaring metal walls contrast the neat rows of vines outside and the comfy elegance within the room. The far end of the triangular space opens to a great view of the Mustang Mountains and “the biscuit” formation at its top. Strategies remain in the works to add casitas and an industrial kitchen to boost your visit.
Tastings are readily available Thursday through Sunday, 11:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Outdoor Patio at Sonoita Vineyards
Image credit: Judy Karnia
2. Sonoita Vineyards
As a soil researcher at the University of Arizona, Dr. Gordon Dutt explore growing grapes in Southern Arizona. He was pleasantly amazed with the taste and acidity of the red white wine developed. He started planting a vineyard in 1979 and opened a winery in 1983.
Sonoita Vineyards remains in the household, with his granddaughter, Lori Reynolds, at the helm. Her warm welcome greeted me and she proudly described each wine in my tasting.
In the previous 40 years, the vineyards have grown to over 30 acres, producing 11 varietals of grapes. The initial 300 gallons of white wine has increased to 10,000 gallons produced each year. Each batch, nevertheless, is little and consists of primarily homegrown grapes, with some included from other Southern Arizona vineyards.
The mountain ranges of Santa Rita, Huachuca, and Whetstone surround Sonoita Vineyards, supplying defense from extreme weather. An outside patio offers ample area to lounge and enjoy the view of rolling fields encompassing the mountains. Lori recommended checking out throughout monsoon season to watch the storms gather and move through. They use camping areas for those wanting to enjoy their see thoroughly without having to stress over driving.
Inside your home, a long bar for tastings is surrounded by memorabilia and fantastic presents for white wine enthusiasts. My favorite red wine, the 2014 MeCasah, is a red blend with a strong, smokey taste. I bought a bottle to enjoy while sitting by a fire and keeping in mind the stunning landscape of the Sonoita red wine country.
Tasting hours are 10:00 am to 4:00 pm every day of the week except Tuesdays.
Outdoor location at Arizona Hops and Vines
Image credit: Judy Karnia
3. Arizona Hops And Red Wines
When going into AZ Hops and Red wines, the spirit of experience and pleasure appears. Fun art work and a wide range of gathering areas welcome visitors to unwind and experience the pleasure that led Megan Stranik and Shannon Zouzoulas to develop a vineyard. These 2 sisters imagined owning a winery and made it a truth.
Megan operated at Sonoita Vineyards and other vineyards in the location to gain experience. Shannon decided to relocate to Arizona, and they joined their families and set to work.
For the tasting, each red wine is put into a small cup in a cupcake tray and coupled with a little bite of sweet or savory food. Each description assists you discover which food would perfectly accompany each wine. I enjoyed The Pilot, a 2018 cabernet sauvignon with a woody taste and tones of dark cherry.
AZ Hops and Wines hosts live music out on the patio area most weekends. The atmosphere is outstanding for gathering with buddies with a background of the surrounding hills and vineyards.
The tasting room is open every day at 11:00 am. Closing time is 4:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 6:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Delighting in the surroundings at Rune
Photo credit: Judy Karnia
As the shadows lengthen and the sun comes down, Rune uses a tranquil setting to unwind the day. The off-the-grid winery focuses on sustainable practices and maximizing the natural beauty. Comfortable chairs are set up in little groups and supply a magnificent view. A small path leads across the grounds so visitors can roam with their red wine further away from the roadway to feel more connected to the land.
The small building uses a short bar to talk with the server and learn about the wines in the tasting. I bought the burrata with roasted cherry tomatoes and settled into a chair ignoring the countryside in the late afternoon light. My server kept a close eye on me and brought out the next selections of my tasting. I lingered over the 2019 cabernet sauvignon at the end of the path, gazing back on the sun setting behind the hills beyond the tasting space.
Creator James Callahan resided in an Airstream trailer while starting the vineyards. He produced his first vintage in 2015 and continues to expand the winery. Each classic sports an unique label that is a masterpiece and shows a story throughout the years. As he expands his varietals, he incorporates grapes from other Arizona vineyards to maintain the taste of the local terroir.
Visit the tasting space Monday– Wednesday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Thursday– Sunday from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm. The kitchen uses sandwiches, charcuterie, and other small bites to gird you for your trip back to your accommodations.
Sabino Canyon Recreation Location
Photo credit: Judy Karnia
While in your home base of Tucson, many activities provide a method to enjoy the natural charm of the Sonoran Desert.
Sabino Canyon Leisure Location
Sabino Canyon Entertainment Location lies at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains, at the north edge of Tucson. Numerous tracks take you through desert scrubland and along a stream or deep into the canyon, with spectacular landscapes in every instructions. A large parking lot, restrooms, and a book shop offer a fantastic starting point. An outdoor cable car carries visitors through the canyon for a 30 or 60-minute trip for around $15. There are also shuttle stops along the way for getting on and off. Purchase the visitor cost online to speed your entryway.
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
On the west side, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum combines a zoo, a botanical garden, and a nature museum. You can watch prairie pets dart in and out of their tunnels at the Desert Meadow display or an ocelot go after a bug on the Cat Canyon path. Wander amongst native plants in the Desert Garden or hike the half-mile-long Desert Loop Path past javelina and coyotes. You can likewise check out a realistic cavern and admire an array of colorful minerals.
The rugged and beautiful landscape of the desert instills an enthusiasm into its occupants that shines through in their work and play. The rolling hills and ample sun develop a perfect environment for growing grapes, and the special soil conditions imbue a taste of Arizona in the white wine. Winemakers here should know their land well and are progressively finding what works well for magnificent white wine. When exploring the Sonoita wine nation, the stories and scenery leave their mark on your memory.