After being told multiple times that opening a winery is a dream "that will never work," sisters Megan and Shannon did the impossible. While living together under one roof with six kids, six dogs, five turtles, and 10 chickens, the sisters decided to prove the naysayers wrong and pursue their dream of opening a winery. And today, they own and operate Arizona Hops and Vines, which yields six varietals ranging from a sparkling brut wine crafted from muscat grapes to a bold 100% California petit verdot. Arizona Hops and Vines hosts weekend tastings for of-age adults, and invites kids, nondrinking guests, and pets to check out the Sober Shack or practice animal-whispering skills with the farm's resident pets.
Spiraling from the soil of 60 acres of vineyards across two locations, Kief-Joshua Vineyards’ grapes go through a kind of natural internship before transforming into complex, aromatic wines via traditional winemaking methods. Having eliminated herbicides and pesticides in the vineyards, Kief-Joshua’s winemakers embrace old school practices start to finish, right down to the barrel aging of many of their wines and the Gregorian chants that ferment the grapes. Specializing in dry, full-bodied varietals, the vineyard’s rustic tasting gives visitors the chance to sample glasses of petit verdot or chardonnay. A variety of tastings are available, from public sips to private tours; more advanced tastings involve up to a dozen samples.
Upon planting their first vineyard in 1990, the Callaghan family found their efforts tested by a harsh heat wave that killed thousands of their young vines. But instead of sowing sour grapes for the winemaking business, the Callaghans took it as a learning experience, planting and replanting until they found tempranillo, riesling, and bordeaux varieties perfectly suited to the arid Arizona climate. The hard work in the field also pays off later, as the high-quality grapes require lots of barrels and little else to mature into wines that have been served at three White House dinners and led former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano to dub the winery a state treasure. Since 2008, Callaghan Vineyards has also earned more than 10 medals in the Jefferson Cup Awards, which honors the best US wineries, and—like the party-hosting leg of a triathlon—includes competitors on an invitation-only basis.
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.
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.
Wine Depot opens its cellar doors just once a week, at which point vinophiles can pour inside to peruse rare, handcrafted, Old World German wines in more than 30 varietals. Wine Depot's oldest supplier boasts a start date of 1464, back when grapes were new to the planet and thought they'd never experience the fate of raisins. The specialty store's mammoth cellar maintains a proper storage temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit, ensuring all 20,000-plus bottles ($14–$600, $20–$30 on average) stay tasty and fresh. Sips range from crisp, mineral-forward pinot grigios to richly tannic cabernet franc, and semisweet and dry rieslings lend classic German tastes to atypical German breakfasts made of pizza puffs. To aid patrons in decision making, the experienced staffers at Wine Depot host a schedule of free weekly wine tastings, each offering samples of five handcrafted wines.