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Feb 15, 2017
Arizona’s three major wine-growing regions – Sonoita, Willcox and the Verde Valley – produce some pretty incredible wines, most of which you can sample in tasting rooms at the state’s 30-plus wineries. No matter how much you enjoy the pours, though, all that swirling, sniffing and sipping may get a little repetitive, so make your next tasting stand out with one of these enjoyable wine experiences.
Ever wanted to recreate the grape-stomping scene from I Love Lucy? You can – minus the ensuing grape slinging – at two annual festivals. In July, Sonoita Vineyards holds its annual Harvest Fest & Grape Stomp, complete with wine tastings, food and wine pairings, tours of the vineyard and winery, and live music. Sign up to compete in grape-stomping competitions with prizes for the winner of each heat.
The Great Crush Festival, held every September in Sonoita at Arizona Hops and Vines, also offers tours, wine tastings and live music as well as a petting zoo and homemade sodas for kids. Parents can check their kids in at the teen-supervised Sober Shack while they wait in line for the opportunity to stomp grapes in a barrel.
Kayak to a Winery
For a change of pace, go from the water to a wine tasting with Sedona Adventure Tours. Their Water to Wine experience begins with a one-hour kayak trip down the Verde River, lined with Cottonwood trees, to Oak Creek. (No kayaking experience necessary.)
Along the way, watch for bald eagles and great blue herons soaring overhead, mule deer along the shore and beavers building dams. You’ll put in near a gravel path that leads to Alcantara Vineyards. Once there, use your $20 credit to sample wines or purchase a cheese or antipasto platter.
Horseback Riding Wine Tours
Not much of a water person? Ride to a vineyard instead! Arizona Horseback Experience offers three-hour trail rides daily to Sonoita Vineyards, the state’s oldest and largest commercial winery. Most guests choose to ride during the winter, but you may want to consider an August ride after the monsoon season has greened the grasslands and rolling hills leading to the winery. (Note: The ride does not go through the vineyard.) After dismounting, enjoy lunch and sample award-winning wines before heading back (by shuttle) to the stable.
Massages and Wine
You don’t have to exert yourself to add some fun to the tasting experience. Page Springs Cellars, on the Verde Valley Wine Trail, encourages you to relax with a massage in the vineyard before sampling its wines.
Several massages are offered in the vineyard year-round, depending on the weather, but for the ultimate winery outing, opt for the couple’s premium package that begins with a behind-the-scenes tour of the winery – complete with tastings – before a relaxing 60-minute massage session. Afterward, you’ll be treated to an artisanal stone-fired pizza, a seasonal salad and your choice of one of four wines. End the day with another glass of wine sipped on the deck or creekside.
Page Springs Cellars also offers yoga and hoop-dancing classes seasonally in the vineyard.
Ready to create your own wine? Blendz, located in historic downtown Flagstaff, lets you do just that. For $15, you can choose five varietals from the 20 on tap, and using a wine pipette (basically, a big dropper) and a cylinder, play “mad scientist.” If you’re not sure where to start, staff is on hand to make suggestions, or you can attend regularly scheduled blending seminars to learn how to do it yourself.
Once you’ve created your new favorite wine, take some home. Blendz will bottle your wine and – assuming you took notes on what you added – even design a personalized label with a photo uploaded from your phone’s camera. The full experience costs $32.