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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
PIN To Pinterest: