Off The Vine: Arizona Wine Festival

When & Where Saturday February 18, 2023, | Steam Pump Ranch, Oro Valley, AZ

Reviewer Patricia Cassidy

Wine plus great music, plus good food – a winning combination. Plus, blue skies, no wind and a temperature of 23C made for a perfect day for an outdoor festival in Oro Valley which is about 10 miles north of Tucson.

I attended Off the Vine, the event to showcase Arizona’s growing wine industry, held in the historic Steam Pump Ranch. I believe there are now 33 wineries in Arizona and twenty-five of them attended the festival to showcase their winery via tastings, information and the sale of their wines. Three bands were on hand, nine different food trucks (excellent Tacos) plus as assortment of artists selling their wares.

Most of the wineries are situated in three regions in Arizona (Elgin, Willcox and the Verde Valley) but there were wineries also from Tucson and Scottsdale and I now understand so much more of the industry: different grapes, climate, moisture levels and distribution of wine. There was a large crowd, and everyone I connected with were friendly and in high spirits.

The music was some of the best blues I have ever heard in the Tucson area. Excellent! Heather “Lil’ Mama” Hardy and her trio were the starting band,with Heather on violin and she was followed later in the day by Midnight Blue and last up was Matrix staring Leka Raquel. The event ran from 11 to 5 pm so we had music playing most of the day. Seats were arranged in front of the stage but there were speakers in the back of the grounds so if you stepped out to get food you could still hear the music (an excellent sound system). Heather Hardy and Midnight Blue covered a nice assortment of blues numbers and original work, and I particularly liked the humorous “She’s living it up while I’m trying to live it down” sung by the Midnight Blue who also sang a couple of great Steely Dan numbers. Leka Raquel had a powerful voice, there was a good saxophone player in her band, and she sang, mostly Stevie Wonder, Aretha and James Brown numbers, not so bluesy as the other two bands,

It was a successful event as it was very well organized. Everything from parking and shuttle buses to tables for seating in the grounds, great sound system, a variety of food choices, free water bottles on hand, plus the layout of the many winery booths. I shall be back next year.

© 2023 Patricia Cassidy