Before researching this trip, we knew nothing about Arizona wines; did not even know people could and were growing grapes. But grapes seem to especially like the parts of Arizona’s high desert weather conditions, referred to as the Diurnal Effect — the huge swing in temperatures between day and night. They also seem to like the volcanic soil found near Willcox, where the vast majority of Arizona grapes are grown.
Wineries are big business — and growing like weeds in Arizona — doubling in the last five years to more than 100 certified wineries. Back in 2003, there were only five.
We visited all three Arizona Wine Trails: The Sonoita and Willcox Trails in southeastern part of the state, and the Verde Valley region in the central part of the state. Our favorite wineries from these areas include: Javelina Leap Vineyard, Merkin Vineyards, Burning Tree Cellars, Carlson Creek Vineyards, Cabal Cellars, Sonoita Vineyards, Callaghan Vineyards, Coronado Vineyards, Keeling Schaefer Vineyards, Chateau Tumbleweed Winery, and Passion Cellars.
Be prepared to taste new and exciting varieties and flavors. Arizona wines are like nothing we have ever had. For example, the Zinfandels down here are nothing like California Zinfandels — and yet we enjoy them both.
But the biggest and most pleasant surprise of the trip was a visit to two wineries in Kingman, AZ, a town we had not planned to visit — and two wineries that get no mention in the Arizona wine buzz…
We found wonderful wines and wonderful people at Cella Wines and Stetson Winery; both Carlos Cella and Don Stetson opened their wineries on a non-tasting day to let us come by and sample some of their fine wines. Cella makes no dry wines, and so we pretty much loved all the wines we tasted, but especially the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013 Zulma’s Moscato, and 2012 Jennie’s Ruby Wine Blend. At Stetson, which has cute names for their wines, we especially liked the 2016 Pink Pistol Rose, 2016 Cactus Flower Arizona Red, and 2016 Cultured Cowgirl Malbec. (By the way, Ran used to teach at Stetson University, so there was no question we were tasting there!)
Finally, we have to give a shout out to a passionate friend we met along the way. If you are interested in delving deeply into wines, check out Cody’s blog: The Wine Monk.
Stay tuned for the last of our Arizona travels.