Rune: An Emerging Arizona Rhone Ranger

As a follow up to my review of the Sonoita region in Arizona, I recently returned to the area. A primary reason for going back, other than a great winter getaway with my husband and parents, was to make a visit to Rune, which is producing beautiful Rhone-style blends, such as Grenache, Petite Sirah and Syrah.

I believe Rune is producing some of the best wines in the region and, in fact, pose strong competition for its California, Washington and French counterparts. Rune founder and winemaker, James Callahan, is passionate, smart, and a winemaker to watch. His Grenache continues to take home awards from the Arizona Republic Wine Competition, and for good reason.

Me with Rune winemaker James Callahan

Rune, whose name means a mark or letter of mysterious or magic significance, features beautifully designed labels that are as unique and complex as the wine varietals themselves. It is difficult to choose a favorite wine from his portfolio because each one is a beautiful representation of its kind. However, if I could only pick one wine, I loved the 2015 Colibri Vineyard Grenache. It is full of ripe, complex berry fruit that has a velvety mouthfeel and is made from grapes sourced from the most isolated vineyard in Arizona, located in the far southeast corner of the state.

The 2015 Petite Sirah was a close second, with a bold, expressive presentation, a beautiful lasting finish and soft tannins. It was aged sur lie for one year, meaning that the wine was allowed to sit on the lees (leftover yeast cells), which can add more body and weight to the wine. I have never personally had a red wine that has been aged in this manner as you typically see it more with white wines. Whether it was the sur lie aging or simply the fruit, it is a gem.

Based on the depth and breadth of his knowledge, we were astounded that Callahan is primarily self taught. As we sipped through his portfolio, he described his low maintenance approach to winemaking that includes using wild yeast. This means that rather than adding commercial-grade yeast to the grapes, Callahan relies on natural yeast existing in the vineyards, on surrounding vegetation and in the air. Since yeasts are everywhere, grapes can eventually spontaneously ferment because of the thousands of varied fungi that exist in the natural environment.

While much of the fruit Callahan is sourcing for his wines comes from neighboring vineyards in Willcox, he has recently planted vineyards on his own estate, which will begin to yield fruit and be bottled around 2020.

New vineyard plantings on the Rune property in Sonoita


As an Arizona native who now lives in Florida, I have to say that Callahan’s location truly embodies the wild Southwest, with sweeping desert vistas untouched by commercial development.

If you are looking for a unique tasting experience and quality, handcrafted wines, I highly recommend visiting Rune. The style of Callahan’s wine appeals to both savvy wine enthusiasts as well as novices who want to begin exploring the wine world.

View overlooking the Sonoita desert from the Callahan vineyards


During this visit, we stayed at La Hacienda de Sonoita (click here for my Trip Advisor review and photos), which is a great option when visiting the area. For more tips and information about visiting the Sonoita region, check my original posting.

3 Comments on “Rune: An Emerging Arizona Rhone Ranger

  1. I always knew that Arizona would rival other wine growing regions in the US one day. I remember trying a sparkler from Arizona some years ago and it was fantastic…

  2. Rune just won first and second place for best Grenache in the AZ wine competition held on January 12th in Phoenix. Grenache Pillsbury Vineyard was #1 and Grenache Colibri Vineyard (both 2015) was # 2.

  3. Pingback: “G” is for Grenache – Vino Voyager

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