Trip Guide: A Winemaker's Favorite Vineyards in the West

A car and an Airstream trailer parked on the side of a road on a beautiful day.

Before we opened our own vineyard and tasting room, James and I had a lot of experience as wine enthusiasts. James, in particular, spent years traveling from vineyard to vineyard, living in his Airstream, working with some of the best wine growers around and learning everything he could. Now that we’ve built our lives around wine, we’re bigger fans than ever of the many incredible vineyards and wineries around the country, especially the ones close to home. People don’t often associate Arizona with wine, but we’ll show you why we think that deserves to change, and share a few recommendations for further up the West Coast, too.

An Airstream trailer parked under a rainbow sunset in the desert.

1. Rune Wines, Sonoita, Arizona

Photo Credit: Jenelle Bonifield, @arizonawineguide

Rune Wines is our vineyard and tasting room, which we opened in 2015. Rune wouldn’t have been possible without our 1971 Airstream Sovereign Land Yacht, which served as a home base for James while he planted vines, made wine, and got his business up and running. Today, the Airstream is a centerpiece of our unique tasting room. We are the only off-grid and solar-powered tasting room and vineyard in Arizona, and maybe the whole country.

Perched on a vista with stunning panoramic views of six different mountain ranges, there's no better place than our outdoor tasting room to watch the sun go down with a glass of our signature Wild Syrah in hand. We’re known for our low-intervention, wild yeast fermented wines, which in layman's terms means that we like to keep the chemicals and additives to a minimum and let mother nature do its thing. Rune is just one stop in what could be a marvelous long weekend trip. The Sonoita area is home to 16 wineries and breweries, so set up camp in the Las Cienegas National Conservation area and start sampling.

A double rainbow over a vineyard.

2. Deep Sky Vineyard, Sonoita, Arizona

Have you ever fallen in love with a malbec from Argentina? Kim and Phil Asmundson, the owners of Deep Sky, found themselves enchanted with the wines and natural beauty of Argentina after a fateful trip to Mendoza. They also couldn’t help but notice that Mendoza and southern Arizona had similar climates, soils and high desert landscapes. Before they knew it, they found themselves growing grapes and undertaking a grand experiment to produce malbec in Arizona. Today, their tasting room is a top destination for not only malbec, but also French grape varietals like viognier and syrah. Enjoy the original art in their tasting room, or step outside to check out the views and play a game of cornhole. If you’re lucky, you’ll visit on a day when they’re sampling both their Arizona and Argentina malbecs, and you can learn about the subtle differences that make the same type of grape taste different depending on where it is grown. We love the welcoming, casual vibe of this tasting room.

The Willcox Commercial building at sunset.

3. The Willcox Commercial, Willcox, Arizona

Would you believe that Arizona has over 100 wineries, vineyards and tasting rooms scattered all across the state? You may not have time to visit them all, but you can try wines from both Golden Rule Vineyards and Copper Horse Vineyards at the historic Willcox Commercial building in Willcox, Arizona. We love this location because it speaks to Arizona’s wild west character. Now owned by winemaker Mark Phillips, the building began as a mercantile in 1879 when Willcox was nothing but a dusty railroad town. Today, you can sample wine here while you gaze out the windows and watch the trains roll by on those same tracks. 

While you enjoy the wine, don’t forget to explore the tasting room’s fun curios and artifacts, from old typewriters to a historic mural depicting Willcox in her early days. When you’re tasting, be sure to sample the Copper Horse Vineyards Mourvedre––its namesake grape originates from Spain and thrives in heat and sun, so it does particularly well in Arizona. As for Golden Rule Vineyards, we always gravitate towards their picpoul blanc. This zesty white grape is refreshing during an Arizona summer. Buy a bottle, put it on ice, and enjoy it after a hike in the beautiful nearby Chiricahua Mountains. 

A truck pulling an Airstream trailer.

4. Kosta Browne Winery, Sebastopol, California

Leaving Arizona behind, the world of California wine is quite different. Kosta Browne is well worth a visit for their iconic pinot noir and chardonnay if you are lucky enough to score a coveted tasting appointment. Kosta Browne was started by a sommelier and a restaurant manager who agreed to pool their tip money and work towards a vision of making wine together. Now, over 20 years later, Kosta Browne makes some of the most sought after pinot noirs in California wine country. In fact, their pinot noir was named Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year in 2011, when James was working there. It’s such a prestigious award that it allowed him to use the accolades as a springboard to return to Arizona and launch our own vineyard. If you’re a fan of pinot noirs, Kosta Browne’s is one you don’t want to miss.

While you’re in the Sebastopol area, don’t miss Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Woods, where you can hike among the towering old growth forests. After your hike, stop by Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa for pub grub and a California style IPA.

An Airstream parked and set up in a grassy field.

5. Waters Winery, Walla Walla, Washington

Haven’t you heard? Walla Walla is the new Napa, and Waters Winery is a great introduction to the wines of Washington state. James worked at Waters Winery early on in his career, where he learned how to craft artisanal, small production wines with exceptional care and attention to detail. The philosophy at Waters is that great wine is made in the vineyard, and what happens in the fields is just as important as what happens after the fruit is picked (if not more important). Don’t miss their iconic Forgotten Hills Vineyard Syrah. 

After your visit to the Waters tasting room, explore Walla Walla and enjoy the cool, college town vibes. Visit the Green Lantern Tavern for tasty pizza and lots of local brews on tap. If you’re so inclined, plan to spend a day fly fishing in the Walla River––one of James’s favorite pastimes when he was a local. 

Plan this trip yourself:

See all the locations mentioned above and start planning your road trip.

Wine Road Trip

James and Anna RV with a 2003 International CCD Airstream Travel Trailer.