Wine! Inside 7 Verde Valley Vineyards

Continued (page 2 of 6)

Echo Canyon Vineyard and Winery

Several miles down a very bumpy, very narrow dirt road and perched above Oak Creek sits Echo Canyon Vineyard and Winery, housed in a Mission-style building complete with bell tower and doors made from 100-year-old train trestle redwood. Michigan lawyer turned Cornville winemaker Jon Marcus ambles out wearing a yellow Sean John T-shirt and flip-flops, smiling even though some very hungry deer prevented him from harvesting his seven acres of vineyards this year. “You need to have 14 leaves per cluster for the fruit to ripen – we had five leaves on each plant,” he explains.

Many of his peers call Jon the father of Verde Valley winemaking. He bought his 32 acres in Echo Canyon near Page Springs Rd. and Hwy 89A in 1992 after winning a big lawsuit – he lives next to the winery with his teenage daughter. Ten years ago, when Jon announced he was going to open a winery, people “looked at me like I was crazy.” He studied winemaking at the University of California, Davis, and mentored with Kent Callaghan of Callaghan Vineyards in Elgin before he began selling his wine in 2001. Along with the vineyards in Echo Canyon, Jon owns 80 acres in Willcox, 30 of which are planted with grapes. Jon’s largest harvest several years ago resulted in 2,000 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc (Jon calls it “the Audrey Hepburn of wines”), Syrah, Zinfandel, and Merlot.

All winemaking at Echo Canyon takes place on the covered patio, which faces the canyon’s towering volcanic cliffs. A bottling line inside can produce 45 bottles of wine a minute. Echo Canyon has no tasting room, but Jon says he plans to begin holding tastings on the patio before the end of the year. Wine ($15.95-$45.95) is sold at Echo Canyon on Saturdays and Sun­days from noon until 3 p.m., and at just about every wine retailer in Sedona. Echo Canyon has several distinct labels: The estate wines sport a white label with drawings of petroglyphs while other varietals have labels designed by artists including Sedona painter and sculptor Mike Medow; the late cowboy artist Joe Beeler; and Brian Walker, who created the colorful zodiac labels for the Sedona Zodiac Zinfandel (sold by the case).

Jon says he doesn’t drink as much wine as he used to but he still remembers the first bottle he bought, in 1968 – a Chateau Margaux. With his refined palate and love of wine Jon insists “good” wine depends on the individual wine drinker. “Wine is like life,” he says. “How it tastes is tied to your mood, the people you are with, your level of enjoyment, and your aspirations.”

Echo Canyon Vineyard and Winery – 3222 N. Echo Canyon Rd. in Cornville
Open Saturday and Sunday, from noon to 3 p.m., and by appointment 928-634-8122

Javelina Leap Vineyard and Winery

Walk up the steps to Javelina Leap Vineyard and Winery’s tasting room and most likely you’ll meet Vinny – short for Vineyard – winemaker Rod Snapp’s mastiff. He slobbers a lot but he’s really friendly, Rod says. Vinny’s pal has worn a lot of hats during his 30 years in Sedona: landscape irrigation specialist, chef, volunteer firefighter, coordinator of the first Jazz on the Rocks, owner of Country Gardens Bed and Breakfast. Six years ago, after selling the B&B, he bought 10.5 acres along Page Springs Rd. With girlfriend Cynthia Reed, he spent five years getting it ready. Finally, they planted 2,500 Red Zin­fandel vines in June 2006, which will be harvested next year.

“That’s two years earlier than we expected,” says Rod, with a jovial smile. “Everything just grew so well because of the volcanic soil. We only grow grapes that like this kind of climate and soil. We also used alfalfa pellets – Cynthia’s idea – to help the soil.”

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