Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Arizona Wine Country: Sonoita

I share a lot of my road trips with y'all because I want you to see the possibilities in your own area to go photographing cemeteries, taking ghost tours, doing UFO searches in open spaces, urban exploring, chasing history, and more. This time, my gal pals and I set out for Sonoita, Arizona in Southern Arizona, one of Arizona's wine country locations.

The drive was an unbelievably scenic one and the thing that amazed me was that it was like a high prairie with gentle hills, gentle breezes, and 360 degrees of distant mountains easily seen through the unbelievably clean air.

It was utilized as cattle grazing land for the tall wild grasses and gentle climate at about 5000 feet elevation. 

It was also discovered that the soil was very much like the Italian soil that grows some great grapes. Thus, vineyards began to crop up.

It was very inspiring, even in February before the leaves were out on the vines. The weather was glorious (70s/40s).  We chose the best place to stay and the only place we want to stay if visit - Xanadu Ranch.

Our host and hostess were so fantastic and warm, adorable and gracious. The property is in an ideal location to everything, very very quiet, very private, and the rooms are cozy with the amenities that made us happy to lounge around, maybe swing in the hammock, take a hike, or sit out by the koi fish pond and watch the enormous stars and meteorites in the perfect night sky. 

We really were sad to leave and have this marked off as the ideal romantic retreat to go to in Southern, AZ. 

The wineries were all very short distances from each other and the drive up the hillsides to the amazing lookouts had us photographing a lot outside before we even went in to taste the premium wines.

(Happily contented vineyard pup)

It was my first time doing a wine tasting at a winery, so I was excited to learn more, especially about the Arizona wines. The subtle tastes were very different than California wines, I believe. I was very impressed.

I think if I had to narrow it down to three wineries I did not want to miss - the winners hands down are:  

Sonoita Vineyards has some tasty wines and a very nice atmosphere. It felt like a winery and the tastings were impressive. They are award-winning and you can taste why. I ended up with a bottle called "Arizona Sunset," a semisweet rose.  I also got "Sparkles Peach" which was an irresistible light, bubbly peach tasting wine.

Wilhelm Family Vineyards had my favorite wines of all! I ended up with a bunch of bottles. (Hey, it was impossible to choose). Luckily, I also found out where I can buy them locally because I know I will be refilling my wine rack. I got "Fiesta," the most tasty red sangria with citrus and fruity tastes that I have ever tried. It was just summer in a bottle. I also got a wonderful wine that was a German style one, most interesting - Gluhwein. I picked the white one and it is interesting. You get a bottle of the wine and then a smaller bottle of the additive you warm up and pour into it to create a kind of clove/spice mix that reminds me of the holidays without being too cloying. In fact, I'm keeping this one for my smorgasbord next Christmas. I got a bottle of the best port I have ever had - red port chocolate orange and it tastes unbelievable! This is the perfect one to have a small sip of in the evening and get relaxed and cozy. It is potent, and it is very good! The last bottle I got was Verdelho which tasted like sitting on a summer porch, with light fruity banana, pear, pineapple tones. 

AZ Hops and Vines is the MOST FUN place to go! It's not just a gorgeous location with lots of indoor and outdoor seating, but there is fun music playing and an easygoing hangout feel, like if I were at a beach, this would be the happy lively cabana serving drinks in the sand. They have some great wines to taste and they even give you unusual things to cleanse your palate, like Cheetohs and Doritos. It's a hoot, but it's also serious about its hops and its vines. Good stuff! I ended up with a bottle of The Fluffer. It was irresistible. They even have a fun wishing well. You write your wish, put it into the slot, ring the bell and everyone cheers you! In the summer solstice, they burn the wishes to release them in a fun ceremony.

While we were in the area, we drove 12 more miles to Patagonia, a charming town not far from the border. We went to the cemetery up on the hill and were able to photograph some gorgeous graves near sunset.

I have to say, I was excited at the cemetery to look out and see a red-topped mountain that a couple who was visiting the graveyard told me was called "Red Mountain" where they mined copper. I found it highly intriguing in this ancient giants area that above where water once ran, there was a mountain with copper mines - a most ideal giant location! 

At one point, we pulled over because a saw a "UFO" hovering over a mountain.

(This was as zoomed as my camera could go and on the bright screen, I couldn't even see the dot)

When we got to our computeres and zoomed in, however, we found a border patrol surveillance blimp. Oops!

At least we did our debunking.

I highly recommend this location. It is like no place I have ever been. I am told in the summertime when it's green and there are monsoon storms, it is an amazing retreat. You can be sure I'll be back! 

Here's a little slideshow - enjoy! 

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