If you're in the market for uncommon holiday gifts, the 400-plus artisan booths at the Tempe Festival of the Arts are a good place to start.
The popular outdoor festival, which will attract nearly 225,000 visitors Friday through Sunday to downtown Tempe to browse arts and crafts, listen to live music, and watch performances by jugglers, stilt walkers, caricature artists and magicians, is one of Arizona's biggest art events.
It's also a good place to sample Arizona wines.
Fourteen Grand Canyon State wineries - Alcantera Vineyard (Cottonwood), Bitter Creek Winery (Jerome), Caduceus Cellars (Jerome), Carlson Creek Vineyard (Willcox), Javelina Leap Vineyard & Winery (Cornville), Jerome Winery, Keeling-Schaefer Vineyards (Pearce), Kief-Joshua Vineyards (Elgin), Kokopelli Winery (Chandler), Page Springs Cellars (Cornville), Pillsbury Wine Company (Phoenix), Studio Vino (Tempe), SuVino Winery (Scottsdale) and Wilhelm Family Vineyards (Elgin) - will offer tastings, along with sales by the glass, bottle or case at the Arizona Wine Festival. The festival-within-a-festival is hosted by the Arizona Wine Growers Association and features a wine garden atmosphere, where you can sip homegrown varietals while grooving to music coming from the adjacent jazz stage.
Last month, the association held its first-ever "Arizona Wine Week," which highlighted the state's burgeoning wine industry. Arizona wines have been served in the White House, and more than 20 wines from eight Arizona wineries have scored a rating of at least 88 from "Wine Spectator."
The wine festival is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday at the Centerpointe Plaza on Seventh Street just west of Mill Avenue. Admission to the garden is $12 and includes six tastings and a commemorative wine glass.
If you need a little nosh with your vino, no worries: Vendors sell the usual street-fair fare, including fry bread, barbecue, fried noodles, hot dogs, kettle corn, chocolate-dipped fruit and caramel apples. A "Cottage Edibles & Crafts" area, located on Maple Street, features prepackaged foods such as salsa, jams, dips, seasonings, soup mixes and herbs.