If you’ve been out and about traveling Arizona anytime in the past decade, you will have undoubtedly noticed the proliferation of vineyards and tasting rooms. Sonoita, AZ and nearby Elgin are no exception and offer visitors the chance to try and buy a wide variety of Arizona madewines. Recently, Scottsdale.com took part in an exciting Wine Country Package Weekend.
Sonoita Inn is located about 30 minutes south of Tucson. It looks like a big red barn, but don’t be fooled, this is a wonderful place of fun, friends and relaxation. The inn was originally built in 1980 by Margaret Carmichael, co-owner of famed race horse, Secretariat. The 18 rooms at the bed and breakfast are spacious, comfortable and cool, and manager Cleone Fields is available in-person or by phone to cater to guests every request. During our Wine Country Package Weekend, we were greeted in our queen bed room with snacks, two wine glasses for wine tasting at three tasting rooms, a bottle of Kief-Joshua Vineyards Magdalena wine, and our gift certificate to The Steak Out, located conveniently just steps from Sonoita Inn.
Each of Sonoita’s Inn’s rooms is cleverly named after a current ranch in operation in the Sonoita area and there is information about each ranch displayed outside its namesake room. The rustic-style inn boasts large common areas that are perfect for breakfast or late afternoon social hour, and a gorgeous soaring stone fireplace. The ranch-style décor and artwork featured throughout fits the Senoita Inn to a ‘t.’
The continental breakfast each morning includes mini cinnamon rolls, assorted cereals, oatmeal, yogurt, multi-grain bread, fruit juices and coffee. It’s all you’ll need to start a fun day of wine tasting, but don’t forget to grab a granola bar on your way out the door! In the late afternoon, we were also pleasantly surprised to find a variety of wines, cheese and crackers in the lobby area.
Because of the way the Sonoita Inn is situated with rooms, it is very easy for a family or group to have a fun get together here. The family-like atmosphere makes the entire inn feel comfortable and welcoming.
Wine tasting at Kief-Joshua Vineyards, Village of Elgin Winery and Sonoita Vineyards
One night (based on double occupancy) at Sonoita Inn
Bottle Kief-Joshua wine upon check-in
$40 gift card for The Steak Out
Two wine glasses
$268-Based on Double Occupancy
The Steak Out
Not surprisingly, The Steak Out is owned by the same couple as the Sonoita Inn, Michael and Grace Wystrach. A malfunctioning water heater burned the original location (built in 1951) to the ground, but undaunted, the couple rebuilt the restaurant in 2000 and continue to run the steakhouse with their grown children.
Our dinner was like something out of a movie. The restaurant exudes all the charm of a vintage steakhouse with plenty of rustic furniture, vintage photos and themed décor. The center stage boasts live music with traditional style country being performed almost all the time. Get up and dance if you want! The music, the atmosphere and traditional style food only served to heighten the fun of our stay.
The house salad and house bread were the perfect way to kick off the meal. Both my husband and I opted for traditional cowboy chow. We had the baby back pork ribs and the New York strip steak and split them, as it was plenty to share. Of course, like any good steak dinner should have, we each chose a baked potato. The ambiance of the live music was a nice touch to the evening. We decided to head back to our hotel room and open the Kief-Joshua Vineyards bottle of Magdalena. The wine had top notes of cherry and plum and crisp flavors of cherry, strawberries and herb. We soon drifted off to sleep, to awake to a day of wine tasting.
Our first stop was Sonoita Vineyards, located about 15 minutes from Sonoita Inn. There was a biking group that was working its way through the areas 13 tasting rooms that we wound up seeing on our winery stops, making it that much more fun. We tried five wines in total. The first wine was Baja Boo’z made with Colombard grapes which hail from Ft. Bowie near Wilcox, AZ. It was well-rounded, with just a touch of sweetness. Next, we tried the 2015 Mission Wine, a unique red wine made with grapes from the Sonoita area. Typically, this wine is blended with other wines and it also imparts just a bit of sweetness.
Our third wine was the Arizona Sunset, a semi-sweet white, dessert style wine with a very grape-y nose. Fourth, we tried the Angel Wings, a semi-sweet blush that blended Colombard and Mission grapes. Finally, was the Sonora Blanca, a sweet white dessert style wine again featuring Colombard grapes. Out of the wines we tried, Angel Wings was our favorite, and we bought a bottle of that to take home and enjoy.
