Arizona winemakers are celebrating the harvest with statewide fall festivals that kick off next weekend in Sedona. It’s a chance to taste the fruits of the vine, meet winemakers and learn their secrets. It’s also a chance to celebrate a growing force in Arizona’s agri-tourism industry. “Arizona Wine is the best thing that has happened to Arizona in a long time in terms of an economic engine. It is one of the few industries that grew in the recession,” said Sandy Moriarty, who founded the Sedona Wine Festival in 2009. “And the wines are really good.”
Sedona will celebrate its fifth annual festival Sept. 28-29. Over the third weekend in October, Willcox dots it historic downtown Railroad Park with wine-tasting tents for the fall installment of its twice yearly Willcox Wine Country Festival.
And the granddaddy of all of Arizona’s wine events, the Arizona Wine Growers Association’s Festival at The Farm at South Mountain in Phoenix, will showcase top winemakers from around the state in mid-November.
Here’s a guide to help you make the most of the festivals.
Fifth Annual Sedona
When: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sept. 28 and 29.
Where: Beneath a 13,000-square-foot tent at Sedona Airport, 235 Air Terminal Drive, Sedona. Sedona is about four hours by car from Tucson.
Cost: $20 in advance at sedonawinefest.com, $25 at the door. VIP premium tickets $40 in advance, $45 at the door if available.
History: Started by Sandy Moriarty, a community activist and member of Sedona’s interim city council after Sedona incorporated in the late 1980s. A self-proclaimed “major wino,” she launched the first festival in 2009 with a handful of wineries; about 700 people turned out. Last year’s festival attracted 2,500 people and featured more than a dozen wineries, most of them from the Verde Valley. This year’s event includes 15 wineries, live entertainment and food vendors.
Taste the wine: Arizona wineries represented at the festival include Cottonwood’s Alcantara and Arizona Stronghold; Willcox-based Zarpara Vineyard; Tough Country Wines from rural Skull Valley; Page Springs Cellars and Javelina Leap from nearby Cornville; Scottsdale-based Su Vino Winery; and Jerome-based Cellar 433, home of John McLoughlin’s family of wines including Bitter Creek, Jerome Winery, Dribble Creek and Sultry Cellars.
Moriarty said she is most excited about the introduction of Prescott’s Superstition Meadery, the only winery in Arizona to produce honey wine, which predates any other fermented beverage in human history. “I’m going to be very excited to taste it,” Moriarty said.
Eat the food: Several Sedona restaurants will be selling food during the festival — the Sedona Airport’s Mesa Grill, brick-oven pizza from Andiamo Pizza, and gourmet fare from Poco Diablo Resort’s T. Carl’s Restaurant and Culinary Creations By Beth.
Stay the night: Sedona is home to some of the state’s most exquisite resorts including Enchantment Resort tucked into the picturesque Boynton Canyon (starting at $395 a night, enchantmentresort.com); and L’Auberge de Sedona alongside Oak Creek (suites start at $364 a night; lauberge.com). Rates start at $80 per night at The Sky Ranch Lodge at the airport (skyranchlodge.com).
Explore the grapes: While you’re in town, check out a local winery or tasting room. Some suggestions:
Alcantara Vineyard (alcantaravineyard.com), 3445 S. Grapevine Way in Cottonwood, about a 30-minute drive.
Made In Arizona Wine and Gift (facebook.com/MadeinArizonaWineandGift), 235 N. State Route 89A, in the Oak Creek Marketplace in uptown Sedona.
Javelina Leap Winery (javelinaleapwinery.com), 1565 Page Springs Road in Cornville, about 15 minutes outside Sedona.
Caduceus Cellars (caduceus.org), 158 Main St., Jerome, about 40 minutes outside Sedona.
Pillsbury Wine Company (pillsburywine.com), 1012 N. Main St. in Old Town Cottonwood, about 30 minutes outside Sedona.
When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 19 and 20.
Where: Historic Railroad Park, downtown Willcox, about 90 minutes east of Tucson.
Cost: Admission is free; $15 for eight pours and a souvenir, embossed, long-stem wine glass.
History: The first festival was held in spring 2010, organized by Willcox Wine Country, a conglomerate of wineries that market Willcox’s burgeoning wine industry. The group holds two two-day festivals a year — in October and in May.
