Your Ultimate Guide To Arizona’s Wine Country — Yes, You Can Taste Wine In The Desert
Get in touch with your inner drunken cowboy in Arizona’s wine country.
Among the prickly cactus and the scorching sun, there lies acres upon acres of tough vines that are able to withstand grueling temperatures and still produce some very noteworthy wines. Turns out there is more to Arizona than cactus, The Grand Canyon, rattlesnakes, turquoise, and more cactus. There is wine!
Wine tasting in the desert is not like wine tasting in Napa.
You have to navigate your day driving hours across desert highways while keeping extra hydrated.
There are over 120 wineries in the state (one of them even owned by a famous musician!), so you’ll never run out of places to wet your wine whistle.
You won’t find Michelin-star restaurants or picnic spots in lush gardens, instead you’ll sink your teeth into diner delicacies and sip your wine overlooking red rocks and succulents.
Imagine wine tasting in Westworld, in old towns that still have saloons and tie-ups.
It’s a different experience when tasting wine in the desert, but surely one you will never forget.
What To Know Before You Head To Arizona’s Wine Country
A few insider tips to help you when planning a wine tasting excursion in Arizona.
- Choose which area you’d like to do your Arizona wine tasting in. Most wineries are hours away from metro cities like Phoenix and Scottsdale and could require renting a car and/or hotel rooms.
- Weather in Arizona varies from mild temperatures in the early spring and late fall to three-digit temperatures in the summer and as low as 20 degree temps in the winter.
- Research your Arizona wine tours and transportation before heading out wine tasting. This will allow you to see multiple wineries in a day alongside a knowledgeable guide while keeping you off the road while drinking. There are so many unique ways to get around the wineries including Oregon-trail style wagons and horseback.
- Save where you can by downloading the Arizona Wine Trail Passport app and get discounts on wine, club memberships, gift shop merchandise, and even free tastings. Be entered to win prizes from the Visit Arizona board of tourism when you check into a least one winery on the app. It’s free to download and sign up.
- Research wineries and their varietal specialties. Due to the vast climate and degrees of altitude, a number of wine varietals are grown in Arizona that resemble those grapes grown in Europe — Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, and Viognier. However, depending if you’re solely a red wine drinker or prefers white, there are wineries that are more heavy leaning towards one without many options for the other.
- It goes without saying, but most wineries will ship wine to your door, so if traveling in the summer months, don’t leave the wine in your hot car and instead have the winery ship your wine purchase. Or better yet, you can just become a member of their wine club (more affordable than becoming a wine club member in Napa).
- Bring your own glass. Inquire ahead of time to see if the winery offers discounts if you BYOG (many do). Some wineries offer tastings in branded wine glasses for yours to keep that are in included for an upcharge or they serve their wine unconventionally in paper or plastic cups which might not be ideal for your wine tasting experience.
Where To Stay During Your Arizona Wine Tasting
Once you choose the location of your Arizona wine extravaganza, it’s time to book your hotel.
Scottsdale Wine Tasting
You’re not going to find any wineries in the metropolitan city of Scottsdale (just 18 minutes from the Phoenix airport), but you will find enough walkable tasting rooms in Old Town Scottsdale to end your night passed out drunk at a bus stop — savor those memories!
The tasting rooms are also a great pregame activity before dining at one of the many notable restaurants in the area.
Scottsdale Wineries & Tasting Rooms To Visit:
- Salvatore Vineyards Tasting Room – choose from dry or sweet tasting menu, great Malbec
- Aridus Wine Company Tasting Room – great energy, exceptional Viognier, tasty charcuterie
- LDV Winery – This AZ winery offers primarily red wines, has a knowledgable staff and hosts Arizona winemaker dinners
- Merkin Vineyards Old Town Scottsdale – cool scene, get the bacon-wrapped dates
- Wine Collective of Scottsdale – popular Scottsdale wine bar and store with wines from all over the state
Cottonwood Wine Tasting
A two-hour drive from Phoenix International airport and just 18 miles south of Sedona, Cottonwood is known as the heart of Arizona wine country as it’s the epicenter of the Verde Valley wine region.
Here, you’ll find a number of wineries and tasting rooms to tour and enough outdoor activities (especially the shopping and dining in historic Old Town Cottonwood) to do to make this more than just a wine destination.
