Winemaker Eric Glomski says people's perceptions of Arizona are "based on seeing Looney Tunes, the Road Runner and Coyote." Think vast stretches of desert with the occasional cactus and Acme anvil.
But Arizona, he says, "is much more than desert." Parts of it are quite mountainous, and those higher elevations have proved to be suitable for wine grapes.
Most of Arizona's vineyards lie in three areas: Verde Valley, outside Sedona, in Northern Arizona; Sonoita, south of Tucson, in southern Arizona; and Willcox/Cochise County, east of Tucson, in southeastern Arizona. Vineyards generally are at elevations between 2,000 and 5,000 feet.
When it comes to grapes, variety is the hallmark. Traditional Rhone grapes (syrah, grenache, mourvedre) mingle with varieties from Spain (tempranillo, graciano) and Italy (sangiovese, aglianico, nebbiolo). Bordeaux varieties, like cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot, are in evidence, as is chardonnay. I also have tasted two wonderful malvasia biancas and even a fresh, fruity sparkling wine made from colombard, all Arizona grown. Blends are also popular.