Wine Tasting In Sonoita On The Way To Willcox Arizona

Wine Tasting In Sonoita Arizona Willcox.jpg

Another Wine Tasting Experience In Arizona

Did you know there are multiple wine regions in Arizona? We did our first wine tasting in the Verde Valley outside of Sedona.  On a day trip from our stay at the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain, we went wine tasting in Sonoita on the way to Willcox wine region outside of Tucson.

Wine Tasting Options From Tucson, Arizona

When we went wine tasting from Sedona in the Verde Valley, we were told that most of the grapes used in the wineries were from the Willcox area in SE Arizona. We were excited to learn that there was a wine festival in Willcox the weekend we stayed in Tucson.

At a wine tasting event on our stay at the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain, we talked to some locals and they suggested that we visit the Sonoita area for wine tasting. They provided recommendations on several wineries to try. We decided to do wine tasting in Sonoita on the way to Willcox for the wine festival.

Heading To Sonoita

We took Highway 10 east and left the highway and travelled along Scenic Route 83 to head further south. The road climbed steadily higher into the Santa Rita mountains as we headed south. And we saw mountains all around us.

Tucson Scenic Route 83.jpg

Tucson Scenic Route 83.jpg

When we looked at our offline map app, we realized how close we were to Mexico. So we should not really have been surprised when we saw a border crossing station in the northbound lane. All cars were checked. When we left Sonoita later in the day on AZ90, we went through another border check. We were quickly waved through.

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When we got close to Sonoita, we found large fields with cows. The ranches had interesting arches over the entrances. And one fenced property was actually a wild game preserve.

Sonoita and Elgin Ranch Signs.jpg

Sonoita and Elgin Ranch Signs.jpg

Despite signs that welcomed us to the Sonoita and Elgin area, it was really hard to imagine we were in wine country. When we finally started to see a few vineyards, we understood why we had been told that we would find “grapes on sticks”. There were still a lot of grapes on the vines. But most of the vineyards did not look very lush.

Sonoita and Elgin Wine Region Signs - Sonoita Wine Tastings Willcox Arizona.jpg

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Elgin Welcome Signs.jpg

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Our First Stop Was At Arizona Hops And Vines

The first place recommended to us was Arizona Hops and Vines. It was easy to find right off of AZ82.

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Arizona Hops and Vines.jpg

There was an interesting selection of wines available for a tasting. When we asked about the “hops” we were told that they were still trying to get approval from the county to brew wine.

The wine tasting had two prices – with and without a glass. We later learned that the vineyards had no facilities to sterilize glasses. So we bought a wine glass here. And used it when we visited other vineyards in Sonoita.

Arizona Hops and Vines - Sonoita Wine Tastings Willcox Arizona.jpg

The winery was eclectically decorated with fun pieces that seemed to have an early Halloween theme. There was an outside patio filled with what looked like a bride’s party. Chickens and peacocks wandered in the yard. It was a fun spot to visit.

Arizona Hops and Vines Decor.jpg

Arizona Hops and Vines Decor.jpg

Our first stop for wine tasting in Sonoita certainly provided an eclectic flair.

Wine Tasting At Arizona Hops And Vines

We started with an unlabeled wine they were still working on called Imbibe. We were told it was unpasteurized. Later I thought I probably should have paid more attention to that warning.

From there we moved through a series of wine tasting and pairing. We got spicy chips with the very spicy Kardia red wine. The surprisingly spicy Sophia estate Cabernet Sauvignon was not mellowed even when tried with chocolate puffs.

Arizona Hops and Vines Decor - Kardia - Sonoita Wine Tastings Willcox Arizona.jpg

Arizona Hops and Vines Decor - Sophia - Sonoita Wine Tastings Willcox Arizona.jpg

The fun label on the Hallowine bottle made us smile. When we had cheesies with this wine, it remained fruity but much more mellow. It was quite delicious when it was put in the house Sangria with fruit juice.

Arizona Hops and Vines Decor - Hallowine - Sonoita Wine Tastings Willcox Arizona.jpg

My favourite wine was called Keno. It was a blend of Petit Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. It had a nice fruity taste. And went great with my favourite salty corn chips.

Arizona Hops and Vines Decor - Keno - Sonoita Wine Tastings Willcox Arizona.jpg

Our stop at Arizona Hops and Vines gave us our first view of wine tasting in Sonoita.

Wine Tasting At Flying Leap Vineyards

We plotted our route to the next winery. We pulled up to the Flying Leap Vineyards and found a little more robust set of grape vines. And Cabernet Sauvignon grapes still on the vine. We learned that Flying Leap had 8 properties around Arizona!

Flying Leap Winery - Sonoita Wine Tastings Willcox Arizona.jpg

Flying Leap Winery - Sonoita Wine Tastings Willcox Arizona.jpg

The inside of this tasting room looked like a working winery. Barrels with maturing wine were stacked. There was a large bar outside. But the inside small tasting area was packed with people. It was a bit hard to learn much about the wines as we tasted.

