I love Phoenix, there, I said it. I lived here for several years, moved away, and then came back because I like it here so much. But every so often, the traffic, noise, snowbirds, and general "cityness" have me feeling hemmed in. If you feel the same way, and you love wine like I do, then a brief sojourn up north is just the thing to recharge your batteries.
By "up north," I don't mean Flagstaff or Sedona, which are both nice. No, if you're into wine, then you have to make your way up to the Verde Valley. Hop onto I-17 north for the relatively short and scenic 90-mile drive to the agricultural hub of Cottonwood. Mapquest says it takes 2 hours and 18 minutes, but I just drove it this week in an hour and 45 (without speeding, much).
Before you get to Cottonwood, stop in at Page Springs Cellars tasting room in Cornville just to the east (1500 North Page Springs Road, Cornville) and have a $10 flight and a snack. Then head into the charming old town section of Cottonwood. There you'll find Arizona Stronghold's tasting room (1023 North Main Street, Cottonwood) right across the street from Pillsbury Wine Company's (1012 North Main Street, Cottonwood), right on Main Street. All three of these tasting rooms offer inexpensive flights of their wines plus tasty snacks.
In between old town Cottonwood and Jerome is the sleepy townlet of Clarkdale, where FourEight Wineworks recently opened its tasting room (907 Main Street, Clarkdale) in what used to be a bank. I talked about FourEight last week, and because it is a winemaking co-op you can taste Chateau Tumbleweed, Tim White's Iniquus Cellars, and Michael Pierce's Saeculum Cellars wines in a very comfortable, well appointed setting.
Now, head up the winding hill to the funky, old mining town of Jerome where you'll find the tasting room of Caduceus Cellars/Merkin Vineyards (158 Main Street, Jerome). There you can taste through many of Maynard James Keenan's wines as well as have a well-made espresso drink, which, after five tasting rooms you're probably going to need.
Don't get me wrong, if you are trying all this wine, please either spit, or have a designated driver, don't be "that guy/girl." What I love about visiting these spots is that not only can you taste through their widely available wines they almost always have some juice that is exclusively sold out of the tasting room, a rare treat.
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I recommend spending the night in Jerome, there are several spots where you can find a reasonable room. Go to bed early so you can wake up to a magnificent sunrise. Jerome sits up high so you can see the entire Verde Valley and at sunrise it's particularly stunning. Head back to Caduceus and grab another coffee, hit the road, and you can be back in Phoenix by mid-morning. I just did this trip Monday and Tuesday of this week and it was the perfect remedy for city life blues.
When I'm not writing this column or reading vintage charts to my daughter, you can find me pouring wine at FnB.