The dozen or so wineries in the little communities of Sonoita & Elgin are about an hour southeast of Tucson via scenic Hwy. 83. The terrain here is very different from Tucson. No saguaros, but miles of rolling hills, tall grass & cattle herds and if you look closely you may see pronghorn which have been reintroduced to this valley.
More than a century before this was wine country, it was cattle country. The biggest ranch was the 100,000 acre Empire Ranch. You can visit what remains of it on your way from Tucson to Sonoita. Volunteers are working to restore the principle residence & out buildings. Inside the main house are simple exhibits with old photographs of the ranch and its ranchers. Definitely worth an hour’s detour.
The Empire Ranch is located in the heart of the 42,000-acre La Cienegas National Conservation Area. Flowing through this preserve is Cienega Creek, a natural riparian zone that shows us what much of this region was like before the White Eyes established “civilization”. Today, Arizona has lost more than 90% of its original perennially flowing rivers and adjacent riparian areas. So visiting here is definitely a look back in time about 150 years.
(From I-10 take Hwy 83 south about 18 miles and turn left onto Empire Ranch Road.)Read More