Located at 471 Elgin Rd, Elgin, AZ 85611
Open 7 days per week, 10a-4p.
It was about 3pm when I reached The Village of Elgin Winery. I had hopped from Dos Cabezas Wineworks to Callaghan Vineyards meeting all manner of crazy characters in an attempt to track down my ex-girlfriend Rosario Vargas. Village of Elgin couldn’t have been more than five minutes east of Callaghan. The rain remained at a light, constant drizzle but the air kept getting chiller as the afternoon went on. I pulled up to a charming, rustic building. Village of Elgin has been around for 34 years, making it Arizona’s second-oldest winery.
The courtyard was completely empty due to the rain, I’m sure. Sonoita and Elgin are small towns and I doubt anyone would ever describe them as “bustling” but the vineyards do attract a decent number of crowds consisting of local residents as well as people stopping in from neighboring towns. Tucson is only about an hour away, after all. But this day was a strange one, not only because of the cold and non-stop rain but because it seemed to wash away the flurry activity you’d normally find at these businesses. There were no more than a couple of other customers at this and the previous vineyards I visited. I felt like a cold, wet cat sauntering around looking for answers in this strange town.
Oh and also there was a peacock outside Village of Elgin. Like, a literal fucking peacock!
He was just hanging out outside, roaming, being peacocky, running away from me as I tried to take a decent picture with him for my Tinder profile and asked him if he wanted to help me pitch a reality TV show in which he and I roamed the country solving murder mysteries and banging chicks. I told him we could call it “The Classy Alcoholic and his Drunken Peacock .” He said he’d get back to me on that. I’m just waiting for his call.
Anyway, I walked into the Village of Elgin tasting room and was greeted by a barrage of bottles. Village of Elgin produces wine under three separate labels. The first bears their name, Village of Elgin, while the other two are called Tombstone and Four Monkeys. There is a legal limit to the number of bottles that can be produced under a single label so having multiple labels means this place can produce more wine. And if there’s one thing that will make the world a better place is the existence of more wine. It‘s kind of like how my Uncle Eddie was banned from Food City after hanging around the tortilla aisle and drunkenly hitting on all the chubby single moms who came by and then got around that ban by wearing a police uniform that he stole form the dry cleaners and convincing the Food City staff that they couldn’t legally ban him anymore. I think that’s the same idea.
So I walked into the place and ordered a tasting. You get 6 wine samples for $10 at this place and, like the other vineyards, it includes a souvenir glass that you can own for life. It’s $8 if you bring in your own glass. As I approached the serving area I saw a very pale man wearing a black trench coat. In fact, he was wearing all black. Pants, fedora, sunglasses. He hid his pale, ashy face behind the hat while he sipped his glass. He looked a bit weird to me but I was wearing a suit, tie and pocket square in Arizona so who was I to deem anyone else as “weird,” right? But I had the sense that this was the Mr. Martin I was told to look for in this place. I took a sip of my first taste to build some courage. It was a Merlot under the Tombstone label called the Rustler. It was an excellent wine that was 100% Merlot. I walked up to the Black Trench Coat guy and confidently tapped on his shoulder which caused a layer of ash to float off his skin. Gross.
“Are you Mr. Martin?” I asked.
“Yes, Manny Martin. I got a call from Chewie. You’re the young man interested in the sommelier job at the combination vineyard/strip club we’re starting, yes?”
“I’m the guy you’re talking about but I’m not actually interested in the job. I’m looking for Rosario Vargas. I have reason to believe that she’s in trouble.”
Manny Martin chuckled which caused a chalky fog to emanate from his nostrils. He dismissively said that Rosario was always in trouble. And I guess he was right. When she and I were together I had to bail her out of jail three times. Once for punching the guy dressed like Ronald McDonald at her little cousin’s birthday party and twice for breaking and entering into a Sears. Like, the same Sears for some reason.
“Look, Mr. Martin, I’ve had a crazy day so far. Your hairy business partner Chewie said you could help me find Rosario. And I wouldn’t even be here if I hadn’t gotten a call from some other weird dude named Chuck Steak so I-“
“Chuck Steak?!?” he interrupted. “Why didn’t you say Chuck Steak was involved? He’s real trouble!”
“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. I need to know what’s going on. So far I’ve gotten bits and pieces about Rosario being tracked down by bounty hunters, her investing money in a strip club that makes wine and vague warnings about her being in danger. It all sounds like some disconnected, failed attempt at a fictional mystery novel written by a drunken idiot.”
“Yes, it sounds terrible doesn’t it? Well I’ll give you the answers you’re looking for but first I want you to try another sample of wine.”
Manny Martin had the server pour me a glass of another Tombstone wine called the Outlaw. It was even better than the last taste. It was a red that smelled fruity but had a spicy, cinnamon taste to it. I told him I loved it.
“I like it too,” Manny said. “It’s a blend of three styles of grapes: Sangiovese, Grenache and Syrah. Have you ever tasted a blended wine before?”
“No, I really mostly stuck to wines in boxes up until recently,” I said, slightly embarrassed.
“Don’t knock the boxes. The plastic inside the box is a much better storage method than bottles. An opened box of wine can last for almost two months. An open bottle won’t even last a week.”
