Wine Country

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Burning Tree Cellars

Mitch Levy and Corey Turnbull, who call themselves “co-conspirators,” opened the spacious Burning Tree Cellars tasting room in Old Town Cottonwood last August. The duo (Corey is also the tasting room manager at Page Springs Cellars) have been making wine under their own label at the Arizona Stronghold winery in Camp Verde since 2008, specializing in Rhone blends and “things that are different,” says Mitch. You won’t find Burning Tree Cellars at grocery stores or even restaurants; if you want a taste, you have to head to the tasting room.

“We’re a small boutique winery,” says Mitch, whose tattooed arms and penchant for black reveal his other passion: Harley-Davidson motorcycles. “We make wine for ourselves, for our families and for our friends. There’s nothing pretentious here.” Like all the tasting rooms in the Verde Valley, Burning Tree Cellars has its own vibe. It’s clean and modern with gray alderwood doors, stamped concrete floors, a copper-topped bar and high, black ceilings. The outdoor area boasts modern furniture, views of all the action on Main Street and live music every Friday and Saturday. Mitch, a retired paramedic, says it’s not unusual for locals to kick back with a glass of wine and their laptops. For two of us, it was the first time we had sampled Burning Tree Cellars, and we were happily surprised. (It didn’t hurt that Mitch, in all his enthusiasm, pulled out a bottle from the Burning Tree Cellars’ library so we could taste one of his favorites, The Dragon.) The labels on the bottles all showcase local artists. The fruit is sourced from California and southern Arizona, and most days Mitch is pouring 12 to 15 different wines. He says The Peasant, 100-percent grenache, is the perfect alternative to pinot noir to serve at Thanksgiving while his Rose B, a blend of cabernet sauvignon, syrah, grenache and zinfandel, has been a big hit. So what does Mitch drink? “Whatever is in my glass,” he laughs.

Burning Tree Cellars, 1040 N. Main St. in Old Town Cottonwood (928-649-8733). Tasting room hours: Noon until 6 p.m. (9 p.m., Friday and Saturday). A tasting flight of five wines costs $10 and includes a souvenir glass.

Javelina Leap Vineyard & Winery

The tasting room at Javelina Leap Vineyard & Winery has changed dramatically since Sedona Monthly last wrote about the Verde Valley’s burgeoning wine industry in November 2007. You’ll still find the copper ceiling and the friendly staff, and the javelina trophies are still mounted on the wall, grapes in their gaping mouths. The room underwent its first expansion in 2011, which really opened up the space. The winery opened a kitchen, under the helm of Chef Don Walker, as well as its Arizona Room this year. The Arizona Room, a bright space with views of the vineyard and an adjacent garden with seating, allows wine lovers to order fruit, cheese, yogurt and hummus platters along with glasses and bottles of vino, and enjoy their feast at tables made out of barrels. During the harvest season, you can watch the winemakers doing what they do best right outside the glass doors. The remodeled tasting room begs you to slow down and spend some time appreciating the wine and the landscape.

And speaking of the winemaker, Cynthia Snapp, who owns the winery with her husband Rod, is one of the only female winemakers in the Verde Valley. Rod was the initial winemaker, but since Cynthia has taken the reins, you can taste it in Javelina Leap’s wines. While the winery is still known for its award-winning bold zinfandel, they’ve introduced an exotic tempernillo and have plans to add white wines to the mix. There were seven wines on the tasting menu during our visit ranging from a refreshing sauvignon blanc to a graceful merlot and a full-bodied syrah. Cynthia, however, doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to her passion. “I’m so proud of our pure varietals,” she says. “Not even one percent of our varietals come from anything other than the grape that’s on the label. As a winemaker, I’m really interested in what different varietals do in our soil.”

Javelina Leap Vineyard & Winery, 1565 N. Page Springs Road in Cornville (928-649-2681). Tasting room hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. A tasting flight of four wines costs $8. Premium tastings are $3 each.

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