Cottonwood Wineries & Tasting Rooms to Visit:
- Cellar 433 – whimsical tasting room, wines inspired by tarot cards
- Burning Tree Cellars Tasting Room – nice outdoor seating area, well-balanced wines
- DA Vines Vineyard Wines – part tasting room/part bistro, dog-friendly patio, live music
- Bodega Pierce Winery & Tasting Room – Looking for award-winning wines in Arizona? This is your place. Also enjoy mountain views and a friendly staff
- Chateau Tumbleweed Winery & Tasting Room – great variety of wines, relaxing views
- Arizona Stronghold Vineyards – memorable Cabernet, bbq skewers, customized tastings
Jerome Wine Tasting
Sandwiched in the middle of Prescott and Sedona, Jerome is Northern Arizona’s largest city (about an hour away from the Grand Canyon).
It’s known as the “wickedest town in the west” because it is the largest ghost town in America that used to be a bustling copper mining town with bootleggers, gamblers and prostitutes.
Now you’ll roam the old west-inspired downtown filled with art galleries, live music, and kitschy gift shops.
The area is home to the most notable winery in Arizona — Caduceus Cellars & Merkin Vineyards which is owned and operated by musician Maynard James Keegan, the former frontman for Tool and A Perfect Circle.
Jerome Wineries & Tasting Rooms to Visit:
- The Original Jerome Winery – rustic-chic winery, picturesque views, family-run vineyard
- Cabal Cellars – small boutique tasting room, wine label art inspired by conspiracy theories
- Caduceus Cellars & Merkin Vineyards – great selection of wine, unique finds in their market
- Coronado Vineyards – great Sangiovese and Riesling, friendly service, nice views
- Passion Cellars – fantastic port wine, red blends and Malbec, dog-friendly outdoor patio
Camp Verde Wine Tasting
Wine tasting is wild in Camp Verde! This wine country town, about an hour outside Phoenix, has the popular Out of Africa animal wildlife park.
There’s also the Native American cultural monument Montezuma Castle.
Camp Verde is situated in the lush Verde River Valley where the environment is more green than other parts of the Arizona offering a winding river home to beautiful blue herons, bald eagles, beavers and otters.
Camp Verde Wineries & Tasting Rooms To Visit:
- Alcantara Vineyards and Winery – this Arizona winery has stunning vineyard views, winery cats onsite, great Moscato
- Clear Creek Vineyard & Winery – vineyard views, plentiful charcuterie boards, great Viognier
- Salt Mine Wine – live music, winery dog on staff, affordable tastings, Italian wine varietals
Willcox Wine Tasting
That southeast corner of Arizona? That’s Willcox, about one hour east of Tucson and one hour from the New Mexico border in Cochise County.
Not only will you find wineries and tasting rooms, Willcox is also the home to the Cowboy Hall of Fame. Yee-Haw!
Want to taste wine with ghosts?
Willcox is also the place to visit real ghost towns along their Ghost Town Trail.
Willcox Wineries & Tasting Rooms To Visit:
- Keeling Schaefer Vineyards – $10 tastings, commemorative glass included, unique fruit wines
- Rhumb Line Vineyard & Lavender Fields – overnight stays, smells like lavender, great Tannat
- Strive Vineyards – excellent Grenache Rosé, nice ambiance, friendly staff
- Zapara Vineyard – winery dog on staff, tastings hosted by owners, twelve varietals of wine
- Birds & Barrel Vineyards – great Riesling and Tempranillo, stunning desert sunset views
- Pillsbury Wine Company & Vineyard – award-winning wines, tastings hosted by winemaker
Cornville Wine Tasting
Located just 10 miles south of Sedona, Cornville will surely be on the tour bus route as you make your way through this vacation spot where desert dwellers come to beat the heat (expect temperatures 15 degrees cooler than Phoenix and Scottsdale).
There are plenty of Native American ruins to explore and various spiritual vortexes in the mountain areas.
Cornville Wineries & Tasting Rooms To Visit:
- Oak Creek Vineyards & Winery – custom flights, tasty charcuterie, great cocktails
- Page Springs Cellars – masseuse on staff, beautiful grounds for walking, great food and wine
- Javelina Vineyard, Winery & Bistro – welcoming outdoor space, generous pours, live music
- DA Ranch – scenic views, their Ranch Reserve wines are exceptional, goats on site
Sedona Wine Tasting
Wineries in Sedona are certainly among the most stunning places to sip your vino. Sedona is a mythical place where red rocks surround your every peripheral and cool temperatures make Sedona wineries a relaxing environment.
Less than two hours from the Phoenix airport, it’s a beautiful drive into Sedona on the winding roads where those sunset-colored canyons hug every turn.
Great place to book your AZ wine tour visiting multiple wineries.
Most of the Sedona wine tasting rooms are within the main downtown area and offer plenty of great local wine, live music and oh, those majestic views.
