A Visit to Tucson: The Arizona Inn and Regional Wine and Beer Tastings

Arizona Inn, Tucson, AZ

The beautiful Arizona Inn is a pink hued desert oasis in mid-town Tucson, a classic resort with flower-lined paths, an ornate fountain, and a stunning swimming pool with mountain views. The Inn makes the perfect spot to stay and explore the nearby vineyards of the Sonoita wine trail, Tucson’s first small batch whiskey distillery, and a plethora of in-town craft beer breweries.

Created in 1930 by Isabella Greenway, the Inn was built not only as a peaceful resort, but to help disabled WWI veterans keep their jobs in Greenway’s furniture shop despite the depression – by creating furnishings for the hotel. Family-owned ever since, the altruistic bent of the hotel’s origins spills over generations later, with friendly and helpful staff and gracious amenities such as a free ice cream sundae bar pool-side in the summer, free Wi-Fi, and the New York Times delivered every morning. Luxurious and nostalgic rooms with private patios and loungers, original art on the walls, and spacious layouts add to the appeal of this renowned resort. In short, it’s all about elegant relaxation in a soothing and serene atmosphere that includes a lush library with Tiffany lamps, a beautifully appointed dining room with cathedral ceilings, and the open-air Audubon bar.

The Arizona Inn’s Main Dining Room is itself the perfect place to begin wine tasting. Wine Spectator has bestowed its coveted Award of Excellence on the hotel’s eclectic wine list, which represents a wide variety of regions, including award-winning local Arizona vineyards. The dining room offers a full tasting menu featuring locally-sourced fare and wine pairings. Combining starters such as carrot ginger soup and entrees like vegetable paella or diver scallops with artfully selected wines, such as Callaghan Wineries Cabernet Sauvignon, makes for a memorable meal.

If the wine pairing doesn’t appeal, the hotel also serves the mesquite-smoked Whiskey Del Bac, made at Hamilton Distillery in Tucson. There’s also a variety of craft cocktails such as The Streetcar, a signature drink made from Amaretto di Saronno, Port, agave, lemon, and nutmeg, or the Tres Agaves Old Fashioned, made with Tres Agaves Anejo, Angostura bitters, and fruit.

For tasting experiences outside the Inn, one place to start is the Bear Track Winery located in the heart of Tucson itself. The winery is owned by retired PGA pro and wine-maker Rick Riddle, who uses grapes from the Sonoran wine region to craft both dry and sweet reds and whites. Wines are served on-site, with visitors ordering at the counter for one-on-one interaction about the varietals available. Just thirty minutes from Tucson, Charron Vineyards is one of the regions oldest and offers tastings on an outdoor deck with a view of the craggy Santa Rita Mountains. Owners Milton and Susan Craig produce a light, smooth, and fruity Merlot, a Dry White Merlot with crisp notes of oak, and a Viongier redolent of pear and peach. Charron’s French-oak-aged Syrah is a standout, with a slightly peppery edge.

Drive an hour from Tucson to hit more of the Sonoita wine trail, which holds the largest concentration of wineries and vineyards in the state. From the Kief-Joshua Winery with its smoky Tempranillo to Callaghan Wineries with their delicate Petite Sirah, there is a wide variety of unique wines from Arizona grapes.

Beer aficionados can taste right in town. Arizona Inn guests can take advantage of free bike rentals, and head to the Warehouse Arts District, home of Borderlands Brewing Company. Borderlands is known for infusing local ingredients into its beers. Their Santa Rita Amber Ale uses local rye and lightly roasted barley for a lightly fruity Belgian-style ale; their Prickly Pear Wheat is flavored by locally grown prickly pear from the Arizona Cactus Ranch. La Morena uses pecans grown and hand-roasted locally at the Green Valley Pecan Company. Thunder Canyon Brewery, with two locations in downtown Tucson and the Foothills mall, serves up brews ranging from the double red IPA Big Red Vibe to Bees n Berry, their honey and blackberry ale.

Returning to watch the sunset match the pink adobe of the Inn makes a great ending to a day of tasting Tucson-area wines and beers.

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