Arizona Wines-Taste of Arizona
Yes, world! Arizona is a great place to grow grapes! Moreover, celebrated winemakers have poured their considerable talent, energy, and expertise into creating an outstanding product. Though Arizona wines are flying below the national radar, bottle by bottle the state’s winegrowers are introducing the vibrant tastes of Arizona wines to oenophiles around the world. Arizona wines have appeared in fine restaurants and at the White House. Our winegrowers and their partners in the community continue to spread the word about our maturing wine industry. Winemaking presents an exciting economic opportunity for Arizona. One of the most popular forms of agritourism, vineyards, tasting rooms and wineries draw revenue and employ local workers. Wineries fuel support for businesses like hotels and restaurants, which also employ locals. Visitors to these areas have an opportunity not only to taste wine, but to experience a beautiful state park, museum, or other area attraction. In addition, wine as a finished product has a much higher value than the grapes used to make it. Grapes grown in Arizona become wine in Arizona. By creating this end product in-state, Arizonans are transforming a crop into a high value specialty product with economic benefits that stay in the community.
The Taste of Arizona
Arizona’s wineries produce distinctive whites, reds, and blush wines. While you’re unlikely to find a classic Merlot, the complexity of flavors and blends is extensive. Paula Woolsey, CSW, wine educator at the Southwest Wine Center at Yavapnai College and national sales manager for Arizona Stronghold & Caduceus Cellars, writes, “Right now, there are several wine styles and grape varieties that people are working with. At this time, it would be difficult to nail down (in terms of grape variety) what Arizona wine is all about. But if I had to narrow it down based on my observations, I'd say that Viognier, Malvasia Bianca, Chenin Blanc, and unique aromatic white blends dominate the highest quality wines in the white wine market, and Rhone-style reds were also drinking quite nicely (the Syrahs and the Rhone-style blends).”
Winemaking is an exciting process of discovery. The character of Arizona wine is constantly evolving. Many regional winegrowers are cultivating lesser-known varietals to experiment with style, acid, and taste. Some viticulturists are bypassing well known grape varieties to discover strains that develop well in our climate and soil types. This means that when you come to an Arizona winery, you may experience an entirely original blend of wine.
Late summer marks the beginning of the Arizona grape harvest. From August through October, winemakers are reaping the mature fruit celebrating the year’s crop with a number of festivals and events. Individual wineries hold tasting events and tours and regional tastings showcase a variety of producers. Harvest Fest, held in Elgin in August, sparks the harvest season at Sonoita Vineyards. On Fridays in the summer and fall, catch a ride on the Grape Train Escape in the Verde Valley, a theme ride of the Verde Canyon Railroad that pairs wine and food with a tour of the beautiful red rock country. The Willcox Wine Festival in late October features two days of local artists, food from local restaurants, and, of course, local wines. Don’t miss the Great Arizona Grape Stomp, a series of 5K races held throughout the month of October in the Verde Valley, Sonoita, Willcox, and Fountain Hills. Tastings are held year round throughout the state, and many tasting rooms are open throughout the year.
Find more festivals from the Arizona Wine Growers.
Information from Dos Cabezas Wineworks, Arizona Stronghold Wines, Yavapai College, Arizona Vines and Wines, the Arizona Wine Growers Association, the Verde Valley Wine Consortium, Verde Valley Wine Trail, Willcox Wines, Southern Arizona Group Tour Planner.