Vintners battle Mother Nature every day
The climate in Sonoita is hot. It's dry. It's windy. It freezes. There are monsoons. Vines are even subject to sunburns, which can happen when an area is shaded and then exposed to direct, intense sunlight. Sun exposure can even affect the structure of the fruit, which plays into the type of wine. The climate plays such a large role in the composition of the wine, from the vine to the barrel.
"What makes a grape interesting is the story that it tells," said Todd Bostock of Dos Cabezas WineWorks. Arizona wines have elements that taste, smell, and feel like this place.
Because Sonoita is still a young growing region, winemakers are continuing to experiment to find the vines that work best. "Vines have to get to know their site," said traveling wine writer Elaine Brown, which means there’s a lot of trial, error, and replanting.
With that in mind, Sonoita winemakers carefully choose varieties that will thrive in difficult conditions. Ann Roncone, who moved from the Bay Area to grow grapes at an elevation of 5,100ft in Sonoita at Lightning Ridge Cellars, said Italian, Spanish, and French varietals do well. Here, you wouldn't grow something like a pinot that typically thrives in cold and wet climates.