Arizona wines…really!

Arizona WineryDon’t scoff, guffaw, or snort. Yes, there are good wines being made in Arizona — wines that you could pour for any wine lover and get at least an approving nod. Or even a Wow! (Stay tuned for some reviews of Arizona wines)

The trick to making good wine in a state that we all think of as one big desert is that magical concept called Microclimate. Just like in California, where many areas are too hot to grow decent wine grapes, there are small areas where the climate differs from the norm. These regions are usually created by proximity to cool water (like Carneros’ San Pablo Bay or the Pacific Ocean), but altitude also has an important moderating effect on temperature. If you remember your 6th grade science, you know that the temperature decreases three degrees for every 1000 feet you ascend. So climb to 5000 feet, like in southern Arizona, and you’re way cooler. These high desert areas also have a decently large difference in daytime and nighttime temperatures (experts call this the “diurnal temperature variation”), which is important for creating structure in wine grapes (i.e. well-balanced tannins instead of an overly soft, flabby wine).

But enough of the theory. I’ve explored only a few Arizona wineries so far, but enjoyed what I tasted. My first excursion was to southern Arizona, where the towns of Sonoita and Elgin are the hub of the state’s original wine region. At almost 5,000 feet of elevation, their topography looks more like California than desert Arizona. We visited a winery called Kief-Joshua, which was having a release party for its new Cabernet Franc. They also poured a Tempranillo and a Malbec that were medium-bodied and smooth, but the Reserve Malbec was our favorite. It was a real knock-out, with lots of extraction, rich red berry fruit, and vanilla.

They’re very small production and the wines tend to be pricey (everything $20 or more), but there was a good crowd out, enjoying the party and spending money. We hope Kief-Joshua continues to do well.

Stay tuned for the further adventures of Deb and Chuck in AZ wine country. Cheers!

Posted by The WineLady at 8:10 AM 0 comments

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4 Responses to “Arizona wines…really!”

  • [...] What… you didn’t know there was one? If you’d read my earlier post about the Arizona wine industry, you’d know there are several winemakers producing some good wines from select micro-climates [...]

  • Kudos for posting such a useful weblog. Your weblog is not only informative and also artistic too. There usually are very few people who can write not so simple articles in a creative way. Keep up the good writing !!

  • Linda Knight:

    We have visited most of the wineries in the Sedona-Jerome area and found the reds to be excellent. Noticed a particular peppery taste that was very interesting. What we enjoyed as much as the wine is the small, local, and accessible tasting rooms. Take me back 20 years to California. In Arizona you can tour, taste, meet the makers and enjoy the scenery of Red Rock country as you travel. Indescribable picnic spots and one Alcantara where you can raft to the winery. Also check out Arizona Stronghold, Page Springs, Oak Creek, Javelina, and Cadaceus in Jerome.

    • Thanks for the great comment. I totally agree that the “feel” at the Arizona wineries I’ve visited is so much more personal and inviting than the big corporate wineries in Napa. The rafting thing sounds very cool — I’ll check it out. Cheers!
      Deb at

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