Top 4 Wine Bars in Tucson Arizona
A few weeks ago my friend Ashley and I decided we were going to build a list of local wine spots in town and do our own afternoon wine tour, which happened last Thursday. We found a lot of these spots from our social media search, Google search and word of mouth. We were biased when it came to AZ Wine Collective because we've spent a lot of time there, but we knew we had to include it even though it was the only one we had been to before.
As we walked up to Sand Reckoner, we noticed the clean aesthetic outside. The modern and clean aesthetic continued inside, along with a chill ambiance. The music was turned down low, which allowed us to speak with the bar manager and get to know the wines really well.
The biggest difference between Sand Reckoner and a lot of other spots (in general) is that everything from their vineyard is made with no residual sugar in any of the wines.
Ashley and I both decided to do a 5 wine tasting. I started with the 2017 Malvasia Bianca, which had a nice sweet touch but it was not overly sweet. It has floral and peach notes, and is very easy on the palate.This is a new vintage for the vineyard, and it's won Double Gold in the AZ Republic Wine Competition. The fact that this wine was not overly sweet, but still had that hint of peach was really unique, but also very important to me because I'm not a big sweet wine fan overall. This is the most popular white, which makes a lot of sense. So well balanced and tasty.
The 2017 Orange Roussane was described by the bar manager as a "winter white" which is definitely a great way to describe it. It's got hints of honeydew, honeysucker and it is very rich. It doesn't just roll off the tongue without a. trace, but truthfully has a. bit of a lasting presence which is just delicious.
When it comes to rosé, you all know I'm a nut. The 2018 Rosé Sangio + Nebbiolo has notes of berries, rose and was so juicy. It is not like a rosé out of the south of France (which is typically dry and a light rose color.) This is more bold and has a lot more flavor. When I had a sip of it, I knew right away I had to take it home with me. The 2018 Grenache Rosé on the other hand was more light, floral and had that fresh and dry element of a Provence rosé, which is why I liked the Sangio + Nebbiolo since it was uniquely different.
We found out that the most popular wine is the 2016 "X" Blend which X is the most popular blend. Tempranillo + P. Sirah + Tannat is a great mix with tobacco notes, a little meaty and round. This is a nice bold wine and I almost took a bottle of this to go too.
2016 Chiricahua Ranch Sangiovese was another one I tasted and it has bright cherry, definitely earthy and very elegant.
The wines here blew me away, out of the gate. A staff of about 7 handles the vineyard in Willcox as well as the tasting room in Tucson.
Our second stop was our usual spot, AZ Wine Collective. This is where we go all the time and this is the only spot out of the four that we had been to before, so we knew what to expect. Jeanne, one of the owners, is always so helpful and so on top of the customers coming in and out of the bar. I found this spot about a year and a half ago because when I was in the middle of marathon training, this spot was the after run reward because it's right next to the Rillito River Trail.
The 2018 Viognier from Rune is very smooth and super flavorful. Everything from Rune is just plain amazing, and it is my favorite winery out of Tucson hands down. When you do a Sonoita and Elgin wine tour, you'll likely go to Rune and it is slightly "off the grid" which is just a unique and amazing experience. We did a bachelorette for my best friend, and I made sure we went here and truthfully it was one of our favorite pats of the day. Now the Sweet Tortolita Blanc from Charron Vineyards was a hit, especially with Ashley. While I already knew this about her, she is definitely a sweet wine lover whereas I am definitely more of a well balanced, dry wine lover.
Did I mention the 2018 Rosé from Rune? Wow that wine is so tasty, and truthfully (if I'm being honest) I've had multiple bottles of it in the past. Bought 1 or 2 from AZ Wine Collective and even gathered some from our wine tour spot here over the summer for Kelly's bachelorette. Who can blame me!?
I finished with the 2013 Barbera Jerome and then the 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon from Golden Rule. Every single wine was delicious, but the drier well balanced ones were my favorite. The Sweet Tortolita Blanc was Ashley's favorite, and she enjoyed a full glass of it whereas Rune was definitely top of the list for me. One of the biggest benefits of AZ Wine Collective is that you can order food from Reforma, Union or Proof via a custom online site designated to delivering to the businesses in the courtyard. They can deliver, or you can pick up and then take back to the wine bar to enjoy. We always go for Reforma when we're there. Winning!
Our third stop was Hop Street which is only about a year old, so it's still new to the block. Located on 22nd and Kolb, it is east side which gives a little separation location wise. It will serve a large range of people who typically have to drive downtown to get some delicious wine. The vibe here is completely different in comparison to Sand Reckoner and AZ Wine Collective. There's lots of space, and a lot of lounging area. I imagine a group of colleagues hanging out on one of the couches just catching up after a long day at work.
The wine selection is vast, with 8 revolving bottles that are available by the glass (and over 30 bottles available by the bottle). Their selections are made by a sommelier so the bottles come from some pretty big names, and they were all delicious pending your taste buds. You've got sweeter options (which Ashley enjoyed) and then the drier more bold wines (which I prefer) so you really can't go wrong. A bottle is perfect for a group of colleagues or friends, and the prices are not jacked up like you typically see in restaurants and wine bars. We looked through the meny and there's bottles as low as $13-$14, so they're not adding a ridiculous mark up and truthfully these are details I think about when I go out. There's some spots in town that always make me feel like I was robbed for drinking wine outside of my own house, and I hate thinking I could've bought an entire bottle for the price of a glass at a bar.
