It may surprise many of you to hear that there is at least one winery in all 50 states — even Alaska and Hawaii — and Arizona is no exception. Not only are there many wineries in Arizona, but they are making some really good wine, too!
One thing that makes Arizona wineries great is that like California, Oregon and Washington, vitis vinifera species of grapes can be grown here. What is vitis vinifera species? They are grape vines native to Europe and Asia such as Cabernet, Merlot and Chardonnay, that are the most commonly recognized grape varietals used to produce wine.
The other species of grape vines are called vitis lambrusca, which are native to the eastern United States (think grapes grown for grape juice, like Concord).
Most other states that produce wine in the U.S. have harsh climates that don’t allow for growing of the commonly known vinifera vines, and therefore have created hybrids of the two species such as Chambourcin and Vidal Blanc.
In relation to Phoenix, Arizona wineries are either up north or down south where the weather is much more temperate than our stifling valley heat. Compared to the cooler regions of Washington state, Oregon and northern California, the grape varietals that like heat are the ones that do best in Arizona; think Grenache, Syrah and Zinfandel for red and Viognier for white. As you may know, these varietals are also grown in southern France, Spain and central California.
Now that the heat is upon us, it is the perfect time to take a trip to Arizona wine country. Willcox, located in southern Arizona, has two wine festivals each year.
Or, if you’d rather head up north, check out Caduceus Cellars, owned by Maynard James Keenan of the band Tool. He is also part of a joint venture, called Arizona Stronghold, which produces an amazing and affordable white blend, among others.
For more information on Arizona wines and a complete listing of wineries and locations, there is a great complimentary magazine available around the East Valley called Arizona Vines and Wines, or check out their website at www.arizonavinesandwines.com.
• Robert Morris is owner and manager at East Valley restaurants Cork, BLD and Stax Burger Bistro. Reach him at (480) 883-3773 or CorkRestaurant.net