- Author: Niki D’Andrea, Leah LeMoine and Craig Outhier
- Category: Features
- Issue: Sep 2014
Picking Your Poison
Arizona wine is rising up faster than a tangle of summer syrah vines. In 1990, there were five licensed wineries in the state. Today, there are 91, with roughly a dozen more due to open by the end of next year – each providing an additional tourism boon to the state’s three main growing regions. Similar but distinct, these high-country hotspots each present a dreamy fall drive.
The Verde Valley really lives up to its nombre: An expansive canvas of greenery stretches as far as the eye can see, interrupted only by the quirky, colorful buildings of Jerome, the misted purple jewels of grapes dotting vineyards, and the cloud-dappled blue sky that feels more immediate than in the Valley of the Sun 100 miles south. Home to well-known Arizona labels like Page Springs Cellars, Arizona Stronghold and Caduceus, Verde Valley is the most amenity-oriented of Arizona’s three growing regions, with a lively nightlife scene in Old Town Cottonwood and sundry art galleries and B&Bs in Jerome. It’s also the closest and most accessible to the Valley – roughly a two-hour drive from Downtown Phoenix.
Located about 45 minutes southeast of Tucson, Sonoita is the only wine grape-growing region in the state to be officially designated an American Viticultural Area (AVA). Deemed one of the top 10 wine trails in the United States by USA Today, it also boasts the densest cluster of wineries and tasting rooms of Arizona’s three growing regions, making it perfect for visitors who want to experience the straw-colored agrarian beauty of the high desert on bike or foot. Home to award-winning labels like Callaghan Vineyards and Kief-Joshua, Sonoita – along with the nearby town of Elgin – also boasts perhaps Arizona’s premie