Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Day trip: Augustfest at Sonoita Vineyards

Much of the drive to Sonoita is along scenic state Route 83.

Much of the drive to Sonoita is along scenic state Route 83.

See and do

If high gas prices have pushed a trip to California’s vineyard-rich Napa Valley out of your price range, don’t rule out a holiday to wine country. Southern Arizona is home to several quality vineyards just an hour or so south of Tucson.

Sonoita Vineyards’ annual Augustfest celebration on Saturday and Sunday is to celebrate the beginning of the harvest season, winemaker Fran Lightly says.

Augustfest, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. both days, offers wine tastings, live country music and dancing, tractor-drawn tours of the vineyard and even grape stomping (remember the “I Love Lucy” episode?)

Started in 1979, Sonoita Vineyards, 290 Elgin-Canelo Road, produces nearly 4,000 cases of wine a year from 19 different grape varieties, including sauvignon blanc, pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon. Founded by soil scientist Gordon Dutt, the vineyard has soil similar to that of France’s Burgundy region.

The vineyard has produced some award-winning wines, including its 1986 Cabernet Sauvignon that was selected for the 1989 Presidential Inauguration Food and Wine Gala for President George Bush.

Cost

$10 per adult, includes a souvenir wine glass, wine tasting, winery tours, vineyard tours on trailer, grape stomping, live music and dancing.

Where to eat

Several good restaurants are in the town of Sonoita. One standout is The Grasslands Bakery & Cafe, 520-455-4770 or www.grasslandscafe.com, serving breakfast and lunch.

It is open 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, and it serves brunch 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. Take-out and bakery items are available until closing.

It is on the north side of state Route 83 just after it intersects with state Route 82.

Kid-friendly?

Kids are allowed, but most activities are geared to adults.

By the way

Much of the drive to is along scenic state Route 83, through verdant high desert blooming from the monsoon rains.

The drive

From Tucson, take Interstate 10 east toward El Paso, Texas. Take Exit 281 south onto SR83. After about 35 miles, turn left onto Elgin-Canelo Road and follow it for about 3 miles, where you will see the winery on your right.

To learn more

520-455-5893, www.sonoitavineyards.com

CLAIRE CONRAD

weekendplus@tucsoncitizen.com (weekendplus@tucsoncitizen.com)

Fran Lightly is the winemaker for Sonoita Vineyards.

Fran Lightly is the winemaker for Sonoita Vineyards.

ABOVE: Much of the drive to Sonoita is along scenic state Route 83.</p>
<p>LEFT: Winemaker Fran Lightly of Sonoita Vineyards on the porch of the Elgin winery

ABOVE: Much of the drive to Sonoita is along scenic state Route 83.

LEFT: Winemaker Fran Lightly of Sonoita Vineyards on the porch of the Elgin winery

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