Salsa Journeyman 700 Drop-Bar Sora with Carbon Fork
To my mind, the Salsa Journeyman 700 with Sora and the carbon fork is the place to be at $1199. Does what you need without being so precious that you need to worry about scratching it on mesquite branches.
Journeyman Sora 700 features the Shimano Sora drivetrain, widely-praised for its exceptional value and smooth, intuitive performance both on and off the beaten path. The 700c x 37mm tires are quick, responsive, and efficient so you can really get out and fly when the road calls.
More at Salsa