If you are thinking of purchasing a bottle of wine from the U.S., you will probably think of California. You may have tried Syrah produced in California, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Zinfandel. 80% of wines produced there are red, but you can also get an excellent Chardonnay. However, what about Arizona? It might not be the first place you think of when considering what wine to try, but you will be pleased to know that there are, in fact, 110 vineyards, wineries, and cellars in the state.
In this article, we will be taking a look at the outstanding wineries to be found in Arizona, together with our choice of wines produced there.
The Top Wineries in Arizona
There are many wineries that you can visit and some are located close to two large cities, Phoenix, and Tucson. Close to Phoenix you will find the Verde Valley. It is quite an arty area so you can combine sampling the wines with enjoying the culture. Close to Tucson, there is Wilcox which has some excellent vineyards and also Sonoita/Elgin. You will find popular varieties of wine but you will also discover new and unique tastes.
The Wine Trail of Verde Valley
In the Verde Valley, you will be able to visit more than one winery in a day, in fact, you might be able to pack in three or four. This is because the wineries are close to each other. It is so easy to find which wineries you want to visit. Take a look at Verde Valley Wine Trail on the internet and you will get a printable map, details about the wineries, and the best places to stop off to eat.
Here are our top choices of wineries in the area.
- Chateau Tumbleweed. Chateau Tumbleweed is a small winery situated in the Verde Valley. They produce wine in small batches so you may have to rush to get your choice. However, if you can manage to find it, try the 2013 Dr Ron Bot. It is a red wine and is a blend of Syrah grapes. There are many exciting flavours you will taste when you try it. Surprisingly you may taste roasted vegetables and white pepper, as well as cherries and raspberries. It has medium tannins, medium acidity, and a spiciness about it. A bold wine like this can hold up to the intense flavours of barbecued meats. Steak and roast beef will go perfectly with this wine.
- Page Spring Cellars. Wines here are produced in the style of the Rohne in France. This is a family-owned winery and vineyard, so you can be assured of good service and great tastings. In addition, they offer yoga classes and massages and there is a bar offering food, so you can spend the whole day there. The winery is situated on the banks of the beautiful Oak Creek and you will be treated to fantastic views while you sip your wine.
- Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards. This winery is owned by the rock legend, Maynard James Keenan who turned to winemaking in recent years. The winery is impressive. The tasting rooms are situated in a 1901 hotel that has magnificent architecture. If you enjoy red wine you will like the 2013 Caduceus Nagu al del Marzo that is a Sangiovese blend. It has the flavour of sour red cherries with earthy aromas and a flaint taste of black tea. It has high acidity and medium tannins. It pairs well with spaghetti and meatballs with a red sauce. It also goes well with lamb and a cheese board. If you like this wine, you will probably also like the 2013 Kitsune which is also Sangiovese, but this is made from 100% Sangiovese grapes. If you are a fan, you will be impressed by the fact that Keenan signs all the bottles of wine.
- Four Eight Wineworks. This winery was also founded by Maynard James Keenan and is in another historic building, the Clarkdale Bank Building. The tasting room is luxurious with leather armchairs to relax in while you sip your wine.
Sonoita and Elgin
Now we’ll take a look at some wineries in the Soloita and Elgin area.
- Callaghan Vineyards. The owner of these vineyards is Kent Callaghan and he specialises in growing grapes from Spain. The two varieties he grows are Tempranillo and Grenache. Both produce red wine. Tempranillo has flavours of cherries and leather, while Grenache is a much lighter wine close in flavour to Pinot Noir. Grenache pairs well with stews like pork goulash and braised meats such as beef and even chicken. It is a good accompaniment to vegetarian dishes such as a root vegetable stew. Tempranillo will pair well with barbecued meats, Mexican dishes, tapas, cured meats, and even fish in a tomato sauce.
- Vineyard Cafe Sonoita. This winery has its own vineyards and at the cafe you can indulge in a delicious meal created by Chef, Jon Bollin. You will have the opportunity to try out the wines they produce, as well as beers.
- Arizona Hops and Vines. This is unique in that it is owned by two women, Megan Stranik and her sister, Shannon Zouzoulas. They have a farm where you will find the vineyards. You will find that many of their wines aren’t traditional, but are unique. For example, they have the Drag Queen hopped wine which is served in a beer bottle. They have a lot of ideas and, for example, will serve Moscato with Cheetos. This is a bold move as Moscato is a low-alcohol semi-sparkling dessert wine which would probably be served with a chocolate mousse.
