Italian for "your wine," Su Vino doesn't only curate a lineup of award-winning varietals, it also crafts custom wines to suit even the most discerning palates. Inside an eye-catching tasting room, Su Vino Winery pairs glasses and bottles of its vintages with a menu of light appetizers and sensuous desserts. Red wines such as the jam-flavored cabernet sauvignon/merlot blend and peppery zinfandel pour crimson into tasting glasses, whereas white wines—including the tongue-twisting gewürztraminer—immerse taste buds in crisp, off-dry tones. They also open their bottle-lined space to guests interested in hosting a birthday party, bridal shower, or scared-straight event for delinquent grapes.
As its name would suggest, Carefree is a laid-back town, with a sense of humor to boot. Look out for quirky street signs (Ho Hum Road and Nonchalant Avenue) and keep in mind the town’s motto (“home of the cowboys and caviar”). Phoenix lies about 30 miles to the south, and the Continental Mountains rise just to the north and create a nice backdrop opposite the Black Mountain range. There are a handful of hiking trails in the area, but for those who prefer the comforts of saddle, you can rent a bike from the hotel or sign up of for a guided horseback ride through the desert. Read the Fine Print for important info on travel dates and other restrictions.
Although tumbleweeds don't breeze down its street and there's no hitching post on which to secure your horse, Brix Wine Spot swaps the valley for the Old West while helping visitors earn their sommelier spurs. A 20-foot copper bar corrals patrons as they stampede through the door, surrounding them with country tunes and over 500 of the bar's vintages.
Weekly tastings introduce palates to new bouquets, and every day a minimum of 18 wines are available by the glass, each served at an optimal temperature and right after naptime to ensure cooperation. When stomachs begin to rumble, guests can snack on artisan cheeses, salami platters, and handcrafted cheesecakes, or even bring in their own food—a practice Brix encourages as long as a glass of one of their wines is incorporated.
Grapes don't usually grow in the desert's dry heat, but the owners of Oak Creek Vineyard and Winery found a way. They nourish vines of syrah, merlot, zinfandel, and chardonnay grapes with pure water from an aquifer 425 feet beneath the earth's surface. Moisture isn't everything, though; western Arizona's brilliant sunlight helps the grapes to develop ideal sugar content. The combination of warm days and chilly nights further brings flavor to life beneath the grapes' dusk-purple skins.
White curtains swirl around the outdoor patio of an adobe tasting room, where visitors pair sips of wine with meats and cheeses. A jaunt through the grounds reveals views of flowering cacti and tumbleweeds wearing pearls on the sun-browned hills.
Though Casavino Custom Winery carries up to 40 of its own wines at any given time—including blackberry, shiraz, and white-chocolate port—its main attraction is giving patrons the ability to make their own. During the winemaking experience, visitors sample the winery's many vintages, then decide which variety they'd like to ferment under the guidance of an expert winemaker. Budding sommeliers even create their own label design with help from an in-house graphic artist. The experience culminates in a group tasting for family, friends, and wine glasses over the age of 21, an event which occurs in a tasting room lined with barrels and jugs of busily fermenting wine.
At Vino 100, team members aren’t sommeliers—they’re “wine enthusiasts.” The approachable job title reflects owner Laura McCormack’s overall mission of making wine more accessible to non-connoisseurs. The goal is also reflected in the store’s layout. Rather than by area of origin or grape, vintages are simply arranged by flavor, laid out from light and fruity to dry and full. Like the layout, the prices are accessible, with more than 100 wines—primarily from small-scale artisans—priced at under $25. For added shopper-friendliness, the store hosts classes on wine appreciation, teaching students to deduce a wine’s flavor without googling it first.