Wines and the Old West? It might seem odd, but, really, it’s quite a match.
You see, Cochise County, the place where Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday made their names known, is also a place that is a great grape-growing region.
And vineyards and tasting rooms keep cropping up.
Cochise County’s town of Willcox, known by many as the hometown of singing cowboy Rex Allen, is at the heart of Arizona’s expanding wine industry. And it has been for years. Wineries from around the state – and California – have purchased Arizona grapes to make their wine since the 80s.
Start your exploration with a visit to one of three tasting rooms in Willcox. These tasting rooms have opened in the past five years – two of them in 2010. Currently, seven other vineyards are in development in the surrounding area.
On the east side of town in a former golf country club is Coronado Vineyards. With its opening in 2006, the dream of owning a vineyard became a reality for Jacque and Mark Cook. Their tasting room offers wines made from locally grown grapes as well as delicious offerings grown on Willcox’s surrounding farms. The Arizona Wine Growers Association has given Coronado Vineyards gold and silver medals for some of their wines. Their tasting room, which has a patio with spectacular views of their on-site vineyard, is open daily.
Open since 2010, Keeling-Schaefer Vineyards’ tasting room is the place to go to sip estate-grown and -bottled wines from the fertile soil of the Chiricahua Mountain foothills. Wine Spectator [[Lindsay, note italics]] magazine gave their wines high marks. Housed in the former Willcox Bank and Trust building, Keeling-Schaefer Vineyards’ wine library is the bank’s former vault. Hardwood floors add to the artfully designed ambiance. While you’re sipping wines, enjoy the art of Trust Gallery, where local artists display their work throughout the year. You can taste Keeling-Schaefer wines Thursday through Sunday.
Carlson Creek Vineyards
Cross the railroad tracks and turn onto Railview Avenue for a tasting at Carlson Creek Vineyards’ tasting room, which also opened in 2010. The recently built bungalow-style buildings here are reminiscent of homey farmhouses. You can enjoy their bronze medal Sauvignon Blanc as well as Sangiovese, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay varietals. Located next to the Rustic Rooster boutique, Carlson Creek’s tasting room is open Thursday through Sunday.
Fort Bowie Vineyards & Orchard Products
Cochise County’s wine offerings are not limited to Willcox alone. Visit Fort Bowie Vineyards & Orchard Products, which offers wines, nuts, fruits and a wide variety of products year-round. Guests can try Arizona Sweet Water, a dessert wine, and Pecan Delight, a sparkling wine with the essence of pecans, in Fort Bowie Vineyards’ tasting room. It is open daily.
Head further south into Cochise County, and you’ll discover another wine tasting lounge, Hoppin’ Grapes, which opened in Sierra Vista in 2013. The shop showcases New World wines at its Fry Boulevard location. Primarily a wine bar, the shop offers daily wine tastings, and its wine list changes frequently. The shop mainly focuses on wines, but also features craft beers. The noshing menu includes cheese plates and desserts, and owner Kristine Wolfe has built a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere with more couches than tables for seating, so guests can kick back with friends and enjoy the tasting experience.
Flying Leap, a vineyard from the Southern Arizona wine town of Elgin, has opened a tasting room in Bisbee at 67 Main Street. Flying Leap Bisbee is nestled among Bisbee’s famous art galleries, restaurants and romantic inns. The beautiful tasting room is located on the first floor of Bisbee’s historic Elks Lodge, which was built in 1910. The tasting room and gallery is a wonderful place for visitors and locals alike, offering award-winning locally crafted Arizona wines and many fine pieces of artwork from renowned local and regional artists.
Silver Strike Winery and Tasting Room
Tombstone, the “Town Too Tough to Die,” is not a town too tough for grapes. The Silver Strike Winery and Tasting Room is located on Allen Street in the heart of historic Tombstone, Arizona, just steps from the famous OK Corral. Silver Strike features Arizona wines made from Arizona-grown grapes from vineyards located 50 miles east and west of Tombstone.
The Willcox Wine Country Committee actively promotes area wines in festivals they hold twice a year. They hold spring and fall wine festivals on historic Railroad Avenue in May and October.
Coronado Vineyards hosts annual events like the Summer Luau in July and the fun Grape Stomp in August. Not to be forgotten is February’s Wine & Chocolate celebration for Valentine’s Day with your sweetheart.
In Bisbee, the Rotary Club puts on its annual Vintage Bisbee event in October. Attendees enjoy wines from around the world and Arizona, plus food from more than 10 local restaurants.
Tombstone and Silver Strike Winery held their inaugural Wine Festival in the Park on November 4–5, 2012. All who attended the past two events are looking forward to the third iteration. Keep your eyes on the calendar on the Cochise County Tourism Council website for dates.
While you’re savoring Cochise County wines, don’t forget to explore some of the county’s famous history and gorgeous natural settings. Visit www.explorecochise.com for more information on this unforgettable Southeastern Arizona destination.
(Brought to you by the Cochise County Tourism Council, www.explorecochise.com.)