2909 E Country Club Dr, Willcox, AZ 85643
Open Sun 10a-4p; Mon-Sat 9:30a-5:30p
Willcox is an interesting town. In the early 20th century it was known for cattle production and to this day you can find references to it being the “Cattle Capital of the World.” I’m not sure how much cattle is still a part of its economy today but I do know that the town and its surrounding area is home to most of Arizona’s vineyards. Wineries all over the state grow their grapes in Willcox, even a couple that are all the way up in the town of Cottonwood which is over four hours away.
I find Willcox interesting because you can have two very distinct experiences if you’re heading out there for a day of wine tasting. More than once now I’ve stopped at a gas station on my way in or out of town and ended up in line behind several drunk individuals with, shall we say, a meth-y persuasion about them. Now, I’m no one to judge other people for being day drunk in a gas station. I have the strong suspicion that’s the way I ended up being conceived, after all. But it is a bit jarring when most of the folks you’re running into at Willcox wine tasting rooms are put-together, middle-class-looking, middle aged folks who look anything but meth-y.
So after stopping by that gas station again and sharing a four dime with my favorite locals, Bonnie and her man El Chupacabra, I decided to head to Coronado Vineyards. No meth for me today, Bonnie. I had my fill in college, thanks.
The Coronado tasting room was inside of a beautiful home with ample space for customers. They had 9 wines available the day I went. Two whites (one dry and one sweet), four reds, two dessert wines and one sparkling. Tastings here were $7 for 6 samples and the customary souvenir glass with the Coronado logo on it. I opted for the reds, as usual, and decided to toss the two dessert wines in to round out the tasting.
The first wine I tried was the Sangiovese. It was mostly dry with some tartness (something I like in my wines) and only the slightest hint of sweetness at the end. The Two Heads Red was a Cabernet and Sangiovese blend that had a spicy, leathery aroma to it and had a very sweet taste up front. It ended up being a bit too dry on the finish for my tastes but it was still a very good wine.
I realized I was getting a bit hungry at this point. Probably because the only thing I had for breakfast this day was the 40 I shared with Bonnie and a few pistachios that El Chupacabra happened to find in his pocket while he was looking for the apple he made into a pipe.
Luckily Coronado Vineyards has a great looking tapas menu. The food is a bit pricey but definitely worth it if you’re looking for some good food to pair with your wine and if your stomach was growling because the bite you took out of that apple after El Chupacabra smoked out of it wasn’t filling you up.
The menu had things like a gourmet cheese tray, jalapeño bacon-wrapped Medjool dates stuffed with cream cheese, pistachio-crusted chicken skewers, lobster cakes and a spinach artichoke dip along with a few other things. I opted for the jalapeño bacon-wrapped quail parts served on a sweet chipotle sauce.
The food was impressively delicious. So much so that I decided to cancel my dinner plans with Bonnie. She had invited me over for a couple of the frozen burritos she and El Chupa stole from the gas station freezer and she was confident that they could also steal a microwave by the time dinner rolled around. They just needed me to let them plug it into my car because they got the power cut off to their trailer six years ago.
As appealing as microwaved gas station burritos in an abandoned parking lot sounded, I was too into the food and drink here at Coronado.
The next wine was the Cabernet Sauvignon. It smelled a bit spicy and had a strong plum taste to it without being as heavy as other cabernets usually are. This one went down quite smooth. The Syrah was probably my favorite of the reds. It was dark, strong and tasted earthy, woody and spicy. It was definitely my type of wine.
The last two wines in the tasting were the dessert wines. The first was a white called Cibola Gold. I normally don’t do whites but I like to make an exception for ones that are sweet. This one was very good and had a lot of flavors and aromas working for it at once. It was very floral on the nose with strong hints of honey but it was also spicy and tart. It was reminiscent of a Moscato which is pretty much the only type of white wine I recognize and can drink consistently.
The other dessert wine was called Conquistador Red and it was made with Cabernet grapes. It was sweet, as expected, but it wasn’t anywhere near as syrupy as other dessert wines I’ve tried, which was a pleasant surprise. On the recommendations of the staff I actually paired a glass of the Conquistador with my quail plate. The spicy and sweet flavors balanced out perfectly and they made the plate even better than it was at first.
I was spoiled by my trip to Coronado Vineyards. The great food and the quality wine made me think I couldn’t go back to Bonnie’s cheap bathtub wine that she sold out of the trunk of her car that was up on blocks in front of her trailer. I needed to explore more of the Willcox Wine Trail and discover the classier side of this town.
If you want to do the same, Coronado Vineyards is the perfect start.