Sonoran Tasting Tours: A Tour of Tucson Wineries

While I’m not a wine connoisseur, I do enjoy a glass every now and then, and of course wanted to get to know my new hometown, so I jumped at the chance to join Sonoran Tasting Tours for a tour of Tucson’s wine region. Who even knew Tucson had a wine region? I sure didn’t! I just recently visited Southern Oregon, which is also a wine region, and the topography and climate could not be more different! In any case, it works! The Sonoita Valley, located about an hour south of Tucson, is a designated American Viticulture Area, Arizona’s first wine-growing region. Here you’ll find over a dozen vineyards and tasting rooms. In order to fully enjoy the tastings, you’ll want to leave the driving to Sonoran Tasting Tours. The Sonoita Tour ($99-$109) is the most popular, and includes 3 vineyard stops, as well as lunch and round-trip transportation from Tucson. Have a large group? You can also charter a private tour.

Our driver, Roy, picked each of us up at our homes or hotels and we were on the road around 9:30 to make the 1 hour drive to Sonoita. On the drive, Roy asked us which vineyards we’d like to visit, which threw us off guard for a minute. None of us had researched any stops ahead of time, so we had no preferences. I only mention this in case you do have a preference or want to do a bit of research ahead of time. With no suggestions from us, Roy made the decisions where to stop for the day. (Except for lunch, which was pre-ordered. Once you’ve registered, you will be contacted to provide your lunch selection.)

Dos Cabezas

Our first stop is at Dos Cabezas Wineworks. Here we received tasting glasses to use for the rest of the day, and were given a menu, from which we chose 6 wines to sample. They also had a great selection of t-shirts available. Of the 3 stops, we all agreed Dos Cabezas had the best wine, and several bottles were purchased before moving on to the next vineyard.

Arizona Hops & Vines

Arizona Hops & Vines is women-owned and has a great, eclectic atmosphere. Outside, you’ll find a variety of farm animals roaming the property, although on our visit, there was some hub-bub around the licensing/regulation of vineyards and we were not allowed to bring any alcohol outdoors. Hopefully that gets resolved soon, as it’s a great property to take in. Inside is equally fun, and you’ll want to check out the details, including the bathroom!

Sonoran Tasting ToursArizona Hops And Vines

At Arizona Hops & Vines, we also had 6 wine tastings, though they were pre-determined, unlike the other tasting rooms. This allowed the server to better explain each wine as it is being served, and the best part of this stop were the food pairings. In addition to funky labels and fun names like Ro-Sham-Bo, each wine was paired with a fun snack like pork rinds, cheesy poofs, and cocoa puffs! Sounds weird, but they all paired really well! We voted this as the tasting room with the best snack pairings!

Sonoran Tasting ToursArizona Hops And Vines

Charron Vineyards

Our final tasting of the day is at Charron Vineyards, one of Southern Arizona’s oldest vineyards. Charron has an interesting mix of wines, including white merlot and others which all have a history. The server here was super informative and had lots of stories about the history of the vineyard and the various wines. Best of all, we were able to enjoy our tastings from a beautiful patio overlooking the vines. Because of that, our group voted this stop as the best setting and best view. We sampled several wines before hopping back in the van for the ride back to Tucson.

Sonoran Tasting ToursCharron Vineyards

Lunch at the Cafe

Between wine stops #2 and #3, we had lunch at the Sonoita Cafe. Three of us were given a lunch choice when reserving our trip, while a 4th missed that option and ordered on site. Small hiccup, but it didn’t cause much delay. I had a chipotle caesar salad and the dressing had a nice kick to it. This was a great, simple and fast lunch to continue our wine tasting.

Have you done a tasting tour? What’s your favorite wine region?

How does a Tucson wine tour sound? Let @sonorantasting do the driving so you can enjoy the wine! Click To Tweet

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I was a guest of Sonoran Tasting Tours. These are solely my personal opinions and I was not financially compensated for this post.

