Ultimate Guide to the American Southwest Wine Region

Vineyards, like the one pictured here in Southern California, can be found throughout the American Southwest. See our collection of wine pictures

­What comes to mind when you think of the American Southwest? Old movie images of cowboys. Arid desert. Green mountain slopes. Sprawling cities with friendly, laid-back populations. Whatever you think of, you're prob­ably right: the American Southwest is incredibly diverse.

For the purposes of wine, the American Southwest region consists of six states: New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, Colora­do, Oklahoma and Texas. (That's according to the Southwest Wine Competition, held every year in Taos, NM [source: Toast of Taos].) That means the region encompasses immense geographic variety. You can find bamboo forest and rocky cliffs in the same national park in Texas, so just imagine what you'll find in six large Western states [source: Big Bend National Park]:

  • arid desert basins
  • high, snowy peaks of the Rockies
  • scrub forests of oak and mesquite
  • windblown prairies
  • redwood forests
  • canyons gouged so deep into the earth that their bottoms only see the sun at noon
  • humid Gulf Coast beaches

­Obviously, there's a lot to explore. So much so, that wine aficionados touring the area could plan their trip around a local landmark or event, suc­h as:

  • The Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Festival, Arizona's Wilcox Wine and Art Festival or the Aspen Food and Wine Classic
  • A walk along the Texas Hill Country Wine Trail
  • A drive along Route 66
  • Arizona's Sonoma County Grape Camp, where you can stomp on your own grapes

In this article, we'll investigate the eclectic history and challenging agriculture of the American Southwest wine region and look at some of the standouts among its many up-and-coming wines.