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Arizona Wineries: A Grape Escape

The soil and climate in the Santa Cruz Valley southeast of Tucson are ideal for growing grapes, even if "Arizona wine country" may sound odd. Wine grapes first took root in the region 400 years ago, when the Spanish missionaries planted the first vines of "mission" grapes for the production of sacramental wine. But it wasn't until the 1970s that the first commercial vinifera grapes were planted here as part of an agricultural experiment. The hardier vines, such as Syrahs, Grenaches, and Malvasias, seem to tolerate the summer heat and retain good acidity.

Connoisseurs have debated the merits of the wines produced in this area since 1974, but if you want to decide for yourself, tour some of the region's wineries. Callaghan Vineyards, Canelo Hills Winery, Rancho Rossa Vineyards, Hops & Vines, Dos Cabezas Wineworks, Village of Elgin Winery, Sonoita Vineyards, Kief-Joshua Vineyards, and Wilhelm Family Vineyards all have something to tantalize the taste buds. You can purchase a wine glass at the first tasting room you choose, then take it with you to any of the other wineries for a reduced tasting fee.

Farther east, vineyards are springing up around Willcox, and elsewhere in the state, vineyards south of Sedona along lower Oak Creek are garnering attention as well.

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