The Village of Elgin Winery
Our next tasting room was The Village of Elgin Winery. This tasting room is located in a large old shed, decked out with lots of fabulous wine and wine-related collectibles. We tried nine wines while we were there. The 2015 Wilcox Ava Riesling had a very fruity nose, with heavy lemon, lime and citrus flavors. The Arizona Cabernet Sauvignon was an absolute delight, even though I’m not normally a fan of cab wines. This version was a blend of two vintages from two different growing regions. It was a fabulous medium-bodied wine. Sinful Monkey was next. The dry Shiraz had a head of blackberry and fruit with a slight hint of pepper. It also had a fabulously smooth finish.
Playful Monkey was the fourth wine. It was a Cabernet Sauvignon with a full fruit flavor and a perfect tannin and acid balance. Although this one was an outstanding wine, I personally preferred the Arizona Cabernet Sauvignon. The fifth wine was the Tombstone Madame (more on
Tombstone, later). This blush wine had an intense fruit flavor and a pleasant finish. If I was sitting out on my back patio at home, this is the wine I would choose. Next was the Bisbee Copper, the No. 1 selling blush wine at the winery. It was very balanced with a lovely assortment of fruit flavors.
The seventh wine was the Hayley, a sweet Moscato Canelli boasting a heavy flavor of melon which was evident on the nose. Unlike so many moscatos, this one was not thick or heavy; rather it was very pleasant for sipping. Next was Naughty Monkey, a white wine Muscato Blanco with heavy flavors of apricot, melon and honey. I thought the apricot and honey dominated, and I’m not sure how it was achieved, but the wine had a creamy texture! This was a fabulous wine. Finally, we ended with the Curly Jack, a White Port wine with have flavors of plantain and banana with a long, full finish. This was also a fabulous dessert style wine. Ultimately, we decided on purchasing a bottle of Bisbee Copper since it is the winery’s most popular selling wine. As a bonus, on the way out of the tasting room, we met Trevor, the resident peacock. Almost on cue, he spread his tail feathers and showed off to an eager group of wine tasters. Seriously, how did they train Trevor to do that? What a cutie!
Kief-Joshua Vineyards was our final tasting room stop. What we particularly liked about this tasting room is that it is actually a family’s large home! As a bonus, right outside the backyard patio is the vineyard, and guests can walk right out and inspect the goods right on the vine. Kief Joshua
himself was pouring in the tasting room this day, and it was great to see him interacting with guests in such a way that really imparted his passion for wine. It was a sight to see!
Our first pour was the 2015 Merlot. Immediately, this wine had a nose of cherry and strawberry. What I particularly liked was the soft tannin structure and a pleasant finish. Next, was the 2014 Malbec. This wine had a very heavy nose of apple and raspberries. The finish was smooth, with just a hint of smoke and vanilla. This is one of the better Malbecs I’ve had a chance to try. Next was the 2014 Viognier, a very rich and fruity wine with a heavy aroma of orange and pear. This wine had a crisp acidity which would dictate that it would pair nicely with chicken, fish or shrimp.
Our fourth wine was the 2014 Zinfandel, a sweet zin that had heavy aromas of dark fruit. The flavors were heavy with raspberry, cassis, chocolate and cherry. This wine was a departure from typical zinfandels and was a welcome change! Our final pour was the Tempranillo Sangria, a selection not always available on the tasting list, but it was fabulous, so at least we chose a great day to visit the winery. There is a sweet wallaby that lives at the vineyards, but it was sleeping during our visit, so we’ll need to return to see this little Australian darling.
Other Things to do in the Area
We took the time to drive 15 minutes from Sonoita to check out Tucson Audubon’s Paton Center Hummingbirds in Patagonia. The home has been turned into a bird sanctuary where hundreds of varieties of finches, dove, quail, hummingbird and other birds stop by to say hello. There is also a large butterfly garden on the property. It’s easy to get to, and when you’re finished, don’t miss a pizza or pasta at Velvet Elvis Pizza Company. Really, don’t miss this restaurant!
Tombstone is also not too far from Sonoita. The entire town is pretty tourist-y, but gives you a glimpse into the lives, trials and tribulations of those that lived in the Old West. Don’t miss the town’s scheduled gun fights or the tour at the Bird Cage Theatre.
Sonoita Inn is located at 3243 Highway 83, Sonoita. Visit www.sonoitainn.com or call (520) 455-5935 for additional information. Be sure to ask for The Sonoita Wine Package.