- Rune. Rune vineyards are located in sunny Sonoita and are off-grid solar-powered vineyards. They specialise in wild-yeast fermentation and Rhone varietals. The tasting room looks out towards southern Arizona and the views are magnificent. One of the wines they produce is the Rune Pillsbury Vineyard Wild Syrah. This red wine tastes of black cherries and plums and is laced with violets, cocoa, herbs, and black pepper. It is a great accompaniment for roast lamb or beef gyros.
- Downtown Sampler. These tasting rooms are situated in a 1917 ban in Wilcox’s historic district.
- Wilcox Bench. Three quarters of Arizona’s grapes are grown in the Wilcox Bench area. This area has perfect conditions for growing grapes. The elevation is 4300 to 4500 feet and the winery is in a valley of an old lake bed. Water from the lake bed irrigates the grapes. Wilcox winery has three tasting rooms and there are wines to taste made from any of 20 grapes or a blend of some of them. The winemaker is Michael Pierce who works as director of Yavapai College, home to Arizona’s southwestern wine centre. They produce wines such as Pinot Verdot, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Tempranillo. Their Viiognier is spectacular. It has tastes of tangerine, mango and honeysuckle and pairs well with turkey and chicken as well as fish dishes. It also is delicious served with fruit appetisers such as melon with parma ham.
- Cochise. This is a family-owned winery located in the heart of Cochise County. They have tasting rooms in Wilcox, Cottonwood, and Scottsdale. One of the top wines they have produced is the 2013 Black Diamond Cabernet. It has a predominant taste of black and purple fruits such as blackcurrants, blackberries, black cherries, and plums. It is best served with red meat such as steak or lamb. It also goes well with vegetarian dishes such as portobello mushrooms or pasta with a tomato sauce. Hard cheeses such as mature cheddar, gouda, and gorgonzola are also a good match.
If you are in Arizona and enjoy wine, why not visit one of these wineries. You may experience a new world of wine.
Our Choice of Arizona’s Wines
- Burning Tree Cellars Trademarked 2017 Chardonnay. This Chardonnay is one of the Dos Cabeza best wines produced in Arizona. It isn’t aged in oak so you don’t get that buttery or oaky taste. Instead it is smooth and tastes of white peach, apricot, and apple. It is nice just to drink on its own with nibbles, or with a meal. Try it with shellfish such as oysters, clams, mussels, and prawns, fish, sushi, or a light vegetarian dish such as roasted vegetables or pumpkin soup. It would also pair it with a cheese board. Mature Cheddar and Gorgonzola are good choices.
- Rolling View Vineyards Bodega Pierce Malvasia Bianca. This is a very popular wine. It has won awards and in fact, tied in first place with Burning Tree Cellars Trademarked 2017 Chardonnay in one of these competitions. The Malvasia grape is used to make a rich dessert wine which is made by having pear aromas, other fruits, and spice infused into the fermentation process. This particular wine has notes of citrus, in particular lemon and lime, apple, and tropical fruits such as starfruit, banana, and pineapple. There are also hints of gardenia, lavender, white tea, flint, and chamomile. Although it is a dessert wine, it also pairs well with spicy savoury dishes.
- Dos Cabezas Aguileon. This red wine is a blend of Graciano and Tempranillo grapes and was first produced in 2015. All the grapes are grown in the Wilcox viticulture region. It is generally a wine produced in the warmer region of Spain and has adapted well to the Arizona climate. The grapes used are Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Syrah, and Cabernet Franc. It has a taste of dark berries and is paired well with wild game and pork with an apple stuffing.
- Burning Tree Cellars Colibri Rose. This is another wine that has won lots of awards and is rated to be one of the top rose wines in the world. This may surprise you as roses don’t often win that many awards. You won’t be disappointed if you give this wine a go. It is a wine filled with aromas and tastes of dragon fruit, loganberry, and melon, as well as pomegranate, red cherry, spice, and dried lavender. Delicate cheeses like mozzarella and edam pair well with this wine, but avoid strong cheeses. It also goes well with rice dishes and light pastas. It is also a lovely wine to sip on its own on a warm summer’s evening watching the sun set.
What are the Most Important Things That You Should Be Aware of When it Comes to Wine?
