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Culinary, Dining, Attractions

Day Tripping and Wine Sipping

February is a great time for a road trip to Southern Arizona’s wine growing region just 60 miles south of Dove Mountain. Many visitors are surprised to find out the deep loam soils in Sonoita and Elgin, Arizona share characteristics found in the Burgundy region of France. The result is some amazing wines.

Grapes took root in the 1600s.

The region has a wine-grape growing history that dates back to 1690 when Jesuit and Franciscan monks brought Listan Preito grapes to southwestern missions. Area ranchers in the early 1970s discovered “mission grapes” still growing on the Sonoita plains at the abandoned Ignacio de Babocamori mission.

Vitaculture officially re-emerged in the 1980s.

Thanks to the efforts of University of Arizona soil scientist and vintner Gordon Dutt and rancher Blake Brophy, Sonoita was officially designated an American Viticultural Area (AVA) establishing a legally defined and protected area for wine grape growing. AVA designation means 85 percent of the wine sold must come from the region listed on the label.

Since then, areas wines have been served at the White House and James Beard dinners and have earned prestigious ribbons and medals.

Wine varieties include:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Malbec
  • Merlot
  • Petite Sirah
  • Riesling
  • Pinot Noir
  • Sangiovese
  • Sauvignon Blanc

Vineyards to visit in Sonoita and Elgin.

Before you go.

Before you head to the high desert grasslands and rolling hills of Sonoita and Elgin to sample some remarkable wines, be sure to contact the individual wineries to confirm that they are offering tours during the pandemic. Many are still offering wine tastings in a socially distanced environment or outdoors, while others are offering curbside bottle sales.

Enjoy the benefits of a retreat to nature.

Not that anyone needs an excuse to go birding, yet environmental scientists and psychologists are increasingly documenting the benefits — mental health boost, stress reduction and exercise — of birding. Whether watching hummingbirds at the backyard feeder, strolling through a tree-lined park or heading up a Tortolita Mountain trail, enjoy the sights, sounds and wonders of our incredible array of feathered friends.

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