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Exploring Greater Zion’s Wine – A Blend of Vineyards, Adventure and History

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Greater Zion is well known for stunning landscapes and endless adventure throughout the area’s parks, golf courses, and recreational lands; however, a lesser known, historically-rooted pursuit has made its way back onto the scene over the last decade: winemaking. The region has tapped back into its agricultural roots to foster a growing wine industry that embraces tradition and innovation.

21st century wine pioneers in Greater Zion  

Just over a decade ago, modern winemakers began to recognize the potential their predecessors observed in Greater Zion. The area sits on the 37th parallel, similar to many world-renowned wine-producing regions including southern Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal. The volcanic soils, high altitude, warm days and cool nights make it a special place for wine. 

Currently, the state has five wineries on the Utah Wine Trail with four located in Greater Zion and additional vineyards on the horizon. Locations on the Utah Wine Trail include: 

Bold & Delaney Winery – Located in Dammeron Valley, just north of St. George, Bold & Delaney is a 12-acre vineyard that sits between the dormant Veyo and Santa Clara volcanos that were active as recently as 10,000-20,000 years ago. Currently, Bold & Delaney produces 11 varietals including Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Grenache. Tastings are available by appointment. 

Chanela Vineyards – Located 15 miles north of St. George, on the slopes of Pine Valley Mountain, Chanela has the highest elevation vineyard in Utah. Sitting around 5,000 feet above sea level, the vineyard enjoys warm days and cool nights that produce grapes and wines with intense color and robust tannins. A tasting room is in the planning stages. Guests can purchase wines at the vineyard’s retail location inside Silver Reef Brewery in St. George and Utah liquor stores.

IG Winery – Located roughly 50 minutes north of St. George in Cedar City, IG produces wine with grapes grown in Greater Zion as well as Washington, Oregon and California. The winery’s tasting room is open for walk-in visitors, offering wines by the bottle, glass, or flight as well as cocktails and local beer and spirits. 

Water Canyon Winery – Greater Zion’s newest winery specializes in organic wine produced without added sulfates, preservatives or foreign yeasts. Tastings are available by appointment. Water Canyon is located in the emerging and growing town of Hildale. 

Zion Vineyards – The first vineyard in Greater Zion was established in 2013 and is already award-winning with multiple silver and gold medals from the Utah Wine Festival. Located in Leeds, Zion Vineyards opened a tasting room in May 2023, welcoming guests daily to sample more than 10 varietals including Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. 

Greater Zion’s four wineries are all located within 30 minutes of each other and provide great access to the region’s outdoor and cultural attractions. Greater Zion also includes Zion National Park, four state parks, 14 top-rated golf courses and so much more. Beyond vineyards, guests can also enjoy the area’s multiple craft breweries, local distilleries and bars, each contributing a distinct flavor and atmosphere.

History of wine in Greater Zion

In 1861, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dispatched 309 families to southwest Utah, including the area that is now Greater Zion, on a mission to cultivate agriculture and discover which crops would thrive. 

The area’s warm dry climate and long growing season proved to be a great match for grapes. Many of the Swiss settlers had previous experience with wine making and by 1875, the region was producing more than 100 varieties of grapes, resulting in 3 million pounds of the crop per year. St. George, Greater Zion’s largest city, was producing 2,500 gallons of wine per year and the area’s best-known vineyard, Nail’s Best, located in Toquerville, was responsible for more than 3,000 gallons per year.  

Throughout the late 19th century, wine produced in Greater Zion was celebrated for its superior taste and used throughout the state for religious sacrament, personal consumption, sold to area miners and travelers and even used for tithing at church. By the early 1890s, however, wine production in the area stopped due to a number of factors, including shifting local and religious attitudes toward consumption, and the local silver mines closing, which greatly reduced the amount of consumers. At the same time, the railroads were making it easier to obtain less-expensive wine produced outside the state. As the financial opportunities dried up, farmers began to uproot grapes, replacing them with more profitable crops. 

Just as green mountains, red rocks, and desert dunes intertwine in Greater Zion, so does modern winemaking and a rich viticultural history. Book your trip today to delve into the process, the setting, the history, the wine, and beyond.