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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Southern Arizona’s best wine tastings

    Southern Arizona hardly (if ever) makes the list of hotspots for the best wine-growing regions in America. Our arid climate and rampant burning sunshine alone make us the furthest thing from Napa Valley, Calif., or Oregon.

    It’s easy to assume wine-tasting would be impossible here, so you might be surprised to learn that two wineries are within driving distance of Tucson.

    You can find Charron Vineyards, one of Southern Arizona’s oldest vineyards, only 30 minutes from downtown Tucson. Charron Vineyards is a two-person enterprise run by Milton and Susan Craig, and the couple clearly cares about keeping the traditional wine-tasting experience intact and affordable: Four wine tastings and a souvenir glass sets you back only $5, which more than offsets the cost of gas to drive out to the winery. Charron specializes in making both white and red merlots; the white merlot won the Governor’s Choice Award in 2000 and has consistently sold out ever since. The vineyards use four acres of land to make the wine and none of it’s wasted; along with merlot, Charron also produces an Arizona syrah and a blanc de noir. For a short trip out of Tucson, you can’t do better.

    If you’re willing to drive a bit further away to Elgin, Ariz., you’ll find a larger wine-focused experience waiting to welcome you at Kief-Joshua Vineyard. The 15-acre vineyard was founded in 2005 under the direction of Kief Manning, a former Arizona State University student, and had its first harvest quite recently in 2008. Don’t let your Sun Devil hate get in the way of visiting, though — Manning has undoubtedly created one of Arizona’s premier vineyards. Manning says he believes in a very hands-on approach, as he leads all tastings personally, and he refuses to use herbicides or pesticides of any kind.

    The vineyard even uses organic recycling and sustainable farming techniques, so it’s as green as can be — and we mean that in a good way. The quality of Manning’s wines matches his passion; I’ve personally tried the vineyard’s “Cephus” white (a home-brewed mixture of chardonnay and pinot blanc), and it’s nothing less than excellent.

    Surrounded by mountains and placed right in the beautiful sunshine, the physical location of the vineyard isn’t too shabby either on a beautiful, warm day. If you’re into in a varied and ecologically-friendly wine-tasting experience, there’s no need to look any further than Elgin.

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