Welcome To Willcox…Arizona

Where is Willcox and why did you going there, you might ask. We love wine and we love visiting Arizona. Turns out, those two things are not mutually exclusive. Though when we are in Scottsdale, which is where we usually visit because we have family and friends there, we drink mostly margaritas. The hot, dry desert climate and abundance of great Mexican food seem to naturally lead to the consumption of margaritas. Scottsdale, has a vibrant food scene and it is through one of our favorite restaurants there, FnB, that we were first introduced to Arizona wines.

There are three wine regions in Arizona and most are located at elevations between about 4200 and 5200 feet. Verde Valley is located in northern Arizona; Sonoita/Elgin and Willcox are located in southern Arizona.

Willcox is tucked into the southeastern corner of Arizona, in Cochise County, about an hour east of Tucson. The Sulphur Springs Valley area was home to the Apache Indians before the encroachment of Mexican and American settlers. The Chiricahua Apache chief, Cochise died on the Chiricahua Reservation in 1874 and was buried in what is now known as Cochise’s Stronghold in the Dragoon Mountains. The Apache chief Geronimo surrendered for the final time in September 1886 near Fort Bowie.

This little town of Willcox (previously called Sour Dough Camp, Maley and Wilcox) was founded in 1880 and grew up along the Southern Pacific rail line. The location was originally established as a supply station by Southern Pacific Railroad. The Willcox City offices are now located in the original Southern Pacific depot. The history of Willcox is tied to the US military, the railroad, mining, cattle ranching and most recently to wine production.

Many old buildings remain in Willcox today, located along N. Railraod Avenue. You will find antique stores, museums and restaurants (you can eat BBQ in a red train car). Willcox is the birthplace of “Arizona Cowboy” Rex Allen. The Rex Allen Museum is directly across the street from Historic Railroad Park where you will find a bronze statue of Rex. Right next door to the Rex Allen Museum is the Friends of Marty Robbins Museum and just around the corner on Maley Street is the Chiricahua Regional Museum.

At the corner of Railroad Avenue and Stewart Street you will also find the Willcox Commercial. It is the oldest store in Arizona still in its original location (though it was not open when we visited). It is said that Apache chief Geronimo bought sugar in 1 pound sacks here to satisfy his sweet tooth.

Also along this block are two wine tasting rooms. Located in the refurbished 1917 Willcox Bank and Trust building is Keeling Schaefer Vineyards. In addition to their wines, the tasting room is filled with the artwork of Cochise County artists. The artwork is part of a summer art show entitled “Currents” presented by TRUST Art & Design which is floating among a number of tasting rooms in the area including Coronado Vineyards, Flying Leap Vineyards and Zarpara Vineyard.

Flying Leap Vineyards is located on the corner of N Railroad and Maley Street in the original location of the Headquarters Saloon. The plaque outside the tasting room notes that Warren Earp, youngest brother of Wyatt, was killed in the saloon on July 6, 1900.

Just a short walk across the railroad tracks to Railview Avenue you will find the Rustic Rooster (stacked to the rafters with gifts for everyone) and Carlson Creek Vineyard Tasting Room. We hear another tasting room is soon to open just a couple of doors down.

This historic area of Willcox has so much to offer. The amount of history contained in this several block area is surprising. The Chiricahua Regional Museum is particularly interesting. In addition to local history there is hiking everywhere in the area. Fort Bowie National Historic Site, Chiricahua National Monument and Cochise Stronghold are all within an hour or so driving time. The hiking and birding are off the charts. Some of these areas area accessible via gravel roads only. Plan ahead and come prepared. Many areas still feel like the Wild West!

We wandered around the area and eventually into several tasting rooms. We were pleasantly surprised by what we tasted…more about that in our next post.

In the meantime, please enjoy the slideshow of historic Willcox and the surrounding area. It is absolutely beautiful!

Cheers!

Reference: Willcox by Kathy Klump, Peta-Anne Tenney and Sulphur Springs Valley Historical Society

11 Comments

  1. Pingback: Wines of Southern Arizona — One More Taste | Pull That Cork

  2. Glad you got a chance to stop in Wilcox! My wife and I made our way through a couple of years ago, while she was very, very pregnant and we were driving to a family reunion in Texas. We stopped (well, I tasted and she drove) at Carlson Creek among others that you mentioned, it was really a charming little town and one that I hope continues to see growth in their wine economy as well as the number of tourists who stop in.

    I’ll also note that the wine was much better than advertised and the vintners seemed realistic about what they’re doing, goals etc as well.

    • I agree with you Mark. Willcox is on the upswing and I think the wines are very good. We will definitely go back again. Cheers!

  3. Thank you for this wonderful video and article promoting Willcox and the growing wine industry. I am using it to lure friends and family here to visit.
    I hope I get to meet you the next time your in town. Please introduce yourself as I manage the tasting room at Carlson Creek and would love to chat more with you. Our Sauvignon Blanc and our Chateau Neuf de Pape (GSM Blend) should be released this fall.
    You really did a great job of catching the historic and the new flavor of our unique area.

    • Thank you Janie. I will absolutely look for you on our next trip. Your tasting room is charming. Cheers!

  4. Nice story on Willcox, AZ. Enjoyed your visit to the Pillsbury Wine Vineyard Tasting Room… hoping you’re enjoying the WildChild and other wines you purchased on your tour. Look forward to seeing you out here again soon!
    Cheers,
    Bonnie

    • Thanks Bonnie. Our Pillsbury wines are resting comfortably, recovering from “bottle shock”. We really enjoyed our visit with you, and the wines too, of course. We actually ordered a bottle of Roan Red when we were out to dinner in Scottsdale the following week. We will definitely be back to taste again. See you then. Cheers!

  5. Great article and lovely photographs of downtown Willcox! We’re Aridus Wine Company, the tasting room you mentioned that will be opening next to Carlson Creek’s. Some other great tasting rooms to visit in the Willcox area are Zarpara Vineyard, Pillsbury Vineyard Tasting Room and Coronado Vineyards. Also Sand Reckoner and Lawrence Dunham Vineyards are open by appointment. Our Aridus Wine Company tasting room will be open after this October too! Thanks again for the lovely showcase and we’re so excited to have you down in Willcox Wine Country!
    Cheers!

    • We walked by your new tasting room, the renovation is very nice. We will absolutely visit it on our next trip to Willcox. We tasted at many of the wineries you mention and will be writing about them in the weeks to come. Unfortunately, Sand-Reckoner were too busy with harvest to make an appointment. We will put them on our list for next time too! Thanks for the kind words. I fell in love with your corner of Arizona. Cheers!

  6. Very nice article and well written. I was going to make the tour the wine areas in Arizona and put a story in my site about then as well. You are way ahead of me. Sounds like you had a terrific time.
    Dave

    • Thanks Dave. It was a great visit and I’m looking forward to our next trip already. So much left to do. I hope you do visit Willcox and write about it. Cheers!