Arizona has three wine-growing regions—Sonoita and Willcox in the southern half of the state and Verde Valley in the northern half—but only one American Viticultural Area (AVA): Sonoita. An hour drive from Tucson, Sonoita’s high desert remains cooler in summer months, with average temps well below the century mark, making it the perfect year-round vineyard touring getaway.
As you meander your way through the rolling hills along narrow roads beneath a clear blue sky, be sure to include pours from these six wineries into your tasting itinerary.
Begin with one of the southern-most vineyards, and take in the unmatched hilltop view. Sonoita Vineyards opened its doors in 1983 as the first commercial vineyard and winery in the state, and winemaker Lori’s grandfather, Dr. Gordon Dutt, is considered the grandfather of the Arizona wine industry.
Flying Leap Vineyards
Operated by several Air Force veterans, this vineyard produces a diverse lineup of wines. Step up to the tasting bar and be sure to try the Trio (white) and Head Over Hills (red). A distillery is slated to open adjacent to the tasting room spring 2016.
Kent Callaghan’s wines have been served in the White House on three occasions and have a laundry list of awards to their names. Despite the many accolades since the vineyard’s founding in 2009, the tasting room remains as unpretentious as any along the Sonoita Wine Trail.
Chat with the winemaker himself inside a stunning tasting room at Kief-Joshua Vineyards. The family vineyard hosts several tasting classes, wine festivals and live music at the vineyard during summer months.
Wilhelm Family Vineyards
Tucked off of the main road, Wilhelm’s quaint tasting room offers an extensive list of white and red dessert wines, and the sweeter (and warmed) German-style Glühwein is a must-try.
AZ Hops & Vines
End your tasting tour on the patio sipping a glass of Amanda Cabernet and partaking in a game of horseshoes. Keep an eye on the AZ Hops & Vines event calendar throughout the year for one-of-a-kind happenings like the summertime Bad Decisions Campout with wine, beer, bacon and chocolate, planned in accordance to the Perseid meteor shower.