The settlements of Sonoita and Elgin were founded when the Santa Fe Railroad built an 88-mile-long line that ran the full length of Sonoita Creek, from Benson to Nogales, in 1882. Walking the elevated berm upon which the Railroad Trail is built is one of the many attractions of the area.
Sonoita and Elgin’s rich ranching history dates back to the 1800s when as many as 3,000 head of cattle a day were shipped from local ranches by rail to markets in the East. Ranching is still an active industry with some families working the same land for five generations.
Elgin is the first location in Arizona to engage in commercial-scale winemaking. In the 1970s, Gordon Dutt, Ph.D., a soil scientist from the University of Arizona, was intrigued with the similarity between the soil of the Elgin-Sonoita area and that of Burgundy, France. In partnership with A. Blake Brophy, he developed an experimental winery that later developed into the Sonoita Vineyards and that encouraged other vineyards in the area. Presently, growers in the area produce Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Mission, and Syrah grapes.
Elgin hosts several wine festivals throughout the year, most notably the St. Martin’s Day festival and the Fall festival.
The expansion of winemaking in the Elgin-Sonoita area has led to the establishment of fine restaurants and bed and breakfasts and has regenerated the economy of this lightly populated, rural area.
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