Damon at Hop Street Lounge made us two wine flights to share so we could have a taste of each of the wines available by the bottle. He also poured us the two wines on draft (one red, one white) so you have a draft option too.
We started with the Villa Wolf Pinot Gris which was on the drier side, which I enjoyed. After that we dove a little into Matthew Fritz Sauvignon Blanc, which was one of my favorites. I'm a big Sauvignon Blanc lover (with some of my favorites coming from New Zealand) so I was pleasantly surprised that a winery I personally wasn't in tune with previously was so delicious. Matthew Fritz is from Napa, so it makes sense that the quality is up there. We then moved into the 2016 Conundrum from California which is a white blend incorporating five different grapes: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Viognier and Muscat. Lots of tropical notes in this one and another bottle I need in my wine arsenal. We finished the first half of the tasting with another varietal from Matthew Fritz, the chardonnay. I also love a well balanced buttery chardonnay, especially in the summer time, with a chicken salad or a chicken dish for dinner so I love that smooth taste. Definitely a Matthew Fritz fan at this point.
As we moved into the second half of the tastings, we started going more in the red direction. Rosé is always first up and we dove into the 2018 Villa Wolf Rosé which was very refreshing and actually a good mix of dry with some fruity sweetness. We moved into the reds quickly by kicking things off with Seven Sinners Petite Syrah. This was a bold, sweeter red with hints of tobacco and definitely a little more acidic. It's very different from the reds I typically gravitate to but I liked the difference after all the whites. We moved into the 2017 La Croisade Pinot Noir Reserve which was very sweet and had a plummy aftertaste. This is definitely not a wine I would personally drink on the regular because it's too sweet for me, but Ashley enjoyed this one a bit more than all the drier varietals we'd had. We wrapped things up by the 2015 Jockey Club California Red Wine which is a blend of 75% Zinfandel and 25% Barbera.
Finally the one on draft were a Sean Meyer Chardonnay and a Page Spring Cellars Vino Rojo. The red was another red on the sweeter side, with the chardonnay being another delicious win. With 10 options, we had to pick our favorites. My top few were the 2015 Jockey Club California Red Wine, the Matthew Fritz Sauvignon Blanc, also the Matthew Fritz Chardonnay and then the chardonnay on draft.
Because we were having such a great time at each spot, we didn't make it to spot number four until much later than anticipated. We got to Revel in downtown around 6:30 so it was already pretty dark out. Neither one of us had an agenda for the evening so the later evening didn't bother us, and it allowed us to chat with the bar manager or the owner in each respective spot which is really a big part of the fun. Since I'm so passionate about wine, I absolutely love meeting people who share the passion and understand it. Keep in mind neither one of us had ever been to Revel before, but this spot is the one that really gave us the "wine bar" vibes. It was modern, with a unique and artistic interior (gorgeous chandeliers inside) but it also had a dark jazzy vibe to it. The options are classy, with champagne and sparkling their key focus. If you know anything about me, you know I typically don't go for the bubbles. I'm a still girl (with water and wine) so starting off with champagne took me back, but I have to tell you it blew me away.
The Jean Philippe Cremant de Limoux was really juicy and opulent. You can taste the berries and a little citrus so the fruit is really bright and cheery, while the bubbles aren't over the top, and it was low on the acidity too. This sparkling rosé really seemed to defy physics because I've never had a more delicious sparkling drink. We then dove into the Dopff & Irion 2017 Cuvée René Dopff Riesling from Alsace. Since Ashley's favoite varietal is riesling, this was the one she was super excited about and truthfully this riesling turned out to be more dry, but fruit and juicy. We then went to chardonnay which I was super excited about, and we dove into a 2017 Foxglove Chardonnay. This wine comes from Edna Valley which is known for its vast amount of chardonnay production. Buttery, smooth, well balanced. Just all the things.
We then moved on to some reds. Chateau de Jarnioux Beaujolais rang familiar to me because I've always loved the Louis Jadot Beaujolais. This was smooth, and had a lot of berry hues which was very easy to drink. A little too easy. We ended the. night with such a treat. The Taylor Fladgate 20 Year Old Tawny Porto, which is the most popular tawny port in the US. This really reminded me of Portugal because port wines come from the northern region, and there was a lot of port consumed during our Portuguese trip. It is. truly the perfect nightcap. I really enjoyed this tasting because we went from sparkling rosé to a riesling, to a chardonnay, into the beaujolais and then finally the tawny port. A great mix of varietals and all impeccably smooth, well balanced and simply delicious.
Every spot has its own charm and vibe. Starting with Sand Reckoner, I see this as a great spot fo those who love a nice calm and relaxing vibe and know their varietals. Lots of bold flavors with no residual sugar, and overall great glasses of wine. I love that their tasting room is in Tucson but the vineyard is in Willcox, as the Tucson tasting room really helps them get more traffic since Willcox is a little bit off the beaten path in comparison to the Sonoita and Elgin wine tour trails. Going to AZ Wine Collective is a different vibe, with lots of room so it would be great for large groups too. Hop Street Lounge is great for after work drinks and lounging with coworkers. Finally arriving to Revel, it had an elevated vibe but it felt like a nice cozy space perfect for a few glasses with your girlfriends as you catch one another up on your day to day. I always find a nice dark moodier spot, with good music playing in the background is ideal for having deep heart to hearts with your bestie. Highly recommend checking out each spot, and each one will be perfect depending on your mood, the people you're going with, and what kind of vibe you're going for on that particular day.
Have you been to any of these spots? Which is your fave?