The Willcox Wine Festival returns this weekend as a shadow of itself, with five fewer wineries and a much smaller festival footprint in response to the COVID-19 pandemic
The festival also will have timed admissions and a limited number of general admission tickets, said festival manager Mike Pigford.
“We are not going to pack the park like it has been in years past,” said Pigford, who works with the Cochise Graham Wine Council — formally Willcox Wine Country Partnership — which puts on the festival in the spring and fall.
Because of the pandemic, the two events planned for 2020 were canceled.
The spring installment of the Willcox Wine Festival will be from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, May 15 and 16, in the historic Railroad Park, 157 N. Railroad Ave. in downtown Willcox. Past festivals have sprawled out beyond the park to neighboring businesses and side streets.
The festival — one of the state’s largest wine events — historically attracts about 7,500 people a day. Pigford said with the limited number of wineries and the smaller footprint, they anticipate about half that amount.
Thirteen wineries will participate in the festival, compared to the 18 that normally take part. The wineries are either located in Willcox or operate vineyards there, Pigford said.
Here’s what you need to know about the Willcox Wine Festival.
The 6-year-old Birds & Barrels Vineyards has a tasting room at 100 N. Railroad Ave. and a vineyard on the Willcox Bench off Arzberger Road.
Willcox winery Bodega Pierce has tasting rooms in Willcox and Clarkdale.
The family-owned Carlson Creek Vineyards has a tasting room in downtown Willcox, within walking distance of the festival.
Coronado Vineyards has been around 17 years and has become a wine fan favorite not only for what it makes at its winery about 10 minutes from downtown Willcox but for its tapas.
Golden Rule Vineyards, with 26 acres under vine at the western edge of the valley that lies majestically along the Gunnison hills just north of the Dragoon mountain range, has a downtown Willcox tasting room.
Keeling Schaefer Vineyards sits along the western slope of the Chiricahua Mountains, quite a drive from Willcox. But they have a tasting room at 154 N. Railroad Ave., near the festival.
Pillsbury Wine Company is hosting “Pillsbury Gone Wild” dinners on Friday, May 14, and Saturday, May 15. Saturday’s event is booked but there still are spaces open for Friday. To reserve a spot, call Valerie at 949-466-1054.
Newcomer 1764 Vineyards is just getting started with its 30-acre vineyard in the Pearce/Sunsites area of Cochise County.
Barrelhead Farms Winery is the months-old project of veteran Elgin winemaker Kief Manning, who sold his Kief-Joshua Vineyards last fall and launched Barrelhead Farms in Willcox.
Copper Horse Vineyard is at the foothills of the Chiricahua Mountains, but they have a tasting room in the Willcox Commercial Building at 180 N. Railroad Ave.
The boutique winery Deep Sky Vineyard grows its fruit in Willcox and makes its wine in Elgin.
Page Springs Cellars grows most of its fruit in Willcox, but it makes its wines in the Verde Valley of Oak Creek Canyon, just outside Sedona.
The family-owned Strive Vineyards, located on the Willcox Bench about 25 minutes from downtown Willcox, likes to refer to itself as an off-grid artisan winemaker. But the family does have a tasting room near the festival in the Willcox Commercial Building.