Sedona Wineries & Tasting Rooms To Visit:
- Winery 1912 – great value for Arizona tastings, red rock views, small bites, nice Port wine
- Vino Zona Tasting Room & Wine Store – knowledgable staff, exclusive tasting flights
- Decanter Tasting Room – large variety of Arizona wines, relaxed setting, live music
- The Art of Wine – patio with views of red rocks, art gallery, Arizona-local wine flights
- Vino Di Sedona Wine Bar – live music, tasting flights, choose your own charcuterie
Elgin Wine Tasting
Coined as Arizona’s Original Wine Country, it doesn’t really get more rural than Elgin.
With under 500 people contributing to the population, you better believe that if you’re visiting Elgin, it is definitely for the wine.
The town of Elgin has many wineries in just a small concentrated area.
It’s located 45 minutes south of Tucson and experiences cooler climates than the rest of the state with temperatures getting only into the upper 80s in the summer months.
It also offers hiking, camping and beautiful landscapes for budding photographers.
Elgin Wineries & Tasting Rooms To Visit:
- Elgin Winery & Distillery – homegrown alcohol, eclectic wines, first female winemaker in AZ
- Sonoita Vineyards – discount if you bring your own glass, nice Riesling, hosts overnight stays
- Callaghan Vineyards – outdoor tastings with vineyard views, award-winning wines
- Flying Leap Vineyards & Distillery – fun ambiance, separate wine and spirits tasting areas
- Deep Sky Vineyard – beautiful sunset views, bold and complex reds, modern tasting room
- Twisted Union Wine Company – suites for overnight stays, newer winery, fun fruit wines
- Hannah’s Hill Vineyard – this Arizona Viognier is lovely, Mediterranean bites, stunning vineyard views
- Autumn Sage Vineyards – lovely grounds with pond, live music, taco trucks, great Cabernet
- Rancho Rosso Vineyards & Rescued Hearts Cellars – part winery/part non-profit, estate wines
- Wilhelm Family Vineyards – great sangria, port tastings, Glühwein (mulled wine) is a specialty
- Vino Stache Winery – friendly and knowledgable staff, great vintages, retro cool wine labels
Sonoita Wine Tasting
Just 25 miles from the Mexican border and one hour outside Tucson, this Arizona laid-back desert wine country has been producing wine in Arizona since the 16th century.
In addition to wine tasting, plan ahead for horseback riding excursions, picturesque hiking, and visiting the many galleries dedicated to Native American art, homemade gifts, and jewelry.
Very close to Elgin and makes a great AZ wine tasting trip visiting both areas.
Sonoita Wineries & Tasting Rooms To Visit:
- Arizona Hops and Vines – quirky winery, peacock on property, tastings served in muffin pans
- Rune Wines – tiered seating outdoor area with vineyard views, great Rosé and Grenache
- The Meading Room – fun winery serving Mead (honey wine), cider and other fruit wines
- Dos Cabezas WineWorks – winery with built in lodge, estate wines, tasty wood-fired pizzas
You see, you can drink wine in the Arizona desert!
There’s an endless supply of wine gushing out of wine barrels all over the map and Arizona is just another wonderful wine country to add to your future travels.
Soak in the historic culture of the region inspired by the Native American settlers while marveling at the gorgeous wine being created in the middle of the desert.
Arizona Wine FAQ
What wine is Arizona known for?
Willcox and Sonoita are the most well known Arizona wine regions. These regions are producing award-winning Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Merlot wines.
Is Arizona wine any good?
With over 120 wineries in the state (one of them even owned by a famous musician!), you’ll never run out of places to wet your wine whistle. Arizona produces world-class wines that are unique, dense in flavor with good structure.
Does Arizona have wine vineyards?
Arizona wine makers have been making strides in getting Arizona wines on the map. In fact, today there are a dozen vineyards and more than 120 wineries located throughout the state.
Where is AZ wine produced?
Arizona three major wine growing regions are the Sonoita/Elgin, the state’s first AVA in Southeast Arizona; Willcox in the southern part of the state; and the Verde Valley, north of Phoenix which could be AZs third AVA.
Author: Tiffany Carter
Tiffany is a contributing writer to Armchair Sommelier. When she isn’t writing about wine, the California native is touring local wineries (Hello Napa and Paso!) and filling her glass across the globe (Ciao, Tuscany!). She loves a full-bodied cab, but she plays favorites when it comes to a spicy Zinfandel or juicy Malbec. Her fridge is stocked with a bottle of sparkling rosé for emergencies. Hint: there’s always an emergency. You can follow Tiffany @winetastetravel.