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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Sonoita Vineyards throws HarvestFest

Bill Mason, Cat Tran Driver (Brown hair) Dennis Cady, Cat Tran Driver (black and white striped shirt) AJ Dowgiert, Cat Tran Driver (Plaid/Checkered Shirt)

As we approach the middle of summer, Sonoita Vineyards, Arizona’s first winery, kicks off grape-harvesting season with their annual HarvestFest on July 25 and 26.

Sonoita Vineyards hosts the weekend filled with grape stomping contests, wine tasting, vineyard tours, wagon rides and live music every year to celebrate with the Tucson community.

“It is always nice to see everybody come together and a have a little fun before harvest begins,” said Lori Reynolds, winemaker and granddaughter of the winery’s founder.

The stretches of vibrant grasslands, mountains along the horizon and rich soil resembling that of vineyards in Burgundy, France—one of the most influential regions in the world of wine—makes Sonoita the perfect getaway from the summer heat.

According to Reynolds, grape harvesting typically takes place between August and September in Arizona.

“We get up before the sun comes up, prepare the tools, the pruning shears and prep all the water trucks, and bring enough water to drink and start the day the minute the sun comes up,” Reynolds said. “We start picking, and we don’t finish until everything has been picked and pruned. From there, we start destemming and crushing the grapes, and begin the fermentation process.”

Reynolds also added that the harvesters enjoy a festive party before grape harvesting season begins. The crew members have to be up for about 36 hours harvesting grapes, and to prepare themselves for the long period of work the winery hosts a grape-stomping event, during which staff revels in the physically intensive process of making the wine.

“I get super excited every year for the grape-stomping event,” Reynolds said. “It is always nice to see everybody come together and a have a little fun before harvest begins.”

HarvestFest allows people to celebrate their love of wine while learning more about the harvesting process. UA linguistics researcher Lourdes Curacao was raised in a family with a strong tradition of wine tasting, and said she appreciates Arizona’s winemaking ingenuity.

“My family is from Quebec, so we grew up with wine, and it has always been a large part of our culture,” Curacao said. “We would always drink wine with our daily meals, and it was always part of our upbringing to learn and understand what wine to choose and how to pair it with different foods to enhance the flavors of the wine and really how to appreciate it and not abuse it.”

As an avid wine taster, Curacao enjoys learning about how different wines are produced in the desert.

Reynolds explained that Sonoita Vineyard grows a variety of Spanish and French grapes that produce an assortment of wines such as sauvignon blanc, merlot and pinot noir.

“We grow French varieties and Spanish varieties, which are the two predominate types of wine grown here in Arizona, but a lot of wineries in Arizona are branching and trying new things,” Reynolds said.

After months of working with the kitchen at Sonoita Vineyards, Reynolds is eager to share a range of wine and food parings for both wine connoisseurs and newcomers. She said she hopes to give people an insider’s view into what she does as a winemaker everyday, while providing people with an entirely new experience.

“Wineries in Arizona really offer a different taste of wine for people, which is really exciting,” Curacao said. “I’ve been all over the world, and I haven’t found a place that’s anything like Tucson, and I feel like the wines here capture the funky, quirky thing that is going on.”

The HarvestFest event is located at 290 Elgin-Canelo Road in Elgin, Ariz., and is only open to those 21 and older. This year’s festival will include a VIP tent, which will give winery goers access to a wine bar, massages, an after-hours party and winemaking tours. Tickets cost $20 for regular admission, and $55 for VIP admission. 

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