There was a time when uttering the words "Arizona wine" would induce a cringe among aficionados. Great wine in the desert? Not a chance.
But with time, there arrived a good Arizona wine. Then another. And another.
Fast forward to 2018, and Arizona - Southern Arizona, that is - now has its own AVA (American Viticultural Area). Two AVAs, in fact, which include Sonoita and Willcox. There's also the Verde Valley, which is not recognized (yet) as an AVA but is no less worthy. Over 30 different wineries throughout these regions churn out countless classic varietals, interpretations of classics, and downright experimental varietals and blends.
The only problem with all that wine is figuring out where to drink it. You can head into Arizona wine country and have a blast visiting all of the different wineries and tasting rooms, but how often would that, realistically, be a reality? It's a semi-long drive, it's hot in the summer, and you can only hit about four, assuming they're all open. And while local wine is definitely appearing on local menus more and more frequently, it is neither the norm, nor the draw for most bars and restaurants. So a couple of successful former running shoe store owners, husband and wife Pete and Jeanne Snell, decided that needed to change.
Arizona Wine Collective opened at St. Phillips Plaza in February 2018. If you couldn't tell by the name, you wouldn't come here for the latest bottling of Chateneauf de Pape. But if Dos Cabezas' award winning pink rose is on your mind, or something more full-bodied from Callaghan Vineyards, you won't find a more comfortable, aesthetically pleasing, and conveniently located spot. And even if you don't know your way around Arizona wines, AWC is the perfect place to start.
“We wanted a place where people can taste and enjoy an ever-changing list of wines from multiple wineries – familiar wines like Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon – but also truly amazing and unfamiliar varietals like Graciano, Mourvedre, or Viogner that they would never try on their own,” said Arizona Wine Collective co-owner Jeanne Snell.
Set in a modern-rustic atmosphere, there's loungy-low seating, bar seating, high tables, a patio, and even a private room for a small party. Service is friendly and knowledgable, too. Since they work so closely with the wineries, there's intimate knowledge of the process being shared that just doesn't happen on a grander scale.
“As a Tucson-raised family business, we set out to create a business that supports the hard-working, family-run wineries across Arizona by showcasing their amazing products,” said Pete Snell, co-owner of Arizona Wine Collective. “Many of them are friends of ours and we’ve seen first-hand how much work and love they put into their wines. But, it’s more than just supporting local friends. It’s about promoting a collective body of work that has gained the respect and recognition of wine connoisseurs in and outside of Arizona."
Wineries you'll find at Arizona Wine Collective include not only some of the more established and recognized names, like Pillsbury, Page Springs, and Carlson Creek, but also newer wineries, such as Rune, Deep Sky, and Chateau Tumbleweed. And they rotate a little, too, depending on availability. Also, like any wine shop, flights, glasses, and bottles are all available along with a creative selection of small, local snacks. For more of an appetite, they've partnered with some of the Plaza's restaurants.
One of the great things here is the curation factor. While Arizona wine is only becoming more and more impressive, just as is the case in more well-known winemaking regions, not everything is drinkable. That's not really the case at Arizona Wine Collective. If they're offering it, chances are high that it's going to be good, so you'll be drinking the best Arizona winemakers have to offer, whether that's a crisp Viognier, a spicy Tempranillo, or an inky Malbec.
But lest you think it's wine geek only or go home, think again. If pretentious wine snobs are what you imagine, combined with an eye roll when you hear the words wine bar, you'll be pleasantly surprised to find that's not the case at Arizona Wine Collective. In designing the concept and the space, a fair amount of attention was given to ensure accessibility to not only the most novice of wine drinkers, but also to those who couldn't care less and just want to drink some great vino.
At the end of the day, that's what it's all about.
Arizona Wine Collective is located at 4280 N. Campbell #155 at St. Philips Plaza. Hours begin at 2 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and at noon on Saturday and Sunday. Closing hours are 8 p.m. on Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday; 9 p.m. Thursday; and 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information, visit azwinecollective.com.
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