“It’s a venue for a lot of the wineries to show off their new wines,” said Robert Carlson of Carlson Creek Vineyard. Carlson is on the organizing committee and his vineyard will participate in the festival.
Last year, as many as 2,500 people attended. In addition to wine tastings, four bands from Bisbee, including the popular Nowhere Man and A Whiskey Girl, will perform.
Taste the wine: The festival will feature as many as 16 wineries, most of them from Willcox including Pillsbury Wine Company, Zarpara, Flying Leap Vineyards, Sand-Reckoner Vineyards, Kief-Joshua Vineyards and Keeling Schaefer Vineyards.
Eat the food: The Dragoon Café food truck, which dishes up Southwest-inspired fare including garlic-lime pulled pork sandwiches, chile sirloin burgers and spinach feta tarts; and Rodney’s, a popular Southern soul food diner, 118 N. Railroad Ave., in Willcox’s historic downtown, will have food for sale.
Stay the night: While less than a 90-minute drive from Vail, consider staying the night. Dos Cabezas Spirit and Nature Retreat Bed and Breakfast 7101 E. White Pacheco St., is about 14 miles from the festival grounds and not far from the picturesque Chiricahua National Monument. Rooms run $139 a night, double occupancy, and reservations are a must: 1-520-384-6474. There’s also the Quality Inn, Days Inn Willcox, Super 8 Willcox and Holiday Inn Express Willcox — all clustered near Interstate 10 — offering rates from $55 to $81.
Explore the grapes: Several wineries offer discounted tastings if you bring in your festival glass. There are several tasting rooms near the Railroad Park festival grounds including:
Keeling Schaefer Vineyards (keelingschaefervineyards.com), 154 N. Railroad Ave.
Carlson Creek (carlsoncreek.com), around the corner at 115 Railview Ave.
Coronado Vineyards (coronadovineyards.com), 2909 E. Country Club Drive.
Take a short drive along Kansas Settlement Road to Pillsbury (pillsburywine.com) at 6450 S. Bennett Place; or Zarpara (zarpara.com) at 677 S. Zarpara Lane.
at the Farm
When: 6-8 p.m. Nov. 15 and 1-5 p.m. Nov. 16.
Where: The Farm at South Mountain, 6101 S. 32nd St., Phoenix. It’s a 90-minute drive west of Tucson.
Cost: $75 for the Nov. 15 Grand Tasting at Quiessence at The Farm at South Mountain, which includes food and wine samples; $65 in advance with discounts for the Nov. 16 festival, which includes wine tastings from more than 20 Arizona wineries, lunch and live entertainment.
History: The first festival was held five years ago as a way for Arizona Winegrowers Association to celebrate Arizona wineries and promote the wine to folks who might still be skeptical that Arizona can produce quality wine.
“Any time you can get a person to taste the wine, that changes people’s minds,” said Justin Ove, the sales manager and event coordinator for Cottonwood-based Arizona Stronghold, one of the state’s biggest wine producers.
Taste the wine: 32 vineyards including Sonoita’s Callaghan Vineyards, Lawrence Dunham Vineyards from Fountain Hills, Juniper Well Ranch & Vineyards from Skull Valley outside Prescott and Elgin’s Lightning Ridge Cellars will pour .
Eat the food: Quiessence, the celebrated restaurant at The Farm At South Mountain, will host the Grand Wine Tasting, and food will be prepared by the Tempe-based Santa Barbara Catering Co., which dabbles in such delicacies as tableside torched beef tenderloin and a coffee and black pepper crusted strip loin steak on the grill. Quiessence is between chefs after Greg LaPrad took off to open a restaurant in Sonoita’s wine country in June. His Overland Trout, 3266 Highway 82 in Sonoita, could open later this month.
Stay the night: The Phoenix area is home to dozens of fine hotels and resorts. Closest to the festival is the Legacy Golf Resort Phoenix (shellhospitality.com), 6808 S. 32nd St. Rates start at $169 a night.
Explore the grapes: The Phoenix area has a couple wineries worth the drive:
Studio Vino (studiovino.com) at 1825 E. Guadulupe in Tempe.
Su Vino Winery (suvinowineryaz.com), 7035 E. Main St., Scottsdale.