Put down that White Claw. Here are the 14 best Arizona wines for summer drinking
Georgann Yara, Special for Arizona Republic
Sometimes, sipping on a crisp and cool glass of wine is just what is needed to find relief from the Arizona heat. Although the calendar indicates fall is just around the corner, we know it’ll still feel very much like summer for another month or two.
Vino lovers who wish to support local businesses and farmers can satisfy both cravings with a bottle or two of Arizona-grown and produced wine. And while it’s the season of whites and rosés, local winemakers are also churning out reds that are very summer and summer food friendly.
From porch pounders to palate-smacking sippers, here are the homegrown wines that should be filling your glass when temperatures soar. Prices vary at retail locations.
Merkin Vineyards, Puscifer Queen B Sparkling Rosé ($12)
This can of bubbly was made for summer picnics, hikes and San Diego beach escapes. Made from 100% mourvedre rather than the mainstream pinot noir or chardonnay, this sparkling pink carries a bit more heft, zero sweetness and the ability to play nice with most summertime eats. Fans of red may want to know there’s a canned sparkling garnacha ($12) as well.
Callaghan Vineyards, 2019 Arizona Dry Rosé ($20)
Made with 100% grenache, this refresher does well on its own or partnered with a charcuterie board or fish. Winemaker Kent Callaghan likes this uber-drinkable wine with anything off the grill – think perfectly charred octopus. Delivery by refrigerated truck is free with a 6-bottle minimum purchase.
Carlson Creek Vineyard, 2018 Grenache Rosé ($23)
Fun and playful, this brilliantly hued pink is prepared to party. It boasts notes of watermelon granita, rhubarb, cherry and raspberry cheesecake with a banana skin finish. And it’s medium-bodied, which means it holds its own with flavorful proteins like turkey and grilled salmon, but would also be tasty foil for barbecue chicken. Delivery services resume in October.
Arizona Stronghold Vineyards, 2018 Dayden ($14)
A long time favorite among Arizona wine fans, this rosé continues to reliably impress with each vintage. It’s versatile enough to appeal to white and pink-only sippers as well as red wine devotees. This vintage combines syrah, grenache and mourvedre to yield cherry, lime zest and tangerine with hints of wet stone – but in a good way – on the palate. Enjoy with any light summer dish or cheese platter. Delivery is offered within 150 miles of the Verde Valley, so much of the Phoenix metro area falls within these parameters. Fee is $20 for 1-6 bottles and $30 for 7-12 bottles.
Dos Cabezas WineWorks, 2019 Meskeoli ($28)
Bottled this summer, this blend brings together albarino, viognier, malvasia, roussanne, petite manseng and pinch of the little-known kerner – an aromatic white grape with origins in Germany that’s the result of crossing riesling and trollinger, interestingly an Italian red variety. It’ll bring out the best in starters like prosciutto and melon salad and picnic mains like spicy fried chicken. Delivery to the Phoenix area is available. Contact the winery for details.
Garage-East, 2019 The Green Wine ($12)
Packaged ready to go wherever you do, this wine comes in a totable 375 ml can, which is about two glasses worth. Reminiscent of vinho verde – the Portugal varietal known for its brightness and slightly effervescent personality – it’s a blend of malvasia bianca, sauvignon blanc and riesling. Despite its name there is no hint of emerald beyond the can. Delivery to homes in the immediate neighborhood around Garage-East have no minimum purchase requirements. Deliveries to destinations within a 10-mile radius of Garage-East come with a $50 minimum purchase. Deliveries to the rest of the Valley come with a $200 minimum purchase
Pillsbury Wine Company, 2018 WildChild White ($25)
Filmmaker-turned-winemaker Sam Pillsbury’s WildChild wines have been perennial pleasers for years, and this white blend reflects his affinity for crisp, dry aromatic wines. A combination of symphony, malvasia, pinot gris, riesling and viognier makes this an ideal companion for any cool summer salad, most Asian dishes and delicately seasoned fish or pork. Looking for something new along these lines? Pillsbury just bottled and released his 2019 Barbecue White ($18), the first vintage of a house blend that's made for hot dogs, turkey burgers, wings or simple poolside sipping. Delivery with a 6-bottle minimum order is free.
