The history of Winemaking in Arizona

Did you know Arizona is famous for wine? It’s true! In fact, there are three regions of vineyards and wineries in the state. They are Sonoita, south of Tucson; Willcox, east of Tucson; and Verde Valley, north of Phoenix and close to Sedona.


History of Winemaking in Arizona

Although it is not completely clear when winemaking first started in this area, written history puts it at 1703. At that time, Eusebio Kino, a Jesuit missionary and explorer, grew grapes to make into wine for mass.


In the mid-1880s, farmers in the Salt River Valley around the Phoenix area began making wine, and eventually, a small winemaking industry was established in nearby Mesa.


In the 1970s, a scientist from the University of Arizona named Gordon Dutt conducted experiments to find the parts of Arizona that could produce wine grapes. This discovery led to the first modern vineyard in Arizona, Vina Sonoita Vineyards. 1980 saw other pioneering wineries emerge in Tucson and south of Willcox.


Winemaking Today in Arizona

Today there are over 110 wineries, vineyards, and cellars throughout Arizona. Three state and regional organizations support these wineries, vineyards, and cellars: the Arizona Wine Growers Association, Willcox Wine Country, and the Arizona Vignerons Alliance. These organizations support the wine industry through promotional events, state awards, and various industry lobbying efforts.


In the Southwest Wine Center at Yavapai College’s Verde Valley Campus, students can earn an associate’s degree in Viticulture and Enology or a certification in Viticulture or Enology. This program was established in 2009 and provided vital education and training for the Arizona wine industry. Through Yavapai College’s Viticulture and Enology Program, students can earn an AA in Viticulture and Enology or a certificate in Viticulture or Enology.


Wineries in Phoenix

Recently, Arizona has enjoyed success with wine made from grape varieties that are from Italy and southern France. Specific to the Phoenix area, you will love sampling the regional favorites of Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Merlot variants.


When you visit the Phoenix area, you’ll definitely want to check out the wineries. Each has its unique flare and ambiance. Here are just a few of the many local wineries:

Merkin Vineyards
Desert Rock Winery and Distillery
LDV Winery
Winery 101
Carlson Creek Vineyard
Salvatore Vineyards And Passion Cellars
Sorso Wine Shop
Aridus Wine Company
Down Time Wines

So come for a tour or a tasting! You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the variety and quality of Arizona wines!

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