This past weekend we climbed in the car and headed south to wine country. We have checked out the wine country just north of us, in and around Cottonwood, Arizona, but had never been to the high country southern region around Sonoita, Elgin and Patagonia. It is a beautiful area, worth visiting just for the scenery and the photo opportunities, but we were impressed with the wines we discovered and people we met. The place hasn't exactly established the complete visitor package as far as fancy tasting rooms, accommodations and dining is concerned so don't head down their thinking you are going to Napa. But there is a real excitement in experiencing an area on the brink of really establishing itself. There has been some national and international recognition so far, but this still feels just a bit like an undiscovered gem. And that's pretty cool.
Arizona Hops and Vines is the newest vineyard and winery in the area and, as their name indicates, beer is part of the business plan. We first heard about this place and the two sisters who own and operate it in an article in the Arizona Republic that highlighted the fact that setting up a combination wine and beer business was a real challenge due to some outdated laws on the books. It was nice to find out from Megan, one of the owners, that as of about a month ago that the way had been cleared for them to proceed with their combination endeavor. We purchased a bottle of their "Instagador" white and will be back to see how they are doing. Like just about every small, or even not so small winery we have ever visited, Hops and Vines is the result of a dream made reality through a lot of very hard work. According to their website, this quote by Jack Kerouac served as an inspiration to Megan's sister Shannon. We wish them well.
Our next stop was at Callaghan Vineyards. These folks have been around for over twenty years. The facilities are modest, but the wine was excellent and Lisa Barkley, the very knowledgeable lady who served us, was friendly and helpful. I was very much interested in locally sourced grapes and Callaghan's, having been around for a while, was an excellent place to find true Arizona wines. We very much liked their "Lisa", a white blend named after, you guessed it, the very Lisa assisting us, but ended up with a bottle of their "Backlot", a blend of Mourvedre and Syrah. Looking forward to enjoying it.
The next winery we visited was Flying Leap Vineyards. Formerly Canelo Hills, the change of ownership from Tim and Joan Mueller to partners Mark Beres and Marc Moeller happened less than an year ago. Whatever the Muellers were doing before and whatever Messrs. Beres and Moeller are doing now, it works. Mark Beres greeted us at the door, we were fortunate to arrive before the weekend crowds and so got to have a seat around the table in their tasting room. Rolf Sasse, the Tasting Room Manager, was very helpful and informative as well as just plain old fun to chat with. And the wine? Well, this ended being the place where we wanted a case of just about everything they poured, but budget being what it is, we purchased a bottle of the Grenache and Tristan got a bottle of the Graciano. And first thing when we got back home we signed up on the their website for their wine club.
Our last stop was at Kief-Joshua Vineyards. The tasting room here was the most impressive of the four places we visited and there was more of a crowd, which has its good points as well as bad. Good in that it means the place is doing well and one hopes there are solid reasons for that; bad because it makes the experience a bit less personal and relaxing. The hospitality was excellent, the wines quite good and it was nice to be able to go out back and enjoy the beautiful October weather. Here are a few shots from in and around Kief-Joshua.
I will end this entry with just few photos from the Patagonia Festival, specifically of the Grams & Krieger band. While the ladies were checking out the jewelry and crafts booths I was drawn across the grounds to the sound of slide guitar and soulful singing. If there is anything I like more than discovering wonderful new wines it is discovering wonderful music. Grams and Krieger have been a part of the Arizona music scene for quite a while, but they were new to me. With them was singer/songwriter Nancy McCallion, who knows her way around a song, no doubt.
I picked up a copy of "Grams & Krieger 5", their latest CD. Good stuff. Their take on "Lucky Old Sun" is spot-on.
Danny Krieger is one fine guitar player.
Well, it's time to water the plants and then head off to the day job. Have a great week!