Crafting wines culled from the fertile fields of southern Arizona, Charron Vineyards has a penchant for producing quality whites and reds thanks to its high altitude, cool night temperatures, and lush fields of wine-bottle plants. Guests visit the welcoming, pet-friendly estate to walk along the 4 acres of mature grapevines and learn the intricate details of making fine wines such as their signature white merlot and smooth French-style rosé. The staff also hosts tastings on the scenic open deck and in the glass-enclosed tasting room, during which guests sip fruity whites and complex reds as they gaze at the breathtaking Santa Rita and Empire mountain ranges. Located about a half hour south of Tucson, guests are always welcome to pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the extensive tasting menu of wines offered by the bottle or glass.
As the oldest continually operating winery in Arizona, Sonoita Vineyards has had plenty of time to hone its craft. Its enduring success is partly due to its hillside location, which, although lovely for humans, is even better for grapes. Nestled on a south-facing slope, the 30 acres of vineyards are protected from much of the area's harsh weather and supplied with plenty of water by root-guarding berms. This setting has proven ideal for 10 varieties of grape vines, whose fruit becomes Sonoita Vineyards' 12 wines and whose stems and leaves go back into the soil to fertilize more grapes. These vintages include crisp, sparkling whites and an earthy blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and syrah grapes. Perhaps the popular vintage is the cabernet sauvignon, which is so celebrated that it's been served at a presidential inauguration gala and used to christen every new vice president.
The flavor profiles of these wines come to life during staff-guided group tastings and wine flights in the tasting room. These tastings aren't the bar's only attractions: the wine-production facilities are visible from the bar, and visits during the late-summer harvest season provide a glimpse into the winemaking process as it happens. Meanwhile, an outdoor portico offers a space for picnics and views framed by mountain ranges.
Passionate about food ever since he was a youngster, Stephen Hurd began his culinary career in his teens, working his way up the ladder with jobs at various restaurants. So began a 25-year career at country clubs and restaurants such as Washington D.C.’s Watergate Hotel, where Richard Nixon famously declared, “I am not a crook!” while stuffing his pockets with another table’s dinner rolls.
These days, Stephen showcases his culinary talents at his own eatery, Relish Kitchen and Wine Bar, where he crafts a global menu from scratch with locally sourced ingredients. Said global flavors range from blackened mahi served over sweet cornbread pudding to Mediterranean pasta chock-full of grilled chicken, artichokes, and cilantro pesto. On Sunday, Stephen even puts his own spin on brunch favorites such as French toast stuffed with cream cheese, sliced strawberries, and candied pecans. Open for lunch six days a week, he assembles made-to-order sandwiches, salads, and dressing made from scratch.
To complement Stephen’s feast, bartenders pour local and familiar wines by the glass, fill pints with regional beers, and mix classic cocktails. Sports games stream on the dining room’s four large flat-screen TVs, and stunning views of the Catalina Mountains await on a spacious outdoor patio.
Served by the flight, glass, or bottle, the wine at Bear Track Bistro & Winery makes for a tasty accomplice to the eatery's gourmet Mediterranean-style food. À la carte menus feature specialties from the sea, such as smoked oysters and sturgeon, and from the land, including all-natural artisan-cured meats seasoned with organic spices. Visitors can also share platters of cheese—feta, asiago, and smoked edam, among others—all handcrafted by a fourth-generation Wisconsin cheese maker. To go along with its food and wine, Bear Track also hosts special events throughout the week, highlighted by ladies nights and live music every Saturday.
Amid an elegantly decorated dining area with framed paintings and red and black accents, Bella D'Auria's servers dish out upscale Neapolitan Italian cuisine. Their menu showcases an array of seafood, including mussels marinara in a red wine spiced marinara sauce and honey lemon shrimp lightly fried in a mélange of butter, olive oil, lemon, garlic, onions, local honey, white wine, and parmigiana. To complement this culinary treasure, they pour Puccini chianti or Italian sodas. Bella D'Auria also hosts a full bar with 25 different varieties of beer.