Holy shit, I was learning a lot about wine today.
“Blended wines make the flavors more complex,” Manny continued. “There’s nothing wrong with wines like the Tombstone Rustler. It’s made entirely of Merlot and it’s quite delicious but I prefer my wines to have distinct elements brought together into a single glass. If wine were people then you’d strike me as a Rustler. You’re focused on a single goal today and you don’t let anything else creep in. You’re a 100% Merlot person. Rosario is the Tombstone Outlaw. She’s an unpredictable mixture of flavors. Every sip of a blended wine is an adventure. Just like she is.”
Manny was right. The Tombstone Outlaw was a perfect analogy for Rosario. Not just because it perfectly described her personality but because she was also the only person in the town of Tombstone, AZ to ever get a DUI on a unicycle. I asked Manny how he was connected to Rosario.
“I’m her fiancé,” he said, as my heart sank. I had no idea Rosario was engaged. “Well, I was her fiancé. I decided that today was the last day that I followed her into oblivion. She tasked me with running the vineyard/strip club along with Chewie and she said she needed me to be presentable to the American clientele. So I changed my name and did everything I could to whiten up my skin.”
“Wait, so Manny Martin isn’t your real name?”
“No! What kind of stupid name is that? My name is Emanuel Martinez. I’m from Tamaulipas, Mexico. My skin used to be brown! I’m not allowed out in the sun anymore which is why I have this ridiculous trench coat and hat and glasses. The only reason I was let outside is because the sun hasn’t shown itself all day. One second out in the sun and I could look Mexican again, which is bad for the strip club business.”
“I don’t understand, what’s wrong with being Mexican in a strip club? All the strip clubs I’ve been to are patronized exclusively by Mexicans.”
“Because Rosario’s strip club is meant to be a drug front. There’s an underground tunnel running from Mexico into the club’s basement. Chewie’s ignorant ass is in on it because he really thinks it’s a good business plan. I’m supposed to be the face of the place but can’t have any lingering Mexican look so as to not arouse suspicion. Rosario was going to use the profits from the strip club vineyard and from selling the 62 year old bottle of Scotch she stole to fund a secret project.”
“What’s the project?” I asked.
“I honestly don’t know. You’ll have to ask her. I’ll tell you where she is but first you have to have a couple more drinks with me.”
I obliged, if only to get to the bottom of this. I still had a couple more samples left in my tasting. Manny and I shared a glass of the Village of Elgin wine called Vino Della Primavera. He was absolutely in love with it because it was a blend of five Italian grapes. It was crisp with a smooth finish. I was very impressed but was more intrigued by the Cabernet Sauvignon from the Four Monkeys Label. The last sample was poured into my glass and I was about to drink it when I realized that Manny was very pensive and quiet.
“So Chuck Steak told me that the rich businessman that Rosario stole the bottle of Scotch from sent bounty hunters after her,” I said, breaking the silence.
“He did. They want the bottle back and they’re in town looking for her. But I drank the bottle.”
“What the hell? Why would you do that?”
“Because it’s the only way I could think to free myself from her.”
Manny reached into his trench coat and pulled out an empty bottle of 62-year-old Dalmore scotch.
“I don’t hold anything against Rosario,” he said. “I loved her and got sucked into the whirlwind that is her beauty and adventurous nature. I made a choice to be with her. And now I’m making a choice to let go. Because otherwise I’ll lose more of myself following after her.”
He and I sipped the last sample. It was called Playful Monkey and it was amazing. It was the right amount of fruity and spicy. It was a bold wine that had just the right amount of sweetness without being overly sweet or dry. It was a Cabernet but had the exciting complexity that Manny used to describe blends. It was definitely the standout wine of the place and I decided to take home a bottle of it.
Manny and I walked outside of Village of Elgin into the empty, wet courtyard.
Just across the street there was a group of about three Asian men with trench coats of their own. One of them opened their coat slightly to reveal a gun. Manny pulled out the empty bottle of Dalmore and held it up so that the armed men across the street could see. They must have been the bounty hunters who were looking for Rosario. Manny looked over his shoulder at me as the wind blew dust off of his pale skin in desperate need of Vitamin D.
“Rosario is at another vineyard right now called Hops & Vines,” he told me. “It’s back in Sonoita.”
“What will happen to you?” I asked. I recognized the look on Manny’s face. It was the same look I had when Rosario told me she was leaving me and about to hop on a plane to Alaska because she really wanted to cross “Pee on a polar bear” off of her bucket list.
“I’m going to take the fall for the theft of the whiskey. I drank it, after all. Let them do what they want to me. I’m free. I’m finally free.”
Manny walked up to the Asian men and got into their car. They drove away without a word.
The clouds were getting darker. It was about 4pm now, which was closing time at Village of Elgin. The wine at this place was also exceptional and everyone is advised to pay this winery a visit. The Playful Monkey was without a doubt my favorite of the wines I tried and added the bottle of it to the two others I had purchased earlier this day. Hops & Vines was open until 6pm so I decided to make my way over. I was ready to face Rosario and I knew that, one way or another, my adventure would be ending there.
The exciting conclusion of “A Rainy Day in Sonoita & Elgin” takes place at Arizona Hops & Vines.