Wander Around Willcox
Wander Around Willcox
Summer is for sipping down south.
By Alison Bailin Batz
Less than two years ago, Willcox Wine Country, a consortium of Arizona Farm Wineries located in southeastern Arizona, was federally recognized as a unique and distinctive wine-growing region in the United States. The Willcox area leads the industry’s grape production by growing nearly three fourths of the state’s wine grapes, and is the source of the most highly rated Arizona wines by Wine Spectator, with 45 wines rated 88-90 over the past five years.
But all too often, locals choose to taste Arizona wines by buying them in grocery and high-end wine stores. Little to many of them know, many of Arizona’s best vineyards have amazing tasting rooms just three hours away, in the heart of what is now known as Willcox Wine County. Here are some tasting rooms and vineyards not to be missed.
Keeling Schaefer Vineyards
Open Wednesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., the owners and winemakers are usually always hand pouring their wines, including their limited releases. They actually share a glass program with Carlson Creek, Coronado, Pillsbury, Passion Cellars, Flying Leap, Aridus, Golden Rule, Bodega Pierce, and other local wineries where if you bring in one of their wine glasses, a tasting is just $5. The surrounding area around the tasting room features abundant wildlife and rare birds. Wine recommendation: Syrah Cochise County Three Sisters 2007. keelingschaefervineyards.com
Now celebrating its 10th year, Carlson Creek Vineyard is one of the largest vineyards in the state with 280-acres located in Willcox, Arizona, just down the road from their original tasting room along the Willcox Wine Trail in the historic town center. Set behind a white picket fence, the Carlson family’s tasting room features comfortable, inviting indoor and outdoor seating. Their vineyard produces a variety of award-winning wines, including everything from Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Grenache Rosé to Syrah, Malbec, Mourvèdre, and Cabernet Sauvignon. They also have a tasting room in Scottsdale. Wine recommendation: Rule of Three. carlsoncreek.com
Aridus Wine Company
Like Carlson, there is a tasting room in Scottsdale for Aridus, which is also similarly family owned. But, if you want the full vineyard experience, visit their original tasting room down south. Their award-winning winemaking techniques create elegant, approachable, and perfectly balanced wines of the highest quality through blending the best of Old World and New World wine styles. They offer tours, private tastings, and more. Wine recommendation: 2015 Grenache. ariduswineco.com
Pillsbury Wine Co.
Now, there is a fabulous Pillsbury tasting room located in northern Arizona––in Cottonwood––but the actual vineyards, and a more intimate tasting room, are down south in Cochise County. Though only open on the weekends, the trip to taste is worth it. It’s a rustic property with a toasty fire burning in a Franklin stove on colder days. They encourage guests to bring a picnic lunch to pair with their wines, and have tables and chairs scattered under the lovely pine and pecan trees on-site, all in full view of the actual vineyard with picturesque mountain views as well. Wine recommendation: Guns & Kisses. pillsburywine.com
There are two southern Arizona tasting rooms worth a look located about an hour apart from each other. The first, located in Elgin, is the original location. Private tastings are offered by reservation only at this gothic Italian space, which drips with elegance. Most tastings are hosted by Kief Manning, the actual winemaker. The winery also has a newer second location in Willcox, where they offer two tasting options every weekend. One is more traditional, while the other is called “wine sense” and is focused on the aromas and “smell memory” of the guests. Wine recommendation: Kief Joshua 2015 Chenin Blanc. kj-vineyards.com
Additional area wineries include Bodega Pierce, Coronado, Golden Rule, and Zarpara Vineyard.
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