Arizona may not seem like your typical winemaking region, but its high desert produces a climate similar to Mendoza, Argentina. Hot during the day with cooler temperatures at night – a perfect setting for growing grapes. Most of Arizona’s vineyards can be found between 4200 and 5200 feet in northern Arizona’s Verde Valley, in Sonoita and Elgin in southern Arizona, and in the greater Willcox region of Cochise County in southeastern Arizona.
Although the Spanish missionaries have produced wine in Arizona since the 1700’s, the modern state of Arizona wine started in 1973 in Sonoita at the southern end of the state. The wine industry is in bloom and in 2008; sales, fruit production and new business started had all increased by 400% since 2003. Red wines produced in the region are well priced, with Page Springs Cellars’ Vino del Barrio 2009 available at $15 a bottle, Dos Cabezas’ Toscana Red Blend at $24 a bottle and Callaghan’s “Black Lot” Red Blend 2008 at $25 a bottle. A white wine, Callaghan’s Anne’s Blend, was priced at $22 a bottle.
Restaurateurs in the region, keen to promote local wines, will offer local wines and boast as it is being poured. One of Scottsdale’s most popular new restaurants, FnB, remains loyal to the local industry. Chef/owner Charleen Badman and partner/wine steward, Pavle Milic, is an example of such loyalty. Badman has been quoted for saying that Keeling-Schaefer’s Three Sisters Syrah 2008 won over a very famous French wine during a blind tasting of red wines from Arizona. I don’t think the participating chefs and wine experts could believe this after discovering the Arizona wine was priced at only $18. Wonder what the people from Chateau Lynch-Bages had to say. Seems the wine industry in Arizona has endured the desert heat, the sands of time and fierce competition.