No other pair of syllables stirs up the same delicious anticipation, except maybe the obvious response: “Shotgun!”
Sierra Vista, Arizona, ought to be on your road trip list. Not only are the curvy, two-lane roads surrounding the community perfect for motorheads, the scenery is spectacular for the lucky shotgun passenger.
Take, for instance, highway 82. This state highway undulates through rolling grasslands as you head west into Arizona’s original wine country. Ease up on the accelerator about 10 miles from the 90/82 junction (locally known as Mustang Crossing) to make a left onto Upper Elgin Road and cruise into the village of Elgin. You won’t find any services there, but you will find some of Southeast Arizona’s wineries (there are a close to 40 in the area).
Smack in the middle of this hamlet is the Elgin Winery and Distillery, producing wines since the early 1980s, and now turning out world-class bourbon, gin, and rum.
Round the corner to stay on Elgin Canelo Road, named for both the little town and the rolling hills its tucked into, and you’ll find Autumn Sage Winery and Sonoita Vineyards—the state’s oldest commercial vineyard—both with tasting rooms so close to the field you can smell the earthy vines.
Keep rolling through the hills until you join up with highway 83. A left turn evolves into a delightfully twisty road that climbs through the Coronado National Forest to Parker Canyon Lake. Fill up your eyes with knock-out scenery, and bring a picnic and fishing pole ($8 day-use fee, boat rentals available).
The road to the right isn’t as fun to drive, but the chance to sample more wine, beer, and spirits more than makes up for it. Copper Hop Ranch and Microbrewery grows 14 varieties of hops to use in farm-brewed beers. Operators Tom and Mel are also branching into hard cider and liquors, so the place is worth a stop even if you’re not a hophead.
Highway 83 loops north, right past Lightning Ridge Cellars, specializing in Italian varietals. Drive another six miles and hang a right onto Elgin Road. It makes a beeline to Elgin—and six more tasting rooms. Once you get back to Elgin, hang a left onto Elgin Road and left again on Lower Elgin Road to visit Wilhelm Family Vineyards. In addition to reds, whites, and pinks, Wilhelm concocts sangria with a jalapeno kick. Aye caramba!
Lower Elgin Road picks up highway 83 again and winds into Sonoita, past the Cooper Brothel Brewery, a bona fide stop for beer and pub-grub.
At Sonoita, take a right onto highway 82 to head back toward Sierra Vista. You’ll pass another half-dozen wineries, all a welcome stop.
If Old West kitsch is calling, instead of heading west from Sierra Vista, head east along Charleston Road. This winding two-laner crosses the San Pedro River and climbs up a short rise into Tombstone. Strolling along the boardwalks is something you have to do at least once in your life, so if you haven’t, plan to spend a little time there. You might run into Doc Holliday, or someone who looks remarkably like him.
Once you’ve had your fill of sarsaparilla and gunfire, take highway 80 south to Davis Road to pay a visit to High Lonesome and Hoffman vineyards. While Hoffman specializes in German vines, High Lonesome grows the European varietals that thrive in Arizona’s climate.
String-straight Davis Road joins up with highway 191, also known as The Devil’s Highway. This curvy road runs from Mexico to Canada—but just enjoy 27 miles of it then merge onto Kansas Settlement Road. Take a right onto Robbs Road, where five vineyards serve samples and sell bottles.
Bodega Pierce is operated by two generations of wine growers. Its wine is award winning, lush, and full-bodied. (You must try the Gallia.) A skooch down the road is Pillsbury Wine Company, also with must-try with blends and varietals that scream “gold medal!”—and wins them.
Stay north on Kansas Settlement Road to roll into Willcox. Here, you can hit a handful of tasting rooms on Railroad Avenue or grab a bite to eat before heading back to Sierra Vista via I-10.
Scenic drives, curvy roads, and wine tasting—exactly why “shotgun!” is the right response when someone hollers “road trip!” Drive safe, and see you soon!