Drive one hour southeast of Tucson and you’ll find the many wineries of Willcox; in both output and plaudits, these vineyards are really on the rise—and an event in mid-May might be the perfect time to introduce yourself (or, if you’ve already made your introductions, then it’s a great time to get back in touch). The 2014 Willcox Wine Country Spring Festival takes place over the weekend of May 17 and 18 and will feature the emissaries of 23 local wineries and 25 local food vendors, accompanied by, of course, much live music—in a region as rich as Baja Arizona in both music and booze, should the twain ever part? It all takes place in Railroad Park, in historic downtown Willcox, at 157 N. Railroad Ave.
Speaking of which: Every time I hear of a weekend wine event—one located within a pastoral vineyard only an hour away—I try to imagine a more idyllic use of my time. I try, but always fail. With that in mind, I present: AZ Hops and Vines Spring Bacchanal Festival on Saturday, May 10, from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Many wanderers have fallen under the spell of the weird/wonderful wiles of this vineyard’s wines (and proprietors), and it’s easy to see why. In addition to featuring the vineyard’s own vino (along with a lot of local beer), there’ll homemade sodas at the Sober Shack, a great place to stash the kids, and all kinds of tasty victuals.
La Cocina has always carried a rotating cast of house-made infusions and curious cocktails within an al fresco drinker’s dream. And now, they’ve grown a rotating cast of weekly events, too. Eclecticism abounds! Speaking of rotations, there’s 5, 6, 7 WAXon Thursdays at 10 p.m., when DJs spin their favorite gems from the 50s, 60s, and 70s;check out game night on Wednesdays, complete with video games, board games, and DJs. If you prefer a more magisterial métier, a live harpist plucks dulcet tones at 12:30 p.m. for Saturday brunchers; or, if a harp is too staid for your tastes, Sunday brunch features a beat-box/looping DJ—beats with Bloodies. Also, many live musicians are scheduled for upcoming Arizona nights in May and June, so check their calendar at lacocinatucson.com/events.
Picture it: Creamsicle beer floats! Made with orange liquor and sudsy brew! And next to that float, you find an adult s’mores milkshake made with marshmallow vodka. Such strange wonders—surrounded by walls awash in 3D graffiti, alongside another wall piled high with vintage speakers and old televisions; meanwhile, behind you, a UFC cage match blinks on the big screen, while your friend eats a meatball slider from a sizzling skillet, while a DJ drops bass, while coeds consume the milkshakes all around… What in the holy hell? Am I accidentally writing a dream journal instead of Booze News? No. Hi Fi Kitchen + Cocktails is expanding into the huge 8,000 square foot space across from the Hotel Congress in the Plaza Centro (there’s an original, flagship Hi Fi in Scottsdale). I can’t quite picture the mad mélange, but one thing is certain: one cra-azy club is opening opposite The Cadence, the new student housing downtown. Is this perfect symbiosis, or a parents’ worst nightmare? Both, or somewhere in between? I don’t know, but here’s one other certainty: There shall be selfies!
Speaking of surreal happenings within the Tucson booze world: Imagine an old mortuary morphing into a pizza place, and then imagine that mortuary-turned-pizzeria creating a speakeasy within its basement. What would such a place even look like? I’m not sure, but I’m excited to find out: The team that brought you Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink (which also has an outdoor beer garden now, by the by) will be opening an underground (literally) lounge and speakeasy—underneath (6 feet under?) their current space at 101 E. Pennington St. (the original locale of the Reilly Funeral Home). What’s the password? It’s top secret, but I’m guessing since this is a desert locale, it’s not “swordfish.” You could look around for someone stage-whispering out of the side of their mouth … or just call 502.882.5550.
As you’re riding along Broadway Blvd., keep an eye out for Sidecar—a new neighborhood craft lounge from the same man who brought you Falora, Sparkroot, and Xoom Juice. “We’ll have an emphasis on fresh, artisanal-type ingredients and drinks, as well as a strong emphasis on classic, historic cocktails,” says owner Ari Shapiro. Look for the small bar two doors south of Falora, which will be providing roasted nuts and house-pickled vegetables for Sidecar’s bar snacks. Given that the name comes with a multitude of interpretations—a sidecar is a classic prohibition-era cocktail, as well as a common name for a beer with a shot on the side—expect a playful array of “sidecar” options. 139 S. Eastbourne Ave. 520.795.1819.