By Erik Berg


In popular culture, beer and whiskey are the traditional drinks of the Old West. You are unlikely to see a western movie where the grizzled cowboy bellies up to the bar and asks the barkeep to recommend a nice bottle of wine–perhaps something French–that would pair well with venison and biscuits. But wine was popular on the western frontier and often promoted by establishments as a mark of quality and distinction. In Prescott the numerous saloons and merchants who advertised in the Weekly Arizona Miner frequently enticed readers with the popular promise of “Wine, Liquor, and Cigars.”


Much of the wine people drank in Prescott saloons during the territorial period came from California, particularly the Rancho Cucamonga area east of present-day Los Angeles. In her famous account of early Arizona, Vanished Arizona, frontier army wife Martha Summerhayes makes several mentions of the “good Cocomonga[sic] wine.” Red wine made from Zinfandel or Mission grapes dominated, but white wines and distilled drinks such as port, sherry and brandy were also popular.


Aside from a big night on Whiskey Row, simple table wine was an important part of daily life for many European immigrants who considered it as much a staple of the dinner table as a loaf of bread. Prescott pioneers of French, Italian, German or Swiss heritage often brought with them their traditions and recipes for making wine at home. Those skills would prove useful in the town’s first few years when wine was still scarce and expensive. In 1867 the Miner reported that a desperate group of unnamed German immigrants made wine the previous fall from native canyon grapes (of the species Vitis arizonica) that grew wild in the nearby canyons and hills. This was likely the first wine ever made in northern Arizona.  


Even after supply lines improved, those local native grapes continued to hold the interest of businessman Daniel Hatz. The son of a Swiss wine dealer and owner of the Pioneer Hotel, bakery and saloon, Hatz was one of the town’s leading citizens. He was also an avid amateur botanist and spent much of his free time studying and collecting local plant specimens. With the encouragement of California wine researcher Charles Wetmore, Hatz made his own wine from the local canyon grapes in the early 1880s. Although one reviewer described it as having a “fine flavor and pleasant aroma,” modern wine drinkers might have felt otherwise. Vitis arizonica has small, bitter-tasting berries compared to true Old World wine grapes. To counteract this, Hatz reported that he had to dilute his wine with large amounts of water and then add 20 to 30 pounds of sugar per 40-gallon barrel before it was drinkable.


Hatz’s winemaking career was short-lived, but one of his proteges would prove more successful. German immigrant Henry Schuerman arrived in Prescott in the late 1870s and quickly found employment at Hatz’s hotel where he may have participated in his boss’s winemaking experiments. Eventually Schuerman moved to Oak Creek and established a large farm, including a vineyard of Zinfandel wine grapes. By the 1890s, he was producing a quality red wine that was particularly popular in nearby Jerome. Schuerman continued as northern Arizona’s leading vintner until the state enacted local prohibition in 1915. Wine grape growing and wine making didn't return to northern Arizona until around 1997 when John Marcus founded Echo Canyon Vineyard and Winery near Sedona.


So, the next time you are on Whiskey Row, don’t order a bottle of beer or shot of rye. Ask for a glass of Arizona wine instead and offer a toast to Daniel Hatz and Henry Schuerman, northern Arizona’s pioneering winemakers.


Saturday, May 18th, 2024, at the Sharlot Hall Museum, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m, there will be a unique fundraising event known as “Sharlot’s Cellar.” The occasion is a combination of live music, small gourmet dishes, wine tasting, mead and mocktails.


“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International ( This and other Days Past articles are also available at The public is encouraged to submit proposed articles and inquiries to Please contact SHM Research Center reference desk at 928-277-2003, or via email at for information or assistance with photo requests.