Chateau Tumbleweed, 2019 The Descendants ($24)
A 100% rhone blend, this white hits all notes thanks to a trio of roussanne, viognier and grenache blanc. Think bright fruit and acidity meets hints of melon and a kiss of minerality with an air of white blossom, quince and pear that appropriately represent the transition of summer into fall. Aged partly in stainless steel and partly in neutral oak, it manages to walk the ideal line between complex and refreshing. Try it alongside crudité or grilled vegetables, light seafood and poultry bites, antipasti or just solo with a good book. Delivery to the Phoenix area for a $5 fee.
Sand-Reckoner Vineyards, 2018 Picpoul Blanc ($27)
The name loosely translates as “lip stinger,” referring to the grape’s naturally high acidity level. But it’s this characteristic that makes this wine a natural partner for strong shellfish flavors of oysters, clams and shrimp, and grilled fatty fish like salmon or swordfish. This rendition balances that acidity with tropical fruit and finishes with the richness of vanilla custard. Delivery to the Phoenix area for a fee.
Page Springs Cellars, 2018 Mule’s Mistake ($17)
This red blend has grown from being the baby of an "oops" moment in production to achieving cult status. The composition shifts slightly each year, with this vintage being half grenache and the rest carignan, counoise, pinot noir, sangiovese, malvasia bianca and French colombard. But the result is reliably pinot noir-esque that is fruit-driven, light-bodied and goes down easy… maybe too easy. Try it slightly chilled with pretty much anything fit for a classic picnic. Delivery is made to three drop off points in the Valley. A $10 fee applies for orders less than $100.
Callaghan Vineyards, 2017 Bonita ($28)
Comprised of grenache, malbec and touriga nacional – a grape that hails from Portugal and is considered to be that nation’s finest – this blend may be a one-off due to the small amount of malbec and touriga nacional, which usually don’t perform well, but in 2017, according to winemaker Callaghan, everything clicked. But it’s bottled for good times now, so pop it open with your favorite grilled dishes like chicken, sausages, hot dogs, hamburgers and steak. Aromatic and complex, Callaghan’s wife Lisa said it’s her favorite lighter red “and it has a little spice to it.”
Lightning Ridge Cellars, 2018 Montepulciano ($29)
Winemaker Ann Roncone specializes in Italian varietals, and this red is among her estate wines. A U.S.-grown version of this grape is rare and this vintage manages to be fresh while maintaining a depth of character. This medium-bodied wine is light enough to compliment a grilled Portobello mushroom yet stand up to a steak or roasted lamb.
Dos Cabezas WineWorks, 2019 Carbonic Macerated Syrah ($30)
Want to impress your wine-loving pals? Bring around a bottle of this to your next intimate patio gathering or Zoom happy hour. Instead of traditional yeast fermentation, winemaker Todd Bostock incorporates the French technique where whole grapes are placed in a airtight vessel with carbon dioxide, allowing the fruit to ferment from the inside in this oxygen-free environment. The result: a bouncy, super bright, earthy wine that begs to be drunk ASAP. Bostock’s wife Kelly called this refreshing lower-alcohol sipper Beaujoulais-esque. “I love it. It’s not weighty.”
Garage-East Rosé Pops ($4 or 6 for $20)
This grab-and-go summer favorite is kind of like an adult wine Otter Pop. Winemaker Todd Bostock worked with Tempe-based pastry chef Tracy Dempsey to come up with a recipe that allowed them to freeze yet kept its shape, texture and flavor.
Where to buy Arizona wines in metro Phoenix
If you’re looking for a good selection of Arizona wines and want to avoid the big box booze stores and grocers, head to these independent wine shops. Whether you’re very familiar with local wines or a newbie taking your first steps into the homegrown scene, chances are great that you’ll have your questions answered by someone who can help you navigate the terroir.
Arcadia Premium: 5618 E. Thomas Road, Suite 100, Phoenix. 602-464-9000, arcadiapremium.com.
Bottle Shop 48: 3316 S. McClintock Drive, Tempe. 480-820-0804, bottleshop48.com.
GenuWine Arizona: 888 N. First Ave., Phoenix. 602-682-7494, genuwinearizona.com.
Hidden Track Bottle Shop: The Monroe, 111 W. Monroe St., Suite 120, Phoenix. 602-566-7932, hiddentrackbottleshop.com.
ODV Wines: 1325 W. University Drive, Tempe. 602-376-9021, odvwines.com.
Sphinx Date Co.: 3039 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale. 480-941-2261, sphinxdateranch.com.