Now, where were we? In Part 1, we visited the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve and Paton's Bird Haven for some birdwatching and enjoying nature. After lunch and watching the UNC Tarheels lose in their ACC tournament game (boo!), we hopped into the car and made the 13-mile drive up (and I do mean up!) to Sonoita, aka "Wine Country"!
Although only a few miles up Highway 82, Sonoita looks like an entirely different world from the green trees of Patagonia. At this slightly higher elevation (5000' vs. 4000' in Patagonia), it's all grassland and mountains, with large tracts of lands scattered with Santa Fe style homes. It's very pretty and definitely "big sky" country.
There are numerous vineyards and wineries in the Sonoita-Elgin area of Arizona. According to the Wilhelm Family Vineyards website,
This high desert mountain plateau south of Tucson enjoys a unique climate, soil and growth season similar the wine growing regions of Rioja, Spain and Rhone areas of France.
I certainly didn't know that southern Arizona was a wine-producing area until we traveled here. I love what you learn when traveling. There's even an official "wine trail" here. (Image from arizonawine.org).
Ahead of time I'd picked out a couple of wineries to visit. Unlike some wineries we've visited in the past, there are no free tastings here, so we had to stick to a budget if we hoped to purchase any wine. The going rate for a tasting seems to be $10 (per person) and you get to keep the glass, or $5 if you bring your own glass. Since we don't need any wine glasses to have to transport around with us, we brought a couple of glasses from the house, safely wrapped in a towel.
The first winery we visited was Wilhelm Family Vineyards, a small family-run vineyard and winery (#3 on map above). I was interested in this one because their website notes that they offer some fruit sangrias and sweet ports. Although I generally prefer dry whites and Barry dry reds, we both enjoy a sweet "dessert" wine from time to time, especially with chocolate. And they present an interesting variety in a tasting flight.
The vineyards are dormant this time of year.
This winery was hopping. The small tasting room was filled with people and two gorgeous, large weimaraners (father and son). They really liked Barry!
Since there was limited bar space and Barry was driving, he decided to wait and taste at the next winery. I managed to squeeze in at the end of the bar and do a tasting, and I slipped him a couple of sips of mine.
Although the fruity white peach sangria and the sweet ports were delicious, the wines here are pricey (to me anyway!), so I was practical and stuck to purchasing a few bottles of a dry white dinner wine, their award-winning 2011 Albarino.
Our second winery was the newest and trendiest in the area, Hops and Vines (#12 on map above). From what I read on their website, they eventually plan to brew beer but for now are offering wines only. One wine is made with hops, though, and actually tastes a bit like beer!
Arizona Hops and Vines has already made a splash in this area and have become known for serving non-traditional snack foods to accompany each wine, including barbeque potato chips, peppercorn chips, and cheese doodles! But they really know what they're doing: each snack food tasted absolutely perfect with the wine it accompanied and made the wines taste even better. Smart folks here!
We enjoyed all the wines and had a lot of fun at this winery. They even gave us a shot of their homemade fruit sangria after we were through tasting their selection of wines. We purchased a bottle of their dry rose, Unconditional, and two of their Fluffer, a sweeter white that we both loved, surprisingly. Hopefully it wasn't just the BBQ potato chips that made it taste so yummy!
All in all, it was a really fun afternoon and the end of a perfect "funday Friday".
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
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