Arizona is one of the oldest wine producing regions in the United States. Its rich and well aged wine history dates back to the 16th century when Spanish Jesuit priests began producing wine for religious sacramental ceremonies.
Like most wine regions in the western United States, Arizona’s was rooted by Catholic priests moving north from Mexico, establishing churches and planting vines for sacrament. Father Eusebio Francisco Kino is believed to be the Jesuit priest to have brought wine to Arizona…along with 24 missions in southern and northern Arizona.
As the region grew in population so did the demand for wine. Leading setttlers to begin planting and producing their own local wines. It was the settlers who drove the growth of wine production and the industry in Arizona for next 100 years…
When National Prohibition took place in 1920, Arizona's budding wine industry was snipped. It wasn't until the early 1980’s that a rebound began.
Following a study conducted by Dr. Gordon Dutt in 1970 that “demonstrated the feasibility of various wine growing regions,” The Arizona Farm Winery Act was developed helping to reestablish viticulture in Arizona.
Long story short...
My friend Christina Barrueta wrote a book on Arizona Wine, A History of Perseverance & Passion. (You should read it!) I’ve summarized a little from her interview with Dr. Dutt.
Dr. Dutt was working in research at the University of California – Davis and came to Arizona for a project. Having lived among the vines in Cali the fact there weren’t any in Arizona struck him as odd.
There was after all elevation, climate shifts during the day and night as well a some moisture. Leading him to think wine could be grown and produced in Arizona. Dr. Dutt and his team planted Vitis Vinifera that could sustain dry climates, resulting in Arizona’s first wine production since National Prohibition.
Arizona's modern-day wine industry was born...
Dr. Dutt’s research led to The Arizona Farm Winery Act in 1982 that established. (It takes several years for vines to grow and produce wine, hence the longer period of time.)
The first licensed wineries in Arizona were formed shortly after the enactment of the new law with Dr. Dutt himself establishing Sonoita Vineyards.
Today, the wine industry continues to grow and there are 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. We have a lot more to pour into on Arizona terroir and grapes being produced.