Rarely might one think of Arizona as being a hotspot for wine. The truth is Arizona’s high desert region is ripe for vineyards because of its hot days and cool nights and, thanks to legislation allowing wineries to sell their products directly to consumers, wineries have taken advantage of the opportunity to get the fruits of their labor – so to speak – out to the masses.

“Wine tasting is all about the experience and understanding where and how wine is made,” says Peggy Fiandaca, president of the Arizona Wine Growers Association and owner of Lawrence Dunham Vineyards. “Usually when you visit a boutique winery you are talking directly to the owners and winemakers about their handcrafted product. Their passion and commitment will be evident.” She notes that most of the 92 licensed and bonded wineries in Arizona are considered boutique.

Arizona’s three main growing regions, the Verde Valley, the Sonoita/Elgin area and the Willcox area, offer guests a variety of tours, tastings and wine trails to enjoy. Here is just a sample of a few boutique wineries throughout the state. 

Verde Valley 

Located just minutes from Sedona and its majestic red rocks, Javelina Leap Winery is a must-stop along the Verde Valley Wine Trail. Family owned and operated, the winery provides guests with tasting rooms and tours of the grounds. Plan your visit during the harvesting months (August–October) to watch wine being made, although the tasting room is open every day and tours are offered every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 

Alcantara Vineyards in Cottonwood produces guests red, white and dessert wines. The 2013 Chenin Blanc, with hints of melon and pineapple, offers the perfect summertime respite; the 2011 Rosso Tosca is more reminiscent of fall, with aromas of cinnamon and spices. The tasting room is open daily. Antipasto, fruit and cheese platters; artisanal breadbaskets; and desserts are available for purchase.  

Sonoita-Elgin

Sonoita vineyard_framed.jpgSteeped in tradition that dates back to the late 1900s, Callaghan Vineyards prides itself on producing elegant, crisp wine. In fact, its many accolades include being designated as one of Arizona’s Treasures by Governor Napolitano in 2006 and reviewed by a Parisian newspaper as one of the most interesting wineries in the United States. Visit the tasting room Thursday through Sunday.

Co-owned by two sisters, Arizona Hops & Vines is open Thursday through Sunday and ensures that everyone in the family has a good time. The Sober Soda Shack serves up homemade root beer and fizzy lemonade for the kiddos, while adults imbibe and nosh on bowls of Cheetos, which, oddly enough, pair well with wine. Who knew?

Willcox

Winners of multiple wine competitions, employees at Coronado Vineyards work hard to live up to the hype. Since planting their first vines in 2005, managing partners Mark and Jacque Cook continue to hone their craft to cultivate their signature wines, including a 2012 Riesling that they say “bursts with notes of apricot and honeydew melon.” The Wine Tasting & Tapas Lounge is open daily.

Zarpara in Spanish means to set sail, and that is what Zarpara Vineyard owners Rhona MacMillan and Mark Jorve did when they embarked to Southern Arizona after growing tired of their daily commutes in Phoenix. The addition of an empty nest, a sense of adventure and a deep love of wine created an ideal blend for their new endeavor. Try the 2012 Sangiovese, with red currants, herbal notes, smooth tannins and a touch of spice. The tasting room is open Friday through Sunday.