Somewhere south of Tucson…
An adventure awaits those who are willing to seek out the origin of great viticulture; from a sandy, often desolate in appearance, developing wine industry, the spread of and cultivation of grape vines beyond where most ordinary humans would dare venture is perhaps the most alluring quality of these never-pampered, always polished, Arizona wines.
But being a cowboy or girl during an era where modernization is the metaphor for marrying consumer with cultivator may not be enough. In fact, there are those who have already made efforts to change the way we think about emerging wine industries, pushing the scope of limitations far beyond who-would-of-thought-you-could-actually-grow-grapes-in-the-desert; if you weren’t already aware, several if not most Arizona wineries have received high-standard accolades such as double gold medals in international wine competitions… And they’ve been accumulating these dangling coins for several years now.
That’s not to say there isn’t an immense amount of work ahead, in fact, if you keep a close ear on the drivers of this industry, that’s mostly what you’ll hear: “who are we?; where do we go from here?; what’s going to take us to the next level?” And it goes beyond just talk. These individuals are well aware that defining these parameters is going to take several decades. Sadly, some critics have interpreted this in the most premature sense, choosing not to review Arizona wines altogether. I imagine the same was said about California, Washington, Oregon, New Mexico, Texas, Baja, New York and so on, all of whom boast stunning lineups of world class wines.
For now, if you don’t feel like rumbling down the rocky “driveways” to taste these wines, Cottonwood, AZ less than two hours north of Phoenix is home to several tasting rooms, showcasing some of what Arizona has to offer, including a college contributing to research efforts and training the future men and women who will lead the region in quality wine production. Here, and just beyond (Jerome, Verde Valley, Cornville, Sedona) you’ll be able to taste wines made from grapes grown near the Mexican border all the way up to Chino Valley.
And if you’re a skeptic, still wondering why you’re paying “top dollar” (withholding further sarcasm) for some of the best, incredibly small production wines this state has to offer: seriously, open a new tab and spend five minutes Googling the cost of cultivating land, developing a vineyard, trellising vines, buying large-scale operative equipment, purchasing water rights, laying irrigation, waiting for your grapes to be mature enough to be turned into wine before you can even think about making or selling your first bottle, legal costs, production facility costs, hiring employees, marketing (haha), and just keeping the power on so your wine doesn’t turn to swill while your ac units combat the 110 degree weather outside. Otherwise, just chill out and go drink some of the great juice coming out of Arizona.