Liquid Arizona: The Most Decorated Winery in Arizona

Craig OuthierMarch 18, 2021
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With 42 medals from the San Francisco Chronicle spanning the last three years, plus scads of plaudits from the annual Arizona Wine Competition and other awards, Pillsbury Wine Company can stake a credible claim to being the most-decorated winery in Arizona. And the Willcox-based winery’s single most award-winning wine? According to owner and vintner Sam Pillsbury, it’s his “Guns and Kisses” red blend, which has gobbled up three Double Gold medals from the Chronicle over the last decade. We did a deep dive.

Other Well-Decorated AZ Wines

Page Springs Cellars Colibri Syrah Clone 174

The 2010 vintage of winemaker Eric Glomski’s signature Syrah was the first Arizona wine to break the Wine Spectator 90-point barrier.

Callaghan Vineyards Love Muffin

Kent Callaghan’s white blend – made with a rich, nutty grape called Petit Manseng – snatched a Best in Class award at the 2020 Arizona Wine Competition, and a gold at the prestigious Jefferson Cup in 2018.

Caduceus Cellars Velvet Slippers Club Barbera

The earthy, Old World-style red from rock star vintner Maynard James Keenan (Tool) took home the Best in Show award at the most recent Arizona Wine Competition – but you won’t find it in stores. “Velvet Slippers” wines are allotted for his wine club members.

Pillsbury makes the wine in the style of the Côte-Rôtie appellation of France’s northern Rhône region – i.e. Syrah blended with Viognier, which Pillsbury sometimes supplements with Symphony, a floral New World grape.

“I harvest [my grapes] two to three weeks earlier than the norm,” Pillsbury says, explaining his distinctive style. “That makes them less sweet, but preserves more acid and makes them better to pair with food.”

The result: a sturdy and structured food wine, but also with a faint, pleasing penumbra of floral sweetness. “I don’t make cocktail wines,” Pillsbury says. “But this one you can enjoy by itself, I think.”


“Guns and Kisses” Shiraz

Photo by Mirelle Inglefield
Photo by Mirelle Inglefield
Photo courtesy Kitsune Brewing Co.
Photo courtesy Kitsune Brewing Co.
Beer of the Month
Kitsune Brewing Co. Fox Diver/Hazy

IPA/6.5% ABV
Beer and ramen? We like the sound of that. Such are the dual passions of multi-versed culinarian Tyler Smith, who hopes to open the Kitsune Brewing Co. and Ramen Shop in Cave Creek later this year. In the meantime, Smith has joined forces with Simple Machine Brewing Co. in North Phoenix to can his first generation of brews, becoming Arizona’s first African American commercial brewer in the process. (Know the cans by the elegantly spare, primary-color label design and Kitsune’s signature anime-style fox mascot.) Smith’s four extant beers are headlined by this lush spring sipper, brewed with Galaxy, Mosaic and Citra hops for maximum citrus-stone fruit refreshment. Pair it with grilled chicken or a wedge of Manchego. Or ramen.