Arizona’s wineries will surprise you – not only for their scope, variety and sophistication, but also for the fun ways you can experience them.

No one has to sit, soberly, on the sidelines. Arizona’s guided wine tours let you kayak, jeep or trot your way to tastings in the state’s three largest grape-growing regions.

Verde Valley Wine Tours

Water into Wine

Paddle an inflatable kayak down the Verde River with Sedona Adventure Tours, then reward yourself for your (semi-) bravery – the water is very gentle, the tour leaders very experienced – with samplings at Alcantara Vineyards.

The winery, designed to look like a Tuscan villa, overlooks 87 acres of limestone slopes where the Verde River meets Oak Creek. You’ll be educated and entertained by wine experts who know how to appeal to every level of wine knowledge.

Jeep Tour & Wine Tasting

This off-road jeep adventure – created by Red Rock Western Jeep Tours – careens groups of 10 or more through a dry creek bed in Sedona’s backcountry to the soaring sandstone Vultee Arch and then on to visit the wineries in Cornville along Page Springs Road.

Here, the pace slows for adventurers to wet their whistles at Page Spring Cellars and Javelina Leap Winery or Oak Creek Vineyards before a calmer return to the red rocks of Sedona along Highway 89A.

In a nod to the area’s Old West past and the many Western films shot in and around Sedona, the guides wear cowboy (or cowgirl) garb and have the gift of storytelling gab.

Wine & Art in Jerome

You’ll drink in local history with your wine when you embark on this Sedona Wine Country Tours trip with Laura Vandegrift, who regales participants with tales of bootlegging and bawdiness from the region’s mining heyday.

The van journey begins in newly burgeoning downtown Cottonwood, where you might sample wines from Pillsbury and Arizona Stronghold vineyards as well as olive oils from around the world at the Verde Valley Olive Oil Traders.

Then it’s up a winding road to artsy Jerome, which hosts Bitter Creek Winery, Caduceus Cellars and Jerome Winery as well as many art galleries.

Sonoita-Elgin Wine Tours

Wine Tasting Ride

003130_hirev.jpgYou won’t sip Cabernets or Chardonnays while cantering through the Mustang Mountains with Arizona Horseback Experience – the rule is, don’t drink and ride.

But you will enjoy the natural high of steering a steed through some of Arizona’s most striking scenery. (The mile-high grasslands of the Sonoita-Elgin area are so atypical of the state that scenes from Oklahoma were filmed here.)

The ride culminates at Sonoita Winery, which jump-started Arizona’s wine industry in the early 1980s. After a wine tasting and lunch on a deck overlooking the vineyards, you’ll return to the stables via van.

Willcox Wine Tours

Willcox Wine Country

Many of the grapes used for Arizona’s wines have long been grown in the high-elevation (3,800–6,000 feet) region in the foothills of the rugged Chiricahua, Dragoon and Dos Cabezas mountains in the southeast part of the state. It is only recently that places to sample their wares have begun to crop up here, however.

Among the usual stops on customized limousine excursions offered by AZ Wine Tours are the Keeling-Schaefer and Carlson Creek tasting rooms in historic downtown Willcox, near the old railroad depot and the Rex Allen Cowboy Museum. On the east side of town, Coronado Vineyards has a restaurant and tasting room with sweeping vineyard vistas.

Self-Guided Wine Tours

If you have a designated driver and prefer exploring on your own, check out the Arizona Wine Growers site, which has maps of the state’s three wine regions.

The first established and the only region – so far – with its own appellation (federal designation of a unique wine-producing area), Sonoita is particularly easy to tour. Elgin Road is dotted with wineries and tasting rooms.

Many notable wines have come out of this region, including a few from Callaghan Vineyards and Dos Cabezas Wineworks that have been served at White House dinners.