Scottsdale Wine Tasting: Follow the Wine Trail

Written by Elizabeth Rose

November 1, 2021
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Arizona is brimming with great wines. Take time for a Scottsdale wine tasting along the Scottsdale Wine Trail. Don’t forget your passport and enjoy the great wines from Arizona.

It’s a fall Sunday afternoon, and downtown Scottsdale, Arizona, is bustling with shoppers. Outdoor patios are full of people enjoying the food and sun. And I discovered the Scottsdale Wine Trail. All in downtown Scottsdale, the tasting rooms on the walkable wine trail offered a respite from the busy downtown vibe. Duck into a wine trail tasting room and learn about the wineries, find a comfy place to sit, and I guarantee you’ll head out the door an hour or more later with a few bottles of wine to take home. You’ll probably find a favorite at each of the Scottsdale wine-tasting rooms. And, with your Scottsdale Wine Trail Passport, you’ll save on tasting fees.

LDV Winery Tasting Room

I started my Scottsdale wine adventure at LDV Winery tasting room. After driving across the Valley, I was greeted with a refreshing glass of golden Viognier and proceeded to sink into a comfortable chair on the patio.

Scottsdale Wine Tasting Rooms

A refreshing Voignier. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

I watched the people on the busy sidewalk and relaxed while waiting for the rest of my party to arrive. This is a perfect start to a Scottsdale wine tasting.

Scottsdale Wine Tasting

Enjoy wine and people-watching on the LDV Winery Patio. Photo courtesy LDV Winery

Scottsdale Wine Tasting at LDV

Once everyone arrived, we were ushered into a lovely nook in the tasting room, ideal for four to eight people. On the day we were there, we were lucky to be joined by Peggy Fiandaca, co-owner of LDV Winery.

Table set for Scottsdale Wine Tasting

An ideal place for an intimate group wine tasting. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

As we tasted through a flight, Peggy unfolded the story about how she and her husband, Curt Dunham, became vineyard owners.

Peggy and Curt are both knowledgeable and passionate wine collectors. They had traveled the world learning about wine and winemaking and developed a high skill level in determining the best wines from wine regions worldwide. They designed their home around their wine cellar and growing collection of international wines.

Having reached the point in their lives where it was time to envision the next step of their already successful business careers, they looked hard at what they most loved in life. No, they didn’t decide to buy a vineyard. That came as an almost magical moment sometime in the future when they were visiting southeast Arizona, near the Mexican border. Almost by surprise, they had found the perfect land in Arizona’s Chiricahua Mountains—a gorgeous place with a mountain view and perfect volcanic soil. Peggy’s blue eyes sparkled as she told the story.

Peggy Fiandaca

Peggy Fiandaca, co-owner of LDV Winery, told us their winery story and created food pairings with their wines for us. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

Three Years from Planting to Harvesting

The couple started with 40 acres and planted four grape varieties. They also set standards for their winery and wines. They would only sell small batch, estate-grown wines. The wine would be 100 percent vegan, gluten-free, and sustainable. While they are not a certified organic grower, most of their practices match the standards set for organic agriculture. Peggy said they would only use a pesticide if there were no other remedies for a disease or infestation. LDV Winery produces wines that are carefully processed and have limited winery manipulation. Because of this, you might find a little sediment in your bottle of wine. It’s a good thing! After nurturing the vines, the first harvest occurred three years after planting.

It’s been more than 10 years, and the couple has continued making their award-winning wines with a hands-on approach. LDV Winery specializes in wines from Rhône-varietal grapes—Viognier, Grenache, Syrah, and Petite Sirah—all varieties that thrive on volcanic and granite soil and high mountain altitude.

The Best Pairings With Scottsdale Wine Tasting

Learning how to pair wines was a plus to our visit with Peggy Fiandaca. “Start with the wine first,” she said as we enjoyed small plates with four of their wines.

Thai Noodles go great with wine tasting

This Thai spicy noodle dish was a perfect pairing for the Voignier I was sipping. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

Fiandaca has even written an amazingly helpful guide to wine pairings. Join their email list on the LDV website and receive the Wine + Food Perfect Pairing Guide, as well as monthly recipes/pairings for the next 12 months after you sign up.