Flying Leap Winery. - Sonoita Wine Tastings Willcox Arizonajpg

Flying Leap Winery.jpg

Flying Leap Winery - Sonoita Wine Tastings Willcox Arizona.jpg

We did this tasting without any food pairings. It started with Trio, a tart 2018 white blend with a strong green apple taste. The 2016 Mourvedre, the 2017 Sangiovese and the 2017 Graciano were all too spicy for us without some food to smooth them out.

Flying Leap Winery.jpg

Flying Leap Winery - Mourvedre - Sonoita Wine Tastings Willcox Arizona.jpg

The 2017 Union with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon held promise to be a great wine with food. And the 2017 Big Red Blend was the richest and smoothest we tried. We could understand why this was deemed to be a steak wine!

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We enjoyed the wine tasting at Flying Leap Vineyards. And understood why red wine lovers sent us here. It was a great addition to our wine tasting in Sonoita on the way to Wilcox.

Spirits At Flying Leap Distillery

We were not yet done at Flying Leap. When we walked to the second tasting room, we found the distillery products. This was the second reason we were sent to this spot.

Flying Leap Winery - Distillery.jpg

Flying Leap Winery - Distillery.jpg

The menu for tasting at the distillery changed daily depending on what was available. On the day we visited, they offered 5 tastings. There was one vodka and a series of different brandies.

Flying Leap Winery - Distillery - Sonoita Wine Tastings Willcox Arizona.jpg

Flying Leap Winery - Distillery - Sonoita Wine Tastings Willcox Arizona.jpg

When we asked about the most unusual spirit they produced, we were told it was the lavender-infused brandy. But that was not available.

We did not want to mix spirits on top of wine. So we passed on a distillery tasting. But we definitely would return on another visit to Tucson to try the distillery products. It was certainly a unique stop when we went wine tasting in Sonoita on the way to Wilcox.

Wine Country Around Sonoita

As we drove around the Sonoita area, we saw many vineyards. Several were for sale. We could understand why this arid countryside might make a wine business hard going.

We passed the large Calaghan Vineyard. They produce a wide variety of award winning wines. The vineyards were much bigger and thicker. It looked more like the vineyard we saw when we went wine tasting in Napa.

Calaghan Wineries.jpg

Calaghan Wineries - Sonoita Wine Tastings Willcox Arizona.jpg

We did just a small wine tasting in Sonoita on the way to Wilcox. But it was an area we would want to re-visit.

We Didn’t Make It To Willcox

When we left Sonoita, we plotted our route to Willcox for the wine festival. We were barely 15 minutes into our drive before my stomach started to act up. Something I ate or drank did not agree with me. David did not drink many of the wines since he was driving. And he felt fine.

After another 15 minutes it was clear that I was not going to make it to Willcox for the wine festival. We set the GPS to go back to the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain. But it was a disappointment to miss seeing more wine country around Willcox.

We Enjoyed A Day Wine Tasting In Sonoita On The Way To Wilcox

During 2019, we did a lot of wine tasting. So we were excited when we heard there were wineries in Arizona. On our first wine tasting from Sedona in the Verde Valley, we heard about the wine region around Willcox. We knew we wanted to check it out.

On our stay in Tucson, we started out with plans to head to Willcox for the wine festival. Our detour to do wine tasting in Sonoita on the way to Wilcox, gave us a great introduction to the wines of this area.

We were sorry that we did not make it all the way to Willcox on this trip. But we know we will be back to visit Arizona again. And we now know where to head for wine tasting!

Have you done wine tasting in Sonoita? Do you have another winery to recommend to us?

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42 Comments

  1. Yes! Sonoita and Elgin wine is so underrated. The Arizona wine scene does not get the credit it deserves. You missed out on Calaghan, it is one of my favorites in that region. Be sure to add Kief-Joshua, Wilhelm, Dos Cabeza, and Lightening Ridge to your next visit.

    • Jennifer, We were sorry to have our day cut short when we went to Sonoita. I am sure the Willcox wine festival would have introduced us to another set of great local wineries. Thanks for the suggestions. We will definitely be back to this part of Arizona. Linda

  2. I didn’t know Arizona had vineyards until I visited Sedona. Then I went to wine tasting and discovered that Arizona has excellent wines. The next trip around Arizona will, therefore, the vineyard trail. That’s why I read your post with interest. It’s great to know that there are excellent wineries in Sonoita. Besides, I like its decor. They look so cool. The bottles are also fabulous. I would love to visit Arizona Hops And Vines. Your article is so detailed and inspiring.

