Located at 336 Elgin Rd, Elgin, AZ 85611
Open Thurs-Sun 11a-4p
Part 2 of a 4-part story called, “A Rainy Day In Sonoita & Elgin.” Make sure you read Part 1 here.
I left Dos Cabezas Wineworks and headed south on Highway 83 with Callaghan Vineyards as my destination. The highway curved left and then right while the rain came crashing down onto my windshield. The smacking of water on my car was so loud it felt like I was being warned to stop and turn back. This type of weather in Southern Arizona is an anomaly at best and a bad omen at worst. Callaghan was less than fifteen minutes away from where I started my drive but the heavy rain made it feel twice as long. I eventually reached Elgin Rd and turned left, where a small sign served as the only indication that I had left Sonoita and entered a separate town.
The sign appeared to depict three dancing women which I assumed was honoring Elgin’s three most famous bar wenches trying to flail the pain out of their genital areas after the collective clap they contracted from a wagon full of travelers passing through Arizona on their way to bury their wives in the West Coast. The heavy rain only made the sign more authentic.
Elgin Road is home to five separate vineyards which you can hit in rapid succession. I drove up to Callaghan Vineyards and took a second to admire the Sonoita landscape under the gray, dreary weather.
I walked inside and surveyed the available wines. I chatted a bit with the employees who told me that Callaghan had a long history in Arizona and was a vineyard with significant clout. They’ve been around since 1990 and their wines have been served at the White House on no less than three separate occasions. Several of their bottles were adorned with ribbons from a variety of competitions honoring the quality of Callaghan’s wines.
I wasn’t in the tasting room for very long before I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to find myself face-to-face with a gold crucifix necklace embedded in a booming tuft of chest hair like a fly stuck in a spider’s web. I craned my neck up to see the tallest man I’ve ever seen in my life. He was likely around 6’8” tall with a bushy beard, long hair held back in a ponytail, wearing a Hawaiian shirt unbuttoned down to his stomach which showed off the brown forest of man hair emanating from his chest. His arms were also trails of unruly wilderness. All the hair on his body was flat from the rain outside and he shook himself off, spraying rain water all over the walls, wine bottles and other customers.
“Chewie, I presume?” I asked as I dried my face off. “I believe you’re looking for me.”
“Depends,” he said. “Are you the sommelier Chuck Steak told me about?”
I told him that I was, indeed, he. I tried to project as much confidence as possible when I answered. He produced a wine glass from out of his chest hair with the Callaghan Vineyards logo and placed it on the bar next to the large selection of bottles offered here.
“Prove it,” he demanded.
This was the moment of truth. I asked the woman working at the bar for a tasting of only red wines. Callaghan’s tastings offer five styles to choose from and they have six red wines in their collection. The Giant Hairy Man watched me intently as I got the first wine poured into the glass. It was Cabernet/Merlot mix called the Buena Suerte, which I sipped, swished and swallowed then smacked my lips quickly to allow the taste to permeate my palate. The wine was delicious for sure but the issue was to confidently describe what I was tasting to this giant furry creature of a man. I decided to take the advice I was given and say the first thing that came to mind.
“The Buena Suerte tastes like a grape threw a backyard barbecue for its cinnamon cousin to celebrate it graduating from law school but then the grill started to smoke a little bit,” I said, waiting for the guy to call my bluff.
“Wow. All I have to say is wow. I’ve never heard a glass of wine described so poetically. You are a true wine connoisseur! The Buena Suerte has aromas of herb, smoke, cinnamon and black cherry and you seem to have tasted all the way under the undertones. Fascinating. Please, do another tasting,” he implored, his eyes agape with admiration.
I couldn’t believe that worked! But instead of giving me more confidence I worried that I wouldn’t be able to pull that trick off a second time. I continued the tasting with a wine called the Backlot poured into my glass and took a sip. I immediately tasted chocolate but took a second to pick out the more nuanced notes. Again, I blurted out my first instinct.
“It tastes like a chocolate-covered cherry did a bunch of situps then had sex with spicy raspberry in the backseat of a ‘98 Corolla in the parking lot of the local community college.”
The Giant Hairy Dude’s jaw dropped and a hairball fell out of it.
“Amazing,” he said. “You can actually taste hints of the ‘98 Corolla. I thought I was the only one whose palate was refined enough to recognize that!”
“Yeah, I’ve got skills, whatever. So are you Chewie or not?”
He told me he was. He apologized for making me prove myself but apparently this sasquatch of a man was trying to keep a low profile here in Elgin. Apparently he was trying to start the country’s first strip club vineyard and was afraid of having his plans stolen by rival wineries.
“Wait,” I said, “What the hell made you think that would be a good idea?”
“Are you kidding me? A vineyard strip club would be a boom for this town. People love wine tasting in Sonoita and Elgin. If you add a boobs into the mix we’ll have people flooding here from all over the state!”
“Okay, the more I think about it the more it actually sounds like an amazing idea. But what do you want with me?”
“We need to hire a sommelier to help people decide which wine to pair with the various strip club meals we’ll be serving. If you’re looking for work then we can start you off part-time at the taco bar. Then with time we can move you up to the cheese bar.”
“Sorry but your idea just got stupid again,” I said.
“Our wealthy investor doesn’t think it’s stupid. Ms. Vargas believes in this idea wholeheartedly.”
“Wait, your investor is Rosario Vargas?” Chewie had my interest again. “I guess that makes sense. She always invested in terrible business ideas like that talking food truck that kept catching fire or the Latin Grammies. So if I decide to take this strip club sommelier job would I be able to meet with Ms. Vargas? Today?”
“Absolutely. In fact, she can answer any questions you might have about the operation.”
My adrenaline started pumping. After seven years of not seeing Rosario I would finally get the chance to talk to her in person thanks to this enormous human feather duster.
“So where do I find Rosa- I mean, Ms. Vargas?” I asked him, way too eagerly, I think.
“Slow down, kid. Ms. Vargas doesn’t give up her whereabouts to just anyone. She’s a very cautious woman who never spends more than an hour at any single location.” That sounded like Rosario. But probably less due to caution and more due to all the coke. “If you want to speak to her you’ll have to talk to the only person who knows where she is at any given time: my business partner, Mr. Martin. You can find him at The Village of Elgin Winery just five minutes east of here.”
“Are you kidding me? I have to go to another vineyard to meet another ridiculous character now? I just want to find Rosario!”
“And Mr. Martin is the only way you’re going to do it. So let him know that you’re interested in the strip club sommelier position and he’ll set you up with a date for new employee orientation. And for the love of dog, do not tell anyone about our plans for the club. The idea is potentially worth millions and if someone beats us to the punch we’ll lose out on all the vineyard/strip club revenue!”
Chewie went into the bathroom to blow dry the rain off of his body hair while I decided to take home a bottle of the Buena Suerte wine. This trip was proving to be expensive apart from weird and frustrating. I needed to keep going and find out how Rosario got mixed up into all this. I had the sneaking suspicion that if I didn’t find her today I may never get the chance to see her again.
The rain continued at a light drizzle outside. I walked out of Callaghan impressed with all of their red wines and didn’t taste a bad one in the bunch. I would definitely come back but for now, it was time to move on to the next stop.
Part 3 of this epic story takes place at The Village of Elgin Winery.