 

 

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Tucson Food Tour: Taste of Tucson Downtown

You all know by now that food tours are my favorite thing to do! I’ve enjoyed food tours in New York, Siem Reap, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Mexico City and Reykjavik! Naturally, when I landed in Tucson, the first thing I looked for was a food tour! Thanks to the Google, I stumbled upon the lovely ladies of Taste of Tucson Downtown and immediately signed up for the Historic Downtown Tour. With so many places to eat in Tucson, this is a great intro to the best downtown Tucson restaurants. The tour is offered every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 1-5pm. Taste of Tucson Downtown also offers a Downtown & 4th Avenue tour every Thursday from 1-5pm.

The historic tour meets at Mercado San Augustin, a cool space that incorporates several eating spaces, a central courtyard and a even a community kitchen. Located in the heart of Tucson’s west side, free parking and easy access to the street car make this an ideal starting point.

Taste of Tucson Downtown

Sherry and Lysa are cousins who decided to start a food tour company after experiencing food tours in their travels. Both former teachers, they also make sure to incorporate lots of local knowledge in between food stops. They work closely with the restaurant community to feature a rotating selection of Tucson’s best restaurants.

Augustin Kitchen

Our first food stop is Augustin Kitchen, nestled in the corner of the Mercado. The space is open and light, with vintage decor set against the white tile. The chef gave us an overview of the kitchen’s philosophy, which focuses heavily on sustainability and locality. Our samples here included a goat cheese brulee with mulberries and a cheese & fruit plate. According to those in the know, the calamari is a must-try, but was not available when we visited. (I’ve since returned and can confirm – the calamari is ah-mazing!)

From here, we jump on the streetcar (24-hour pass included in your $65 food tour ticket) and head over to the downtown area. Between food stops, we learned a lot about the history of Tucson and were given insider tours of the Congress Hotel and the art deco Fox Theater.

Caffe Milano

Our second food stop is La Fufi Caffe Milano, a cozy Italian joint in the heart of downtown. The Chef, La Fufi, served us a penne pasta dish. Penne Arrabiata looks like your average pasta with red sauce…ho, hum…but this sauce had a spicy kick to it that was super unique and delicious! I knew I shouldn’t eat all the pasta with 3 more food stops, but I just couldn’t help myself!

tucson italian restaurant

The Caffe also offers cooking classes on Monday evenings, which include a visit from La Fufi’s husband, the sommelier! Sounds like I need to sign up for one of those!

Elliott’s On Congress

Our third food stop is Elliott’s on Congress, a family restaurant serving American fare and the largest selection of infused vodka flavors in Tucson. There are over 30 vodka flavors, but since this is a food tour, not a drinking tour, vodka tasting will have to wait for my next visit. At Elliott’s, we had duck sliders and jicama cole slaw. The duck sliders (delicious!) had crunchy fried onions that really added to the texture of the slider. Definitely want to come back here for a full meal!

Charro Steak

Food stop #4 is Charro Steak, upscale cousin of the El Charro chain of Mexican restaurants. Charro Steak focuses on ranch to table cuisine, and the chef here is very passionate about the quality of his food! At Charro Steak, we were served a trio of deliciousness that included a shredded beef chimichanga (El Charro is the supposed inventor of the chimichanga), a stuffed mushroom and a BBQ meatball. All delicious! This spot is definitely going on my return list of Tucson restaurants.

The Screamery

Continuing our grass-fed theme, we ended our tour at The Screamery for a sweet end to a savory afternoon. We were given the chance to sample many of their unique flavors such as Bacon & Bourbon, Cowboy Cookie and Sweet Cream Honeycomb.  I opted for Pumpkin Pie, which did not disappoint with chunks of graham cracker crust hidden in the creamy pumpkin flavor. Someday, I’ll return and try the Ice Cream Nachos or a flight of ice cream!

Ready to book your Tucson Food Tour? Check their Facebook page for the latest updates and special offers!

Looking for an intro to the foodie scene in Tucson? Check out @TasteofTucson #visittucson… Click To Tweet

This post contains affiliate links for Amazon. Buying through these links will not cost you extra, but I will earn a small commission to keep this site running.

Want to craft your own Tucson food tour based on your taste and schedule? Check out The Food Lover’s Guide to Tucson.