  3. Now I learnt something knew, I didn’t know Arizona was known for wine making. I always had it in my mind that was always California for the wine making region. I only started to drink wine recently (not too heavy as I am more of a beer drinker and even then I have cut that down) but I am planning to do more vineyards on my travels and its great to know there are some in Arizona. My Arizona list is getting longer and longer now 😛

    • Danik, We loved finding wineries in Arizona. We love to find different wines. And different winery themes. This bunch was fun. And the spirits at Flying Leap was a nice change that we want to explore more. Linda

  4. What a unique location for wine tasting. The wineries seemed to be just as unique. I have never tried a spicy wine or drank wine with cheese puffs.

  5. Very interesting! I never knew they grow grapes in Arizona since it is so hot. I haven’t come across wineries on our road trips to Arizona or their wines in California, but I will be on a look out after reading this. This definitely gave me a boost start planning a road trip again. I was also interested to read about their wine festival.

    • Paula, I am happy to introduce you to a new wine region! We didn’t know about Arizona wine before we got there either. Hope you get to visit and try some Arizona wineries. Linda

    • I would love to taste this wine and compare it to the well known leaders in wine making to see how climate factors into the grape. I do enjoy wine – both red, white and rose – and visiting wineries is something I always like to do whether it be at home or abroad. I also would love to try that Sangria, hopefully you purchased a bottle, what a great label especially around Halloween.

  6. I haven’t done any wine tasting in Arizona but it sounds like I need to. Definitely interested in checking out brewed wine, such an interesting concept. I’ll for sure have to try out their spirits.

  7. Ah how exciting to go wine tasting? We’ve also done wine tasting in Frranschoek, South Africa recently and tho it was my first time, it was an incredible experience for me ! I haven’t personally been to Arizona but based on your post, looks like a great place to visit for wine tastings! The most interesting part here for me is you get 50% off when you bring your own glass. I think that they’re wine glass is awesome too! and their decorations are pretty!

    • Catherine, We too loved wine tasting in South Africa! We loved the idea of taking your own wine glass. If you find distinctive wine glasses, you can even come home with an interesting collection. Linda

  8. California is home so wine tasting in the Sonoma and Napa Valleys is obviously a big thing! We like discovering new places and checking the local food and wine at the same time. Too bad we did not check Sonoita and Arizona wineries when we were there – next trip!

    • Patricia, We too have done a lot of wine tasting in California. So Arizona was a big surprise for us. Hope you get to try Arizona wines one day. I don’t think they export much so it would have to be on a visit. Linda

  9. I had no idea that there are many wine regions in Arizona so, got really excited while reading your post. My husband and I just started attending a wine appreciation class and we’re very excited to include wine tasting whenever we travel abroad.

    • Clarice, A wine appreciation class is a good way to get started on wine tasting. We are not big wine experts. But we know what we like. And the wineries are always interesting to visit. Hope you get to Arizona one day. Linda

  10. So did you guys end up buying one of the vineyards or what? Hahhahaah…Joking…but that lavender infused brandy did sound delish…I am a huge brandy fan!

    • Mike, The winery business looked like a hard business in southern Arizona. Lots of land for sale. But we were interested to find the brandies too. A nice change of pace. Linda

  11. I actually have never heard of Sonoita and I even lived in Arizona for a few months. Admittedly, I don’t like wine so I know nothing about it but I would have to try the Hallowine. That label and name is clever! I do love how you described each wine and what snack it paired with and how it enhanced the taste. That helps especially people like me who don’t know much about wine!

    • I am glad to have introduced you to a new region in Arizona. We were happy to have gotten a recommendation to try this area. I always love when they do interesting wine pairings. And how different it may make the wine taste. Linda

  12. Sonoita sounds like a great place to visit. I never knew Arizona has vineyards. Though I don’t drink wine, i would still love to check this place out as I love the vibe of vineyards. It’s good to know that you had a great experience there, I will definitely check this place out next time am in Arizona

  13. I wouldn’t have picked Arizona as a wine region so I learned something today! I love tasting the local food and wine when I travel so I would definitely include a few of these wineries when I do my big road trip in the US!

    • Delphine, We were so glad we found that there was wine tasting in Arizona. Always a fun day trip to explore a new wine region. Hope you get to visit when you are in the area. Linda

  14. I haven’t done a wine tasting before, but it sounds like fun. I didn’t realize there were vinyards in Arizona. I would think it would be too dry over there. But I’ll have to check out some wineries the next time I’m in Arizona.

  15. Last year while at Bloghouse I discovered that Arizona had wine. I had no idea! I tasted s few while I was there, and would love to explore of its wine country. Thanks for this detailed introduction to the wineries in this area.

  16. I haven’t ever thought of Arizona as a place to go wine tasting, but it actually seems perfect. What a great selection of places and flavors to enjoy! Hallowine is a fun play on words, too. Ha!

  17. As a wine lover I loved to read your experience about the winery. I mostly prefer going for wine tasting where the wineries aren’t too popular or hasn’t been discovered by many people yet and I had no idea that Arizona has wines too so it fits right with me. I would love to add in the list for my future Arizona trips.

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