Perhaps you are just one of those people that just pick up a bottle of wine in the supermarket and hope for the best. However, there are so many things you could learn about wine that would make your experience more enjoyable. Think first about the history of the wine. Where were the grapes first cultivated? Were they exported to other parts of the world? What are the conditions that the grapes are grown in? Is it warm or cold, what is the soil like, and how is the wine fermented?
Back in the day, wine was identified by the regions it was grown in, but now, grapes are grown all over the world and you can produce, say Cabernet Sauvignon in France, Spain, Australia, and the U.S. This means that you do look into the wines in more detail on the internet. Some varietals of wines produced in different regions can taste completely different to others.
Let’s now take a look at some factors you should consider.
Which are the Most Popular Wine Regions?
Without doubt, the top three wine producing countries are France, Italy, and Spain, all in Europe. They all have a long history going back even to the years B.C. The majority of wines are produced in these countries, but New World countries have also staked their claim. Grapes have been exported to the US, Australia, South Africa, and South America. Now they all produce excellent wines. However, it is still in Europe that the most varieties of grapes are grown.
How Do I Choose a Good Wine?
If you don’t know that much about wine, it might be more difficult for you to choose the perfect bottle. If you do go into an off-licence, tell them what you like in a wine. Perhaps you have tried wines before. If so, tell them what varieties you have liked in the past. What are the regions or countries that the wines have come from? Do you like red wine, white wine, rose, or sparkling wine? Do you like a wine high in acidity or one high in tannins? Is your preference for a dry or sweet wine or one in-between? If you’re really not sure, go to a specialised wine shop where there will be people who will probably know a lot about wine.
Should drinking wine be a social occassion?
Yes of course it should be. There’s nothing better than inviting friends over for dinner and sharing a bottle or two of wine. If you do enjoy dinners with friends at home, or going out with friends to a restaurant, do a little studying on the internet. Find out which wines go with which foods. It can make you come across as knowledgeable when it comes to wines and perhaps this will aid your journey through wine.
It is a good idea to visit some wineries before holding a dinner party. You will find that the people working there will know a lot about wines and you will be able to ask questions and learn more about wine.
Is my wine going to taste the same the following year?
A lot of wine is supposed to be drunk when young so if you buy a few bottles of the same brand and varietal, it might not taste the same if you drink one bottle one year and then another a couple of years later. There are only some wines that can be aged. Wines with higher acidities and sugar levels can be aged longer. Quality sparkling wines should only be aged for up to two years. The higher the alcohol content the longer you can keep the wine. Fortified wines, for example, can be aged for longer than a white wine.
Make wine a discovery
One thing that you should do is make trying new wines a discovery. The more wines you taste, the greater your knowledge will become. Try out different wineries and go to restaurants that will give you advice on what wine to serve with each course.
More About Wine
Perhaps now is the time to give you some more knowledge about wine in general that will hopefully help you through your journey through the exciting world of wine.
Wine is one of the oldest drinks around. In fact, archaeologists found evidence of winemaking in Georgia from as far back as 6000 B.C. Centuries ago, when the Phoenicians travelled to Europe and the Ottoman Empire and Roman Empire conquered many European countries, they brought wine with them and so wine production spread over Europe.
If you aren’t that knowledgeable about wine , we’ll give you a few pointers here which should make your journey all the more interesting and delicious.
The Colour of the Wine
- The colour of the wine you drink is based on the colour of the grapes that are used to make it. For example, green grapes are used to make white wine, while blue and purple grapes are used to make red wine. It’s not so simple with a rose wine as a mixture of grapes has to be used but you do need a red wine grape to make rose wine.
- There is scientific evidence that a glass of red wine a day can prevent heart problems. On the other hand, a glass of white wine can help you to have healthier lung tissue.
- White wines are made with green grapes that have had their skins removed. Red wine, on the other hand, is made with both the juice and the skins of the purple and blue grapes. This is what gives red wines a bolder and richer flavour. The skins are what gives the red wine its colour. However, when rose wine is made, the skins of the grapes just touch the juice for a few hours in order to give that delicate rose colour. The winemaker has control of the time to remove the skins . It is when the wine has reached the desired colour.
- White wines are lighter than red wines although there are some white wines that are a little richer like an oaked Chardonnay or a dessert wine. Generally, white wines are crisp and acidic, with fruit flavours of citrus and red berries. Red wines can be bold with tastes of dark berries and earthier notes. They usually have higher tannins than white wines which gives them more of a bitter taste.
