It's easy to spend an entire day at Arizona Hops and Vines, a winery just off state Highway 82 in Sonoita. Whether you're of drinking age or a kid just along for the ride with your parents, there is something for you to do. Adults, of course, try the wine in the comfortable tasting room, where the view is spectacular and the owners, sisters Megan Haller and Shannon Zouzoulas, will engage you for hours in hilarious conversation. Kids can indulge in soda and snacks from the Sober Shack or visit the animals in the petting zoo. And adults will soon be able to try another alcoholic delight—beer.
Haller and Zouzoulas have long wanted to brew beer—hence the "hops" in the business name. But when they were ready to start brewing, they learned it wasn't possible because winery and brewery licenses can't be used at the same location. So they proposed a bill that would change that.
They didn't quite know where to start, but when they put out the call for help, lobbyists Mark Barnes and Sabrina Vazquez of Phoenix-based Barnes and Associates came forward. Barnes and Vazquez brought the bill to the attention of Sen. Don Shooter, a Yuma Republican who sponsored it on the Senate floor. "Without Mark and Sabrina, this bill would not have passed," Zouzoulas says. "They were supportive from the beginning and did everything they could to see the bill succeed." The bill, which passed the Legislature without a single objection and was as recently signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer, allows wineries and breweries to share the same tasting room.
"This was a moment where the government realized it was getting in the way of business, so it changed the law to allow the winery to do what it wanted to do," Barnes said.
Because the bill was introduced late in the legislative session and rushed through the process, it is less flexible than some desired. Although the licenses can be held for the same tasting room, they cannot be held by the same person, meaning two people are required for the business to work. Haller will hold the winery license and Zouzoulas will hold the brewery license.
There was a lot of concern about whether the bill would pass and a lot of cynicism about whether it would help businesses succeed. Zouzoulas says Barnes and Vasquez "walked us through the process, found the perfect sponsor and worked with everyone to get them behind it." Zouzoulas and Haller discovered that their idea was supported on many different levels—the beer and wine-making communities were behind it as well as legislators.
The sisters are encouraged and grateful. "When (the Legislature) works, it really works, and it works quickly," Zouzoulas says. Vazquez says there "wasn't a single 'no' vote. Everyone was really open to something new in Arizona."
Zouzoulas and Haller have been doing their own thing for quite some time, and having a lot of fun while they're at it. They once added hops to a batch of white wine, carbonated it, and bottled it in 22-ounce bombers. They called it Drag Queen because "It's a wine dressed up like a beer," Zouzoulas says. They've also been known to serve Cheese Puffs at their tastings, and they don't like to make the same wine twice. "Never be boring," Zouzoulas says. And now, thanks to these sisters, you will soon be able to taste wine at a brewery or sample beer at a winery.
The pair grows Cascade hops on their property, and were often asked why hops was part of the business name if they didn't make beer. "We always planned on brewing beer," Zouzoulas says. Now, she and Haller will brew a vintage beer once a year that will be on tap in their tasting room. They eventually want to stock beers from around Arizona so they can offer "Taste of Arizona" flights.
The sisters also are creating connections with wine and beer lovers by pairing their wine with local restaurants and inviting workers and owners from breweries and other wineries to their events. Their emphasis is on staying local. "You feel [the positive effects] immediately," Zouzoulas says. Several women have written to the sisters describing how they were inspired to follow their own dreams after seeing the example Haller and Zouzoulas set.
Their children are included in the fun, too. Haller and Zouzoulas had them write the business plan for the Sober Shack operation, and the kids also painted the building and designed the logo. The children run the shop on weekends. The sisters plan to name a wine after each of their children, and artwork by Haller's daughter is already on one of their wine labels. They say they are creating a legacy for their children, showing that they can do anything. And the kids say they are proud of their moms.
Although they've recently spent a lot of effort on the brewery side of the business, Haller and Zouzoulas haven't forgotten about the wine. Haller wants to use chardonnay grapes to create a wine that will be aged in different kinds of barrels. Winery patrons can then try the same wine aged in different ways to decide which style they like. The sisters are also excited about an order of Arizona-grown zinfandel grapes coming to them in the fall.
If you visit their tasting room, be sure to check out the vines, which have taken to the Sonoita soil extremely well. You can also say hello to Kevin Bacon the pig, and Bob Marley the goat. Maybe you'll even get to see the goldfish that has been there since before the business started.