To say the Verde Valley wine industry has grown since we profiled the vineyards in 2007 would be the understatement of the year. Not only have the wineries in Page Springs expanded, but Old Town Cottonwood is quickly becoming a wine destination in its own right. At press time, a fourth tasting room, Fire Mountain Wine & Gallery (1010 N. Main Street; 928-649-9135), was preparing to open its doors, serving up samples of Fire Mountain and Cellar Dwellers wines. Also, the Old Town Cooperage (1001 Main Street; 928-634-2440) restaurant recently moved in, and it boasts a small wine-tasting area featuring Freitas Vineyard and Dionysian Cellars, both local wineries. And don’t even get us started on the awesome tasting rooms in Jerome.
Alcantara Vineyards in Cottonwood is the closest you’ll get in northern Arizona to Sonoma or Tuscany. The 87-acre property located at the confluence of Oak Creek and the Verde River includes a vineyard, winery, chapel and a comfortable tasting room that makes you feel like you’re hanging out at your best friend’s house. Owner Barbara Predmore says her winery is an entity in and of itself. “It’s a place to relax and enjoy your palate and your senses,” she says. “Wine makes people smile and enjoy who they are by themselves.”
The tasting room, which will eventually be Barbara’s living quarters once she realizes her dream of building a Tuscan-style village on the property, includes a marble bar surrounding the kitchen where you can pull up a barstool, sample wine and chat with the tasting room staff. (Food can be purchased on the weekends.) There’s a living room area with couches, tables and chairs, and artwork from Las Vegas painter Smokin’ Joe, who also creates all of the winery’s labels. But when the weather is right, the choice spot is the outdoor patio with views of the surrounding limestone cliffs, vineyards and the lush vegetation that lines Oak Creek and the Verde River. If you’re lucky, the resident bald eagles that nest in the cliffs might make an appearance. On the weekends, a bar is set up outside, and you’ll be treated to live music from 1 to 5 p.m. It’s not unusual to see dogs and kids frolicking on the tasting room lawn while the adults picnic on the patio. Take a winery tour every Friday and Saturday at 11:30 a.m., and on Oct. 12, the vineyard will host its annual harvest festival with a cigar bar, chocolate fountain and, of course, lots of wine. Two-thirds of the wine made at Alcantara comes from the 13-acre on-site vineyard; the remainder is grown at Barbara’s family’s vineyard in Paso Robles, Calif. Alcantara’s wines have been garnering buzz since the winery opened six years ago, and it’s hard to imagine a better place to enjoy a glass – or a bottle – than the stunning tasting room. It’s like taking a minivacation without really leaving your backyard.
Alcantara Vineyards, 3445 S. Grapevine Way in Cottonwood (928-649-8463). Tasting room hours: Daily, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. A tasting flight of five wines costs $10 and includes a souvenir glass (VIP tastings are $15 and include a crystal Bordeaux glass).
Arizona Stronghold, a collaboration between Page Springs Cellars’ owner Eric Glomski and Maynard Keenan, owner of Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards & Orchards, was the first winery to open a tasting room in Old Town Cottonwood in March 2010. The blond wood floors, high ceilings, antique clock and brick-red walls give the place a turn-of-the-century vibe. And while the tasting room attracts a fair number of out-of-town visitors during the day, in the evening locals hang out on the leather couches and play board games at the large dining room table. The room also hosts musicians every Friday from 6 to 9 p.m.
The Cottonwood location is the exclusive tasting room for Arizona Stronghold, which grows its fruit at two vineyards near Willcox in southern Arizona. The wine is made in Camp Verde. “The point of the label is to showcase Arizona wines on the national stage,” says Kevin Grubb, tasting room manager. “Right now, we have six wines that are distributed in 36 states and in Australia and Canada.” Belly up to the bar made from wine barrels, where the staff pour up to 20 different wines on any given day. Four flights of wine are available. Many of the wines have names that pay homage to the history of the southern part of our state. There’s the Nachise, named after the son of Apache chief Cochise, or the Dayden, which translates to “little girl” in Apache. If you get hungry, order a cheese plate from nearby Red Rooster Cafe and have it delivered. The tasting room also is the only place (aside from Arizona Stronghold’s website) where you can purchase the label’s Site Archive wines.
Arizona Stronghold, 1023 N. Main St. in Old Town Cottonwood (928-639-2789). Tasting rooms hours: Noon until 7 p.m. (9 p.m., Friday and Saturday). A tasting flight of five wines costs $9 and includes a souvenir glass.