- When serving red wine, use a glass with a large bowl. This gives the wine more contact with the air, allowing the bold flavours and aromas to be released. However, with white wine, the flavours aren’t as bold so need to be locked in, hence a narrower glass can be used.
The Taste of the Wine
When it comes to tasting wine, there are a few steps that should be followed to ensure that you are getting the full perspective of the wine.
- The first step is always to look at the wine. What colour is it? Does it have high viscosity?
- If you are tasting a red , you should swirl the glass quickly and hold it up to the light. This exposes the ‘legs’ of the wine. A dense wine, high in tannins or sugar will spin around more slowly. It is not so important with a white wine as they are usually less dense, but you will find that a dessert wine, high in sugars, will spin around less quickly than a light white wine such as a Sauvignon Blanc. Basically, when you swirl your wine, you create a thin film of wine on the surface of the glass. When the alcohol in this mixture evaporates, the leftover water-wine mix collects on the glass creating droplets which fall back into the glass.
- Ask yourself lots of questions about the wine and write them down if you like. How sweet or dry is the wine? Is it acidic? Is it bold and rich? Is it citrusy? The questions you can ask are endless.
- You will see flavours and aromas on the labels of the wine bottles. Alternatively, you may look up particular wines on the internet. You might read that wines are fruity, earthy, and so on, but the wines aren’t actually flavoured with anything except for grapes. However, the wine is processed in such a way to bring out these flavours. There are some wines made out of a completely different fruit like plums, but these are a different kettle of fish and a subject we won’t be going into this today.
- The first thing to do is smell the wine. This stage is called ‘in glass’. You need to put your nose deep into the glass as this will give you the complexity of the aromas.
- When you are drinking the wine, remember that there will be an aftertaste. It won’t taste the same as the first sip. This is because salivary juices begin to flow and change the taste of the wine. Proteins in saliva can reduce the bitterness of some wines so it isn’t a bad thing at all. Saliva can also get rid of the astringent taste of certain wines.
- When you are tasting the wine, take a small sip. Drinking the wine in big gulps won’t allow you to taste all the flavours. Then roll the wine around your mouth so you can hit the different parts of your tongue. In this way, you will be able to assess the structure of the wine, that is, whether it is sweet or dry or somewhere in-between. You will also be able to taste the flavours by breathing from the back of your nose.
How do I Decide What Food to Pair My Wine With?
Generally, white wine should go with white meat and fish and red wine with red meat. However, there are times you can break these rules. White wine should be served in tall glasses that aren’t too rounded. If you are serving red wine, use a wide glass. This helps to support the flavours. Sparkling wine and dessert wine go well with desserts.
If you want to host a formal dinner, you should serve lighter wines with the first courses, allowing the wines to become bolder and heavier with each course. For example, a Pinot Grigio will go well with the first course. If you are serving meat as the main course, use a heavy red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon. Desserts go well with a sweet sparkling wine or a dessert wine. You should serve younger wines before older and dry ones before sweet.
Wine should be served at the correct temperature. White wine should be 7 – 10C and reds 10 – 15.5C. To get the right temperature, put white wine in the fridge overnight and then take out 20 minutes before serving. With reds, put them in the fridge for 20 minutes before serving. An alternative is to get a dual-temperature wine fridge.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Arizona have the right climate for growing grapes?
Grapes need at least half a day’s sunshine to thrive. In Arizona, the summer is very hot making it an ideal place to grow grapes although they do need enough water. Most vineyards in Arizona do have an irrigation system. The nights can be cold in Arizona however, but as the grapes originally came from Europe, they can cope with the temperatures plummeting at night.
Where in Arizona are the grapes grown?
The vineyards are in the south of the country, near Phoenix and Tucson.
What methods are used to grow grapes in Arizona?
The first thing to do is break up the soil and till it. This makes it easier to plant the vines. They need to be planted in full sunlight with a good irrigation system. Just dig the holes, making sure that there is room for the roots to grow.
Are grape vines deciduous?
Yes, they are. The leaves fall off in the autumn and start growing back in the spring. You do need to prune the vines in order for them to survive. The best grapes come from vines that are established and not in their first year.
Maybe you were surprised to read that Arizona has a thriving wine industry. The wines from this state are growing in popularity and can match flavours from similar wines produced in Europe. It would be possible to have a wine holiday in Arizona as many of the wineries are close to each other. The vineyards and wineries are beautiful and the wines delicious.