Believe it or not, Arizona is home to several hubs of winemaking. Vineyards are located around the state, with several hotspots that anybody can travel to and experience all of their benefits. Where are the viticultural hubs of Arizona, and how did they form?
The History of Wine in Arizona
The Arizona Wine Growers Association knows a great deal about the history of winemaking in Arizona. According to them, wine in Arizona and what would become the southwestern United States began hundreds of years ago during the era of Spanish rule. Wine was first made in Arizona by 18th-century Spanish missionaries for use in mass, likely in the area surrounding Tucson.
After the United States took over the southwest during the mid-1800s, wine production started to expand. Vineyards popped up near Prescott, though a supply of good grapes was very difficult to find.
It was finally in the Salt River Valley of Phoenix where high-quality winemaking grapes became available. By the 1880s, several vintners brought local wine to prominence in the Phoenix area. Quickly areas near burgeoning mining communities ended up being the biggest centers for wine. The upper Verde Valley became the wine capital of Arizona, with vineyards coming to be in Prescott, Jerome, and Oak Creek.
Prohibition put a long-term damper on what was turning into a wine boom. The Prohibition Era lasted from 1915 to 1933 in Arizona. Unfortunately, the wine industry remained damaged and weak for decades to come due to restrictive laws that remained in place after Prohibition ended. In 1980, the Arizona Wine Growers Association formed.
Their goal was to band winegrowers from around the state together to end legal restrictions against wine sales that existed at the time. The group was successful, and the Domestic Farm Winery Bill was passed, legalizing wine tastings and direct wine sales across the state.
Since then, several decades of trial-and-error have led to the hugely successful culture of wine in Arizona that we see today.
The Wine Hubs of Arizona Today
Today, the Arizona Wine Growers Association tells of four main “wine regions” in Arizona. Each one is home to several vineyards that you can go to for wine tasting, tours, and more.
The Verde Valley region is approximately two hours north of Fountain Hills, and includes the vineyards of Prescott, Jerome, Oak Creek Canyon, Campe Verde, Cottonwood, and other communities at the base of the Mogollon Rim. The Verde Valley Wine Trail is a great way to introduce yourself to the best that this region has to offer. Check out the Verde Valley Wine Trail by clicking here.
The Sonoita and Elgin region is located in the Sonoita Valley, an hour south of Tucson. Situated in fertile grasslands between several southern Arizona mountain ranges, the views at these vineyards are stunning. The Sonoita/Elgin Chamber of Commerce has a great map of their town’s wineries that you can check out at their website.
The Wilcox wine region is east of Tucson and includes Willcox, Pearce, Turkey Creek, and other communities based around the basin of the ancient Lake Cochise. The Willcox Wine Country Club has a great list of the wineries in the area, which you can see by clicking here.
Wineries in other parts of Arizona are considered “The Mavericks and Pioneers.” They grow grapes in parts of Arizona where it would not usually be expected. One of the most notable “maverick” wine trails is also the closest to town: the Scottsdale Wine Trail. You can learn more about those wineries on the Scottsdale Wine Trail website.
The wine culture of Arizona is getting bigger and bigger each passing year, and there are so many places to try out within a few hours of town. Fall is actually the best season to experience the most high-quality wine, so the time is right to head to a wine region! Check out the Arizona Wine Growers Association website to learn more about specific vineyards and how you can support wine in Arizona.