Getting to know the Arizona wine country terroir and grapes one sip at a time.
It might surprise a lot of you to know that Arizona has an ideal climate for growing grapes. Given the state’s variations in elevation, there are a variety of different climates. In other words, it’s not ALL desert. Sip in more with our Arizona Wine Travel Guide.
In the lower elevations of Arizona, the climate is primarily desert, with mild winters and extremely hot summers. The northern third of Arizona and other mountainous areas at significantly higher altitudes than the lower desert have an appreciably cooler climate, with cold winters and mild summers. Somewhere in between these two extremes, pioneering wine growers have found a home for Arizona Wine.
UNDERSTANDING THE ARIZONA TERROIR
This combined with the Diurnal Effect (the extreme swing in temperature from day to night), dry weather (the monsoon season provides the needed moisture) and high-altitude produces distinctive grapes that are bold and savory.
Wine regions thrive between 30-50 degrees of latitude of the equator. Arizona sits close to the 40 degree mark. PERFECTION!!
Where are the Arizona Wine Regions?
Arizona has three official American Viticultural Areas (AVA) – wine growing regions.
The Sonoita AVA is about an hour southeast of Tucson and was established in 1985 as the state’s first AVA. The region includes the towns of Sonoita, Patagonia and Elgin which all sit between 4,500 – 5,200 feet elevation. The elevation is a key feature for the thriving viticulture here…as well as tourism. The temperatures range from the 80s – 90s during the heat of the summer, making it one of Arizona’s great escapes.
Willcox AVA is where the majority of Arizona’s fruit is grown. The AVA is surrounded by the Chiricahua Mountains and Dos Cabeza Mountains on the east and the Dragoon Mountains are on its westside. The main towns in the area include Willcox, Kansas Settlement, Turkey Creek, Pearce and the overall Cochise and Graham counties.
Another prominent wine region in northern Arizona is known as the Verde Valley, the state’s newest AVA. The Verde Valley is just north of Phoenix, about a two-hour drive and sits in the ever-growing popular escape – the town of Sedona. The Valley is also home to the towns of Jerome, Camp Verde, Cottonwood and Clarkdale.
American Viticultural Areas (AVA) are designated wine grape-growing region in the United States distinguishable by geographic features, with boundaries defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).
ARIZONA WINE COUNTRY GRAPE VARIETIES
Today, the Arizona wine industry continues to grow, with more than 110 wineries, vineyards and cellars throughout the region. Some of Arizona’s highest quality white wines include Viognier, Malvasia Bianca and Chenin Blanc. Varietals native to the Rhone Valley have also been widely successful in producing some of Arizona’s most popular reds.
ARIZONA WINE COUNTRY INTERACTIVE MAP
Elaine Schoch (pronounced the German way – Shock) is the editor and founder of Carpe Travel as well as an award-winning travel writer, wine judge, certified by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 and certified American Wine Expert. She is married to The Husband and has two kids, Princess One and Two – who’s interest and knowledge in wine is quite extensive. Not to mention the stamps in their passports.