Explore Arizona’s Wine Region
You might not know it, but Arizona produces some really great wine. Our wines have been served in the White House and at James Beard dinners in New York, and they’ve earned ribbons and won medals just like some of the more famous wine-growing regions in the country.
Napa Valley can eat its (delicious, rave-worthy) heart out. There are about a dozen wineries that are making just-as-good, if not better, wines in Sonoita, Arizona’s southern wine-growing region. Most wines produced in Sonoita can be purchased at AJ’s Fine Foods, local beverage shops like Arcadia Premium, or ordered at Valley-area restaurants including FnB, Tarbell’s, and Beckett’s Table. Despite a tough climate, legal challenges, and living in the shadow of other well-recognized wine-growing areas in the country, Arizona wine has taken off in the last decade.
A crash course in Sonoita’s roots
Sonoita is located 161 miles south of Phoenix, about 50 miles south of Tucson, and a little over an hour southwest of the wine-growing region of Wilcox. Sonoita’s roots in wine date back to the 16th century. It also happens to be the first region in Arizona to have earned the American Viticultural Area (AVA) designation. Today, Wilcox also has an AVA designation.
Just because we were among those who did it first, doesn’t necessarily mean we’ve been on top. It was illegal to grow grapes for wine in the Copper State between 1915 and the 1980s, and there have been roadblocks since. One of those comes in the form of climate. In Sonoita, the vineyards are perched at heights ranging from 3,800ft up to 6,000ft. The hot, dry climate is as brutal to vines as it is to delicate human skin — winemakers say it’s very easy to kill vines in this area if you’re not careful and diligent. If only keeping vines healthy were as easy as wearing sunblock and moisturizing.
The birth of Sonoita
The growing conditions are important when creating any wine, anywhere in the world. Not only do we have a very unique (read: rough and fairly unforgiving to plants and people alike) climate, but we have unique soil. Unlike the excruciating sun and whipping wind, our dirt is something scientists and wine growers from around the world could get excited about. In fact, expert vintners compare the soil in Sonoita to France’s Burgundy region.
Soil scientist Dr. Gordon Dutt is the grandfather of Arizona wine and saw Sonoita for the lush growing region it is. After testing soils from all over the state, he planted his first vines in the Sonoita soil in the early 1970s. Dutt thought that the soil and the arid climate would make the best wines possible — and he was right. Dutt’s first commercial vineyard, Sonoita Vineyards, now grows fantastic merlots, cabernet sauvignons, syrahs, petite sirah, and sangiovese, among others. But since the first vines took root, there have been some serious struggles.
View original article here on Thrillist to learn more about Sonoita and it’s wine.