The Speakeasy Sisters: Escape to Sonoita’s Renegade Winery

November 24, 2013 |

Arizona Hops and Vines proprietors Shannon Austin Zouzoulas, left, and Megan Austin Haller, right. photo: Emily Gindlesparger

Sonoita is nothing if not idyllic. With waving Chiricahua grassland and purple mountain majesty on every horizon, it’s the poster child for picturesque silence. But the raucous sisters of Arizona Hops and Vines are changing that, at least a few nights a year.

Case in point: Arizona Hops and Vines houses not just a vineyard, but a little petting zoo with their goat, donkey, pig, goose, chickens, turtle, dog and cat. And for the kids and designated drivers, there’s the Sober Shack vending homemade sodas. True to their name, the winemakers spiked their white wine with hops grown on the property last spring to create a powerful hybrid called the Drag Queen, which Tucson drag queens came out to celebrate. That was when they could only make wine. Now that a new Arizona law will allow sisters Shannon Austin Haller and Megan Zouzoulas to brew beer and serve it in their tasting room, the party is full on.

“I think a lot of people checked their beer at the door, thinking this was a wine region and they’ll make wine,” says Zouzoulas of the struggle to change the law that restricted stacking a brewery license on top of a winery one. But with collaboration from lobbyist Mark Barnes and Senator Don Shooter, the sisters made it happen. Now, Zouzoulas says, “if that’s their passion, this opens it up for them to go do it.”

Since opening their winery in the spring of 2012, Zouzoulas and Haller have thrown bashes including beer with a special permit. “And it’s really cool because when you do that you’re required to work with a nonprofit,” explains Haller, “so we’re building our karma. Every single event that we have here that has beer, legally it’s 25% that goes to the nonprofit, but we give 100% of our beer profits to the organization because we feel like it keeps our karma good and we’re believers in karma.” Their Bad Decisions night over the summer paired bacon, chocolate and booze under the meteor shower to benefit the 100 Club of Arizona, supporting police officers and firefighters.

The winter holds equally tantalizing events. Dec. 7 marks their Deck the Halls holiday market with Santa Clause for the nice and mulled wine for the naughty. Attendees can bottle their own wine and add extra spice, and Hops and Vines vintages will be paired with Christmas cookies. The sisters will be collecting toys for charity and inviting local artisans to peddle their gift-worthy wares.

It’s the Speakeasy on Jan. 18 that will pull out all the stops. They’ll be releasing the Lobbyist, a “very persuasive” Zinfandel that’s a nod to Mark Barnes who helped them change the liquor law. Fingers crossed, they also hope to have their Shooter IPA ready by then, in honor of the senator. The Prohibition-style shindig will be complete with guests in costume, food and a live band, and it’ll have one thing apart from its historic roots: this one will be legal.

Making Your Escape
From Tucson, take I-10 east to scenic Highway 83. Turn left onto Highway 82 at the stop sign in Sonoita, and Hops and Vines is just 2.1 miles later on the north side of the road.

Deck the Halls Christmas Market is Dec. 7, noon-5 p.m. $20, $15 with a toy donation, includes wine glasses and tastings. Speakeasy happens Jan. 18, 6 p.m.-midnight, featuring the release of the Lobbyist Zin. $25 includes food, wine tastings, and a live music. Arizona Hops and Vines is located at 3450 Highway 82, online at and via phone at 1-888-569-1642.

photo: Emily Gindlesparger


Category: Entertainment, Events, FOOD & DRINK