Scottsdale Wine Tasting

Sign up for the LDV Winery newsletter and receive a copy of Wine + Food Perfect Pairings Guide

Special Events at LDV Winery

LDV Winery is always trying to find unique ways for locals and visitors alike to enjoy the Scottsdale tasting room. Recently, they announced Un(Wine)d Wednesday sessions in partnership with Chels of The Unraveled Road. Each Wednesday, guests can combine two popular ways to relax, destress, and indulge in me-time: Relaxing Yin Yoga at 9 a.m. and Gentle Hatha Yoga at 6 p.m. Individual class drop-in rates are $40 plus tax. A two-class package is $75; a four-class package is $150. Class includes one wine tasting per event. Yoga mats and blocks are provided for the first 10 attendees. You can purchase tickets by calling the LDV Winery Tasting Room at 480.664.4822.

Merkin Vineyards Tasting Room

Just across the street from LDV Winery, Merkin Vineyards has both a tasting room and a restaurant. They create the Arizona experience with their Arizona wines and the foods, much of which is grown in Arizona. Check out their wood-fired pizzas topped with fresh local ingredients from their greenhouses in Northern Arizona. These pizzas are designed to pair with their award-winning wines.

Wood Fired Pizza

Wood-fired pizza with Arizona ingredients. Photo courtesy Merkin Vineyards by Grace Stufkosky

You’ll be tasting wines with grapes grown on their estate vineyards in Willcox, in southern Arizona, and the Verde Valley. You can try most of their associated brands (Caduceus, Merkin, Four Eight Wineworks) there, but Merkin focuses on wines bottled under their label.

Aridus Wine Company Tasting Room

Scott and Joan Dahmer founded Aridus Wine Company in 2012 in a refurbished apple warehouse. Back in 2009, they pur­chased 40 acres along Turkey Creek in Pearce, Arizona—in the southeast part of the state about 45 minutes south of Willcox—and planted grapes at an elevation of 5,200 feet.

Dahmer understands he can learn from those who came before him in Arizona’s burgeon­ing industry. “The pioneers who planted vineyards in Arizona just decided to plant whatever they wanted … and we learned what not to do. We are still learning what works and what doesn’t.”

Southeastern Arizona’s climate has been compared to that of Argentina. Dahmer explains the similarities. “Semi-arid desert-like climates, less than 13 inches of rain annually, an average temperature of 90- to 100-degree days with cool nights in the mid-40s and 50s. Malbec grows extremely well here, as do all Spanish varieties.”

Ardus Wine Company

Gather at the Ardius tasting room. Photo courtesy Aridus Wine Company

While the winery in Willcox is beautiful and worth a day trip—it has won the Design Excellence award from the International Interior Design Association’s Southwest Chapter—you can sample Aridus wines right in Scottsdale. The Aridus Scottsdale Tasting Room, decorated with caged chandeliers and Aviator leather chairs, once was an art gallery. Now, it houses the art of winemaking! Reservations are recommended.

Carlson Creek Vineyard Tasting Room

Carlson Creek Vineyard is another family-owned opera­tion in Willcox. What began with 40 acres owned by Bob and Elizabeth Carlson and their three adult children is now a 280-acre vineyard with two tasting rooms and plans for a new winery in Willcox.

The Carlson family takes wine seriously. A genera­tions-old farming history from the plains of Nebraska was the backbone that inspired Robert Carlson III in 2008 (at age 28) when he left his stockbroker career for a simpler life. He sought out mentors in the winemaking industry, went after a viticulture education, and then took the idea to his family. They embraced it. Brother John Carlson took classes at UC Davis and began seeking industry mentors. Their sister became involved in the legal side of the business, and their parents, Bob and Elizabeth, oversaw everything from planting to the retail business.

The hard work began to pay off for the Carlson family. The vineyard, set at 4,200 feet above sea level, lets this multi-generational business offer all Arizona-grown and almost exclusively estate-grown wines. The tasting room in Willcox is in a converted old Chevrolet dealership built in the 1940s, and the family expanded with a winery at the Willcox vineyard. In addition to a visitor space and an exposition kitchen, it is the single location for producing all Carlson Creek wines.

Carlson Creek Wines

Carlson Creek Wines. Photo courtesy Carlson Creek Wines

“Being able to produce all of our wines, from planting to bottle, on-site is going to make a huge difference in our capabilities and overall production,” says co-owner and winemaker Robert Carlson III. “Having space for our own events and private parties is a great way for guests to experience our family’s story and that of the Arizona wine industry, right in the heart of Willcox Wine Country.”

