Located at 1858 S Sonoita Highway, Vail, AZ 85641
Open Fri-Sun 10a-6p
Summer is coming. People who live in this state usually don’t have ambiguous feelings over that statement. They’re either incredibly relieved to be able to walk around in t-shirts and shorts and have longer stretches of sunlight in their days or they’re super pissed that it isn’t getting pitch black at 6PM anymore and that they can’t go outside in a suit without passing out from dehydration.
Today we’re back in Southern Arizona where hints of summer are already creeping in. Specifically, we’re in Vail, a town that’s about thirty minutes southeast of Tucson, visiting a place called Charron Vineyards. Charron is in a unique spot, considering that there are no other tasting rooms in the immediate area. You won’t see another vineyard unless you head south about another half hour and enter Sonoita.
Charron is off of Highway 83, also known as Sonoita Highway. You take it about 7 miles south of I-10 and keep an eye out for a little sign that tells you the tasting room is open. Be careful, though. The entrance to the vineyard is easy to miss and I had to make a quick left turn and didn’t have enough time to slow down before slamming my car into a row of mailboxes belonging to the people who lived on the property. And after I did a half-assed job of trying to get the mailboxes somewhat back to their original state with some duct tape I happened to have in the trunk I still had to drive about ¾ of a mile down the entrance road before I got to the actual tasting room.
Those of you who have been reading this blog regularly because you have lots of time to waste, or are my mom, will know by now that I write a lot about the atmosphere of a brewery or vineyard just as much as I write about what the place has to drink. That’s very important for me to highlight because I definitely feel like the experience of drinking a great beer or a great wine is amplified by the environment. If you don’t believe me then do me a favor and buy a bottle of your favorite beer or wine and drink it by yourself on your living room futon with no pants while watching your ex-girlfriend’s favorite romantic comedy on Netflix and using the stack of your law school rejection letters on the coffee table as a coaster. I can bet you that the favorite beer or wine in your hand isn’t gonna taste as good as you remember in that case.
Well Charron’s tasting room is absolutely the kind of place that amplifies the experience of drinking wine.
The walls are glass and there’s an ample, adjacent deck that offers a beautiful view of the mountains for you to admire while you drink. Even if you don’t really like wine you wouldn’t be able to tell me that sitting in the Charron tasting room wouldn’t make every sip just a bit more appealing. If only I knew about this place a year ago, I could’ve taken this chick I was dating named Patricia with me. She dumped me because she was pissed that I never took her anywhere fancy to drink. And yeah, she was right, we did do most of our drinking in the bathroom of my apartment but, in my defense, I couldn’t afford to take her anywhere back then and the toilet whiskey I make doesn’t really travel well.
Anyway, Charron offers a $7 tasting which includes samples of 6 different wines and the standard, souvenir wine glass that you can own. I should mention that Charron has a restaurant-style of serving. That means that you find yourself a place to sit anywhere in the tasting room or tasting deck and the tasting room servers will come to wherever you are to pour your wine. That’s pretty rare for vineyard tasting rooms since most of them expect you to come back to the bar to get your next drink.
Charron offers twelve wines; six are dry and six are sweet. If you’ve read my other blog dispatches from vineyards you’ll know that I have very little interest in white wines unless they’re being sold two-for-one at my favorite airport-adjacent strip club because, like, who can pass up a deal like that? But since only four of the twelve wines were red I decided to leave my comfort zone and add two white wines to my tasting.
In case you’re a wine beginner, I’ll tell you that different types of wine should be served at different temperatures. White wines should be served cold. They should sit in the fridge for a few hours, or in the freezer for about 30 minutes, before serving. Supposedly red wines are to be served at “room temperature” but that’s kind of an odd measurement when you consider the fact that the temperature is somewhat colder in places of higher elevation, which, as I’ve mentioned before, is the most conducive elevation for vineyards. Then there’s the fact that wine storage standards may be based on temperatures in wine cellars, which can be as low as 55 degrees. And we can complicate that shit even further if we get into the fact that lighter-bodied wines should be served slightly colder than full-bodied wines. As Classy Alcoholics, I know y’all are way too drunk to understand any of this shit. So I’ll do what I do best and simplify the rules for drinking.
My theory on wine has not changed since my very first visit to an Arizona vineyard in Sonoita. Wine quality is subjective. When you discover a wine you like then you’ve found quality wine. Feel free to play around with wine temperature for reds. Pour a glass and put it in the fridge for ten or fifteen minutes. Then compare that to a glass poured from the bottle at room temperature. Then continue to drink the wine at whatever temperature you prefer. If you meet some snooty wine asshole who tries to tell you that you’re drinking it wrong then feel free to remind them that their rigid wine rules are the reason they’re gonna die alone. The only way you’re drinking something wrong is if you hate what you’re drinking.
So with all that in mind I realized that, while the four red wines at Charron vineyards were absolutely delicious, I was also interested in trying a couple of their cold whites and pairing them with the feel of the Arizona sun peering through the deck. I figured the cold sips would be the perfect way to offset the spring heat. And I was right.
I first tried the Sweet White Merlot which was made from 100% Arizona grapes. Eight of the twelve wines offered at Charron were made from Arizona-grown grapes. The rest were made using grapes from Deming, New Mexico, either because those particular grapes don’t grow in Arizona or because they don’t grow in Arizona yet. The wine production was done entirely in the state, though.
The Sweet White Merlot was amazing. It first smelled of a normal, dry white wine but then quickly became an explosion of honey into your mouth upon the first sip. The honey flavor lingered on the palate long after the sip. I was told by the server that the Sweet White Merlot was the very first wine that was offered back when Charron Vineyards was started in 1995. The original owner retired and sold the vineyard in 2009 and the Sweet White was kept on in honor of Charron’s history. This wine was very reminiscent of mead, and it made me wonder if Arizona had any wineries in the state that made mead exclusively. I’ll have to look into that.
The other white wine sample was the Golden White Merlot, which had a liquor-y smell to it and had a strong, sweet cognac-type flavor. The sweetness of the Golden White almost pushed it into the liqueur category and, while it’s not something that I would drink a whole bottle of by myself while sitting on my living room futon with no pants while watching my ex-girlfriend’s favorite romantic comedy on Netflix and using the stack of my law school rejection letters on the coffee table as a coaster, it’s definitely something I could drink as a dessert wine.
The cold, refreshing flavors of those two white wines definitely offset the Arizona sun that was only going to get more intense in the coming months. I felt like my drinking preferences were poised to change along with the Arizona weather.
Charron vineyards is definitely a place worth visiting. If you’re planning on heading south for a vineyard tour in the Sonoita/Elgin area be sure to make Charron your first stop. The only thing better than their wine is the feeling you get from watching the Arizona landscape in the background while you drink. My favorite breweries/vineyards are places that make you realize why Arizona is actually a pretty awesome state. And Charron definitely steps up in that department.