Callaghan Vineyards (Credit: jnovak83 on Instagram)
It's wine country, without the snootiness. Sonoita and Elgin locals welcome the opportunity to show off the sights, tastes and experiences that they love about the region.
If you're driving on Arizona State Route 82 or 83 in southern Arizona, the towns of Sonoita and Elgin may not stand out much, but stop and explore a bit, and you'll find several standout attractions.
You're probably here for the wine
The wineries of Sonoita-Elgin are the main reason out-of-towners find themselves in the area. It's the first region in Arizona to have earned the American Viticultural Area (AVA) designation, thanks to its rolling hills and cooler temperatures, and there are about twenty wineries here—the view from Rune is particularly impressive.
Arizona Hops and Vines pairs its wines with Hot Cheetos and Fritos, and the events are as memorable as the wine tasting experience, like the Drag Races, an annual LGBTQ+ benefit featuring drag queens sprinting in their best outfits. There's also a late-summer camping sleepover (if the thought of waking up in a tent with a red wine hangover doesn’t terrify you).
Suds and spirits
Wines aside, Sonoita-Elgin are also home to Copper Brothel Brewery and two distilleries. Take a sip of Copper Brothel's craft beers, like the Ivy, a fruit-forward IPA. Flying Leap Vineyards & Distillery's Elgin location distills spirits, including whiskey, brandy and vodka, while the Elgin Winery and Distillery is a must-visit attraction that produces the world's best rum. That's not an exaggeration. Its Ron Regalo De Vida® spirit won the best rum in the world, back to back (2018 and 2019), at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
At the intersection of Arizona State Routes 82 and 83, the Sonoita Fairgrounds are at the southwest quadrant—but, one could argue they're the center of it all. Year-round, the Sonoita Fairgrounds draws crowds, hosting rodeos, horse shows and horse races (the same races where, decades ago, multiple-time Triple Crown winner Bob Baffert got his start). In the fall, the Sonoita Fairgrounds become a cacophony of oinking, screaming, and singing—it's the Santa Cruz County Fair, where livestock competitions, amusement rides and entertainment are combined into one epic weekend. Don't skip the local honey.
Fritos from Arizona Hops and Vines not doing it for you? Maybe the pies at Pronghorn Pizza located at Dos Cabezas WineWorks soaked up the alcohol but you're still hungry? Try The Steak Out, Sonoita's longest-running restaurant and saloon, serving more than 60 years of classics. The setting is as important as the steak—The Steak Out is like a living bulletin board, displaying decades of local history. Read the newspaper clipping of the local who made it onto American Idol, or check out the photos of vintage Sonoita, featuring John Wayne-esque cowboys.