When you think about visiting wineries, Napa, Santa Barbara and the French countryside probably come to mind. We would have been of like mind until earlier this year when my husband and I decided to head down to Bisbee to visit friends. To round out the trip, we decided to spend a night at the Arizona Inn in Tucson and meander down to Bisbee the next day through some of Arizona’s “wine country.” While I was very much looking forward to Tucson and meeting up with our friends and spending the night in a (supposedly) haunted hotel, I was not sure what to expect from the wineries.
On Friday afternoon we checked into Arizona Inn just in time for tea! The hotel has a nice sitting room with tables set with sweet and savory treats; tea, coffee and cocoa. I felt so sophisticated having tea in this historic hotel. We also checked out the lounge, which was a bit disappointing.
There were good wines on the wine list, but it had a very dated
tropical interior. In fact, I expected Barry Manilow to show up and
sing “Copa Cabana” any second.
Our room, on the other hand, was spectacular. We had a suite at the
back of the property with a roaring fireplace and French doors
opening onto a lovely yard (yes, a full back yard!). That evening we
had dinner at the gorgeous mountaintop home of some friends (the
evening views of Tucson from on-high were truly beautiful). I definitely
recommend that you make a point of visiting the Arizona Inn if you find yourself in Tucson.
The next morning, we hit the road for Bisbee. Between Tucson and Bisbee lie Elgin and Sonoita – two Arizona towns that are home to wineries. I had heard of the wineries in southern Arizona before this visit, but must admit I had no desire to visit (or imbibe). Boy, was I mistaken! We made our way to Elgin and stopped in at a little grocery store because we really did not know where to find the wineries. The gal in the shop gave us a free tourist magazine that told us everything we needed to know. In fact, just across the street was the Dos Cabezas Winery and Vineyard. When we drove up to this winery, I did
not expect much, it looks a bit like a rural strip mall. But when we entered the winery, we were greeted by an actual tasting room manned by the winemaker’s wife. We paid for two logo wine glasses, which included tastes of six wines. We liked the wines so much – especially the Las Montañas, which is a gorgeous limited vintage red – we purchased six bottles of wine. Things were looking up!
Next, we headed to The Callaghan Winery. Believe it or not, this winery has won many awards for its delicious wines… and the winemaker works the tasting room himself. Where Dos Cabezas was styled like the wine rooms in Napa, at Callaghan the tasting takes place in the equivalent of a small warehouse. Again, the winery offered logo wine glasses and multiple tastes (eight or nine, I think). The wine options included whites and reds, some of which are named after the winemaker’s daughters. To round out the feeling that you simply walked into an agricultural operation, a big dog is a fixture in the wine room. The wines were excellent, and we again bought several bottles.
You may be wondering what types of grapes thrive in our hot, dry climate. While some of the wineries purchase California grapes that they add to locally grown varietals, I was shocked to learn that the Barbera, Petite Syrah, French Columbard, Emerald Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc grapes grow in southern Arizona. While Arizona growers typically do not worry too much about excess rain, the big hail storm last fall damaged the entire 2010 crop. Thus, the 2010 wines will be made from non-Arizona grown grapes.
The final winery we visited, Kief-Josef, was by far the most beautiful. The winery looks like a Tuscan mansion – no kidding! A gorgeous tasting room, again operated by the winemaker, greeted us on entry. The wine at Kief-Josef was excellent, as well. After buying a few more bottles, we wound up with a total of about 18 bottles of wine. (If you visit in summer, be sure to think about how to keep the wine cool for the trip home. Otherwise, your wine will be undrinkable when you get it home.)
Although we only visited three wineries, it was not because additional options were not available. In fact, I think I counted about ten wineries in the Elgin area. Other areas in the state are home to wineries, too.
Notably, Jerome, the Cottonwood/Cornville area, and Wilcox all boast multiple wineries. We cannot wait to explore some of these options.
When we arrived in Bisbee, we checked into the historic Copper Queen hotel. As many readers have probably heard, the hotel is reputedly haunted. The front desk clerk was really nice, and he let us look at several rooms to select exactly where we wanted to stay. (The rooms are very “country quaint” and are given cute names like “The John Wayne Room”, “Teddy Roosevelt Room” or “Three Amigos Room”). Since I am a total scaredy cat, we steered clear of the rooms that are supposedly haunted by one of the three “resident” ghosts (a little boy,
woman and older gentleman). In the end, we selected a nice room with a big bathroom and headed off to meet our friends. I did not give another thought to ghosts – until bedtime when my husband immediately fell asleep… and I did not. Boy can imaginations run wild in a haunted hotel! Are you old enough to remember the Don Knotts film, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken? Well, I was Mr. Chicken! I decided to leave the bathroom light burning – only to then wonder why the ghost could not just turn it off! While I finally fell to sleep, I decided that staying in a haunted hotel is not something I would do again.
The next morning, we headed back to Phoenix and stopped in Tombstone. I had not visited this Wild West town since first moving to Arizona. Nothing has changed. What was much more interesting was our stop at a monastery. Did you know we have a Greek Orthodox monastery in Arizona? We do – St. Anthony’s Monastery outside of Florence. What a peaceful and beautiful place. In fact, the monastery reminded me of monasterboice in Ireland. We walked the grounds, took some photos, sat in a pretty chapel and looked at the shop (purchases support the monks).
I had no idea when we hit the road that this trip would be so enchanting. Wineries, haunted hotels, and monasteries right here in
Arizona! This was definitely a trip we will take again.
about the author
HELEN R. DAVIS, ESQ. is a Senior Member of The Cavanagh Law Firm, P.A., practicing family law. Helen is the current Secretary of
the Executive Council of the Family Law Section of the Arizona State Bar. Helen lectures and writes about issues of interest to family
law practitioners as often as her time allows.