Step back in time in Sonoita - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Step back in time in Sonoita

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Posted: Friday, April 23, 2010 4:50 pm | Updated: 3:30 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

When you head to Sonoita, you are stepping back in time to a place steeped in the mining, ranching, and railroad history that built the West. It’s a place where residents share stories at the post office, and local businesses are still owned by local people.

This area of Arizona is full of beautiful rolling ranch land and relaxing roadways for driving enjoyment. It is a special place to enjoy a great weekend away from the city.

Here is an itinerary for your next road trip in Arizona. If you head down soon, you can enjoy a couple of the annual events.

Relax on a leisurely drive along one of the region’s many scenic roads, state Route 83. Enjoy the grasslands and Appalachia plateaus that make you feel like you have gone back into an Old Western novel or movie set. My family and I would soon unwind and enjoy a glass of wine made in the region, dine at area restaurants and finally take the night in at a cozy B&B.

Established in 1973, Sonoita Vineyards was the first vineyard in southern Arizona. Their tasting room has a view of wine barrels. We enjoyed their wide range of varietals, especially MeCaSah (a Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah blend) and Sparkles Brut, which feature an edible hibiscus flower whose syrup gives the bubbly a sweet taste.

The Vineyard has a patio with wonderful views and tables so you can bring some cheese and crackers to enjoy with your wine. On Saturday, the 32nd Annual Blessing of the Sonoita Vineyards will be taking place. This festival will include wine tasting, souvenir glass, winery tours, food and wine pairings, and live music and dancing. Also, lunches and horseback or wagon rides are available for an additional fee.

Next, we went back to the highway and stopped in at Café Sonoita for lunch. We both ordered off their specials menu and were thoroughly pleased, especially with the prime rib reuben sandwich, a very tasty regional specialty.

Next, we went into the Dos Cabezas Tasting Room and were greeted by the owner/winemaker Todd Bostock. He poured us through their different wines and we quickly felt the family atmosphere with kids playing in back and Todd’s mother also pouring wine. The family feel of the vineyard was further exemplified when Todd took us out to the vineyard where we got to be a part of his father’s birthday celebration. They were opening up a wine not yet released, which we sipped while walking through the rows of vines. Soon, we realized it was time for dinner.

Locals Grace and Michael Wystrach have operated the Steak Out Restaurant & Saloon in Sonoita since 1979 with the help of their six children. Cast-iron bean pots are still used, and bronze statues are on display in the dining room and bar. The Steak Out remains the best place to “cowboy up and party down” in town. If you like a bone-in steak, the Kansas City Strip they serve is a must. The live music playing just added more to the setting and warm feel.

La Hacienda de Sonoita Bed & Breakfast was our lodging for the night. It’s in the heart of Sonoita on 40 acres of serene beauty. The hosts, Cheryl and Tom, personally designed their home/B&B. After years of visiting bed and breakfasts, they chose what they liked best and implemented that in their design. The rooms are private and the great room offers an inviting ambience to pull down a book and sit in front of the fire. The family-style breakfast was great, with a selection of homemade biscuits, eggs, potatoes, bacon and yogurt. It was also nice sharing stories of our day’s experience with the other guests and hosts.

In Sonoita ranching is still a way of life, and the cowboy way is celebrated annually with horse races, a rodeo and the oldest quarter-horse show in the nation. The 95th running of the Sonoita Horse Races will be at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds this weekend and May 1-2. Post time for live quarter horse and thoroughbred races is 1 p.m., with gates opening at 10:30 a.m. There will also be simulcast wagering from the Kentucky Derby featured on Saturday, May 1. Traditional mint juleps, great food and other concessions add to the fast fun of racing excitement.

Discovering an Arizona culture and community steeped in tradition is great for our continued spirit of travel as a family. Families that embody their surroundings and businesses like the Sonoita residents we met are great examples of the Arizona we love to visit and validate.

If you go

To get to Sonoita from the East Valley, I advise taking Interstate 10 east and exiting at state Route 83. Head south for 24 miles and you will find Sonoita at the crossroads of state routes 83 and 82. Expect less than 3 hours for drive time to the area.

Find these places online:

Café Sonoita: www.cafesonoita.com

The Steakout: www.azsteakout.com

Sonoita Vineyards: http://sonoitavineyards.com

Dos Cabezas Wineworks: www.doscabezaswinery.com

La Hacienda de Sonoita: www.haciendasonoita.com

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