Heading east on I-10 a windy Sunday, our target was to explore Willcox, Arizona wine region wines.
First stop, the newly opened Zarpara Vineyard’s tasting room, located on the Willcox Bench off Kansas Settlement Road, nestled in Arizona’s largest grape growing region. The directions claimed it was a few minutes south of historic downtown, but I found myself thinking they possibly could paint the road yellow to make it a bit easier to find. Once arrived, I discovered that Zarpara’s tasting room was well worth the search.
Friendly Mark Jorve (owner) explained the selection we were about to taste: “We feature carefully selected, hand-crafted, and hard-to-find wines from our Willcox Wine Country neighbors.” Pourings included wines from Sand-Reckoner (a sweet, herb-y Malvasia and 2, a red blend), Sierra Bonita (Syrah), Golden Rule (Sangiovese), and Lawrence Dunham Vineyards. All were delightful ‘finds’ among Arizona wine offerings.
I discovered that the 2009 Lawrence Dunham Vineyards Petite Sirah, 100% Cochise County grown grapes, particularly pleasing to my palate. A beautiful nose, the mouth-feel and finish was peppery and spicy with big tannins—just as expected from a classic Petite Sirah. This wine would be perfect with pizza or spaghetti and meatballs, or to share with a romantic steak dinner.
While Zarpara hopes for its first harvest this year, Mark proudly pours us a sampling of their first offering, 2007 Zarpara Origen, a blend of Cochise County Grenache and Syrah grapes. This wine is complex and mature—having aged for 3 years in neutral oak and a year in the bottle. Fabulous just for sipping, I enjoyed it with a salmon salad this week. The tasting notes suggest pairing it with lamb, thin sliced flat-iron steak, or pork tenderloin. Look for great things to come from this new vineyard.
On to Coronado Vineyards, I once again enjoyed the winery’s 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon and Two Heads Red (two of my all-time everyday favorite affordable Arizona wines). I finally took the challenge to try the Coronado Vineyards Conquistador Red, a dessert wine (well out of my comfort zone). Amazingly, it was not too sweet—instead, it was full of berries and cherries with sort of a green tea finish. Big, sweet, smooth, and easy-drinking. I bought a bottle to take home, knowing I will enjoy this some evening soon with a great chocolate-inspired dessert.
We headed about 25 miles east of Willcox to the Fort Bowie Vineyards. The modest tasting room is located behind this little town’s post office (don’t blink!) but it offers about a dozen of some of the most surprising Arizona wines you’ll find—at amazingly affordable prices—from Sweet Water (white) to Syrah and everything in between. The Fort Bowie Pecan Delight is a distinctive sparkling wine with the essence of pecan for only $9/bottle.
Fort Bowie Vineyards is a family-owned and operated farm in Bowie, Arizona. In addition to the vineyards, they grow pecans, walnuts, peaches, and cherries.
Southeast AZ Wine Growers Festival Features 17 Wineries at Kief-Joshua
Looking forward to tasting even more Arizona wines on April 14 and 15, at the Southeast Arizona Wine Growers Festival at the Kief-Joshua Vineyards, 370 Elgin Road. Tickets ($15/person) are on sale now or can be purchased the day of the event. Ticket covers wine tasting and a souvenir glass.
Here is your chance to learn more about the wines grown throughout Arizona by 17 Arizona wineries, including:
Sedona/Verde Valley/Cottonwood Region: Arizona Stronghold, Page Spring Cellars, Jerome Winery, Dribble Creek
Urban Wine Region: Kokopelli, Su Vino Wineries
Willcox Region: Keeling Schaefer Vineyards, Golden Rule Vineyards, Coronado Vineyards, Carlson Creek Vineyards, Zarpara Vineyards, Gallifant Vineyards
Sonoita/Elgin Region: Charron Vineyards, Wilhelm Family Vineyards, Kief-Joshua Vineyards
In addition to wine tasting (11am to 5pm), the expanded festival will include sensory wine-tasting and wine-pairing seminars. Buzz and the Soulsenders will be singing the blues from noon to 5 pm. Locally Arizona and Sonoita’s very popular Steak-Out Restaurant will be on site selling chicken wings, pulled pork sandwiches, sirloin steaks, and much more for your enjoyment.
Only about an hour from downtown Tucson, this will be a most gratifying way to spend a day outside the hub-bub of Tucson.