If you’re visiting Scottsdale and want to try Carlson Creek wines, you’re in luck. The tasting room, opened in 2016, is located on N. Marshall Way downtown. Reservations are recommended.

Salvatore Vineyards Tasting Room

Salvatore specializes in fruit-forward, crisp white wines and complex red wine blends. They reserve their best wines for aging. These reserve wines are bottled under the name Salvatore, after the winemaker’s grandfather, Salvatore Ligammari. The downtown Scottsdale location is the tasting room for Passion Cellars. The dark, classy, wood-lined tasting room with colorful artwork is an ideal setting for tasting craft wines made from Willcox-grown grapes.

About the Passport for Scottsdale Wine Tasting

The Scottsdale Wine Trail official Passport offers discounts at participating wineries in Old Town Scottsdale. You can pick up the passport for $5.00 at any participating wineries. Show your passport for $2.00 off a wine tasting at participating tasting rooms. You can walk from location to location or visit one at a time for a more in-depth understanding of the wineries’ offerings.

Scottsdale Wine Tasting Rooms Passport

Pick up your Wine Trail Passport at any participating wine tasting room. Photo courtesy Scottsdale Wine Trail

When You Hit the Wine Trail in Scottsdale

It is important to contact each tasting room for opening hours and determine if reservations are needed. Most require reservations for six or more people for wine tasting. Some tasting rooms are small, and the wine industry is still labor and supply shortages.

While you can visit all the wine trail tasting rooms in a day, the best way to enjoy these Arizona wines is to visit them one at a time, listen to the stories of the wines and winemakers, and linger over these craft wines. If available, order a food pairing.

You can find stories about more great wines on Wander. And for more ideas, while you are visiting Scottsdale, have a look at these recommendations from our Arizona experts.

Recommended Arizona Wine Reading and Gifts

There are some great books detailing the Arizona wine scene that can help you as you explore these fun wines.

One of our favorites is from fellow Arizona-based writer and owner of Write On Rubee, Christina Barrueta.

Another great resource is from Arizona-based food and wine photographer Jenelle Bonifield. AZ Uncorked, the Arizona Wine Guide is a beautifully photographed coffee table book. This exquisite 11-inch by 9-inch book weighs more than six pounds and features 544 pages bursting with gorgeous color photographs, showcasing 45 stories about Arizona’s beautiful vineyards, unique tasting rooms, and the maverick winemakers who call Arizona home, including Eric Glomski, Sam Pillsbury, Maynard Keenan, and Kent Callaghan, to name a few.

Scottsdale Wine Tasting

Purchase a copy of Jenelle Bonifield’s AZ Uncorked—The Arizona Wine Guide when you stop by wineries during your Scottsdale wine tasting. Photo courtesy Jenelle Bonifield

The book takes you through all three wine regions, to tasting rooms, and outlier wineries telling a total of 46 Arizona wine stories. Bonifield is working on a sequel as the wine scene in Arizona is ever-growing.

Articles Related to the Scottsdale Wine Trail and Arizona Wine Tasting

When You Are Ready for Your Scottsdale Wine Tasting

Although most people don’t initially think of wine when they think of Arizona, the state is brimming with some great wines. When you visit, save time for a Scottsdale wine tasting along the Scottsdale Wine Trail. Don’t forget your passport and enjoy the great wines from Arizona. Be sure to check out more of our favorite wineries and, when you visit Arizona, here are some of our favorite things to do in Scottsdale.

Written by Elizabeth Rose

Elizabeth Rose is back again in the Phoenix area after more than a decade living in New Mexico and Washington state. She travels throughout the West and beyond writing about destinations, accommodations, festivals, and restaurants, especially farm to table cuisine. As an expert in cultural tourism, her writing reflects that passion. She has won awards for her photography and accompanies her articles with her own images. She also provides photos for magazine covers, web sites and magazine articles (both print and online).

3 Comments

  1. Mary Charlebois

    I’m not a snooty California wine-snob, I promise; but I’ve never thought of Arizona as ‘wine country.’ Thanks for the update ER.

    • Elizabeth Rose

      Understood… but I’ve had great wine in the Texas Hill Country and in all of Arizona’s three wine regions. It helps to live here to realize how good AZ wine is!

    • Susan Lanier-Graham

      I’ll be honest – when I first started experimenting with AZ wines, I WAS a wine snob. I loved California and European wines. But I’ve had some wow experiences with AZ wines. Our state has such diverse climates, that it makes for some great wines.