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I was a guest of Taste of Tucson Downtown. These are solely my personal opinions and I was not financially compensated for this post.

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Tucson Bike Tour: An Historic Tour of Downtown Tucson

On my very first day in Tucson, I joined Tucson Bike Tours for a historic bike tour of downtown Tucson.  I joined the 9am tour, hoping to beat the heat of the day (no such luck in this October heat wave, but we had a nice breeze!) After finding the location near 4th Street, I met the owner, Jimmy, and his neighbor who was joining us for the tour. Like me, Jimmy is a Midwest native, and after just a few years in Tucson, he has amassed an impressive knowledge of the area! I tend to ask a ton of questions, especially since I was brand new the area, and Jimmy was quick to answer all of them.

Tucson Bike Tour

Bike Tour Orientation

At the office, we were assigned bikes and given a safety briefing, as well as an overview of the bikes we were riding. Tucson Bike Tours has fixed-gear Euro-style bikes with rear-coaster brakes. Remember those? They take some getting used to again! The bikes are equipped with a handlebar bag to hold anything you want to bring along, such as a camera or keys. Helmets are provided, as well as insulated water bottles that fit right in the cage of the bike frame. Bonus points for reusable bottles! I cringe on most tours when the disposable plastic water bottles are passed out. (Note: you don’t get to keep the bottle, they are washed and reused for the next tour)

Biking in Tucson

Downtown Tucson is super flat, so fixed gear bikes work perfectly for riding around town. There is a great culture of cycling here, and you’ll find bikes to be very common on all of the city streets. As such, the drivers seem used to bikes (hear that, Chicago?) and everyone has enough space to travel comfortably. There are designated bike paths or bike lanes, and the tour also includes some quieter neighborhoods where we had the wide streets to ourselves.

Tucson Neighborhood Tour

The tour begins downtown at the Tucson Bike Tours office and the first stop is the Ironhorse District and the Rattlesnake Bridge. I’m embarrassed to say that I never knew Ironhorse was the term Native Americans used for the railroad. Duh! The Rattlesnake Bridge is super cool although it wasn’t until I saw the photo that I got the full effect of the open mouth and eyes!

Tucson Bike TourRattlesnake Bridge

From here, we zoomed back downtown for more historical stops, including the Congress Hotel and the Southern Pacific Station. Jimmy gave us a chance to look inside the famous Congress Hotel while he stayed outside with the bikes. We then headed into the Presidio and Barrio Viejo areas, which feature colorful adobe homes and a glimpse of Tucson’s multi-cultural history.

Tucson Street ArtTucson Bike Tour

The next neighborhood we visit is Dunbar Spring, which was described as Tucson’s first African-American neighborhood which is now a vibrant, diverse neighborhood full of interesting street art like this mural depicting the All Souls procession, a Tucson event inspired by Dia de los Muertos.

Our final stop on the Tucson tour is the University of Arizona. Again, I’m a bit ashamed to admit how little I knew about Tucson before, including the fact that it’s a major college town! Over 40,000 students attend the U of A, and I’ve already met several people who came to Tucson for college and never left! The campus is right downtown and we arrived just as classes were letting out, so the streets and sidewalks were crowded for a few minutes as students rushed to their next class. We got a nice view of the campus, as well as a peek inside the Tree Ring Building, which houses the cross-section of a 1700 year old Sequoia tree. After the campus, we returned back to the 4th St offices.

Ready to Book a Tucson Tour?

Tucson Bike Tours offers guided tours five times a day and also offers rentals if you want to explore on your own. The guided tour covers about 10 miles over 2 hours. The pace is super relaxed with plenty of stops along the way! This was the perfect Tucson tour for getting to know a bit of history as well as the layout of the city. After your tour, you’ll get an email recap covering all the spots of the day, which is great for memory-challenged travelers like me!

Looking for a fun way to @visittucsonaz How about a bike tour with Tucson Bike Tours! Click To Tweet

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Bike Tour of TucsonI was a guest of Tucson Bike Tours. These are solely my personal opinions and I was not financially compensated for this post.

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