Uncorking Arizona's Wine History

Dori Wittrig October 31, 2023

Fall is the best season to experience the most high-quality wine, so the time is right to head to a wine region in Arizona! Let’s explore a little history of Arizona’s wine and the wine hubs in our area.
Arizona’s wine-making history dates back to the Spanish missionaries who first planted grapevines in the region in the late 17th century. These early vines were the roots of what would eventually become a thriving wine industry.

Spanish Missionaries and Early Beginnings

In the late 1600s, Spanish missionaries introduced grapevines to the Sonoran Desert, including areas around present-day Arizona. They used these grapes primarily for sacramental wine, and it marked the first instance of wine cultivation in the region.

Prohibition and the Rebirth of Winemaking

During the Prohibition era (1920-1933), wine production came to a halt in Arizona, as it did across the United States. However, the state’s winemaking tradition was reborn in the late 20th century. The 1970s saw the establishment of the Sonoita Vineyards, the first winery in Arizona since Prohibition. This marked a turning point in the state’s wine history.

Innovation and Growth

Over the years, Arizona winemakers have embraced innovation and experimentation. The state’s diverse climate and terroir have proven to be assets for producing a wide variety of grape varietals. From the high desert of Northern Arizona to the rolling vineyards of Southern Arizona, the state’s wineries have flourished.

The Wine Hubs of Arizona Today

Today, the Arizona Wine Growers Association tells of four main “wine regions” in Arizona. Each one is home to several vineyards that you can go to for wine tasting, tours, and more.

Verde Valley

The Verde Valley region is approximately two hours north of Fountain Hills, and includes the vineyards of Prescott, Jerome, Oak Creek Canyon, Campe Verde, Cottonwood, and other communities at the base of the Mogollon Rim. The Verde Valley Wine Trail is a great way to introduce yourself to the best that this region has to offer. Check out the Verde Valley Wine Trail by clicking here.


The Sonoita and Elgin region is located in the Sonoita Valley, an hour south of Tucson. Situated in fertile grasslands between several southern Arizona mountain ranges, the views at these vineyards are stunning. The Sonoita/Elgin Chamber of Commerce has a great map of their town’s wineries that you can check out at their website.


The Wilcox wine region is east of Tucson and includes Willcox, Pearce, Turkey Creek, and other communities based around the basin of the ancient Lake Cochise. The Willcox Wine Country Club has a great list of the wineries in the area, which you can see by clicking here.

The Mavericks

Wineries in other parts of Arizona are considered “The Mavericks and Pioneers.” They grow grapes in parts of Arizona where it would not usually be expected. One of the most notable “maverick” wine trails is also the closest to town: the Scottsdale Wine Trail. You can learn more about those wineries on the Scottsdale Wine Trail website.
The wine culture of Arizona is getting bigger and bigger each passing year, and there are so many places to try out within a few hours of town. Fall is actually the best season to experience the most high-quality wine, so the time is right to head to a wine region! Check out the Arizona Wine Growers Association website to learn more about specific vineyards and how you can support wine in Arizona.

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