Wine Country

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Oak Creek Vineyards & Winery

Deb Wahl was the first person to open a wine-tasting room in northern Arizona way back in 2003. The 1,250-square-foot Oak Creek Vineyards & Winery tasting room has undergone some changes in the past 10 years including the addition of the Red Room, which hosts private functions and, very recently, custom blending. Make an appointment and the winemakers will work with you as you create your own blend of wine and then bottle it on-site. The recipe is archived so you can return again and again for your favorite.

Oak Creek has always boasted outdoor picnic tables on its 10-acre property, but today you can find picnic fixings for sale in the tasting room. You’ll also find foodstuffs made from Oak Creek’s wines – check out the syrah rub and the port-wine jam. During our visit, the tasting menu included four white wines, four reds and two dessert wines. Deb is a fan of varietals, and her menu reflects that: chardonnay, viognier, syrah and zinfandel were all on the list. Despite the name, the men in our group were fans of Deb’s two blends: the Arizona Lady white and the Arizona Lady red. Though the blends change with each harvest, the white we tasted was 50 percent chardonnay and 50 percent dry gewürztraminer. The red was a blend of syrah grown at the vineyard and pinot noir from California. Deb has seen an astounding amount of growth in Page Springs and Cottonwood since she took a chance on a winery 10 years ago. “I had an idea that wineries might start making their way out here,” she says with a sly smile. “It’s very true: If you build it, they will come. I took a risk and even though we haven’t grown as fast as I had hoped, we are still a wine destination.”

Oak Creek Vineyards & Winery, 1555 N. Page Springs Road in Cornville (928-649-0290). Tasting room hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. A tasting flight of four wines costs $5.

Page Springs Cellars

The tasting room at Page Springs Cellars has long been a favorite among locals, not only because the wine is always amazing but because you have so many options when it comes to choosing a spot in which to sip. The main tasting room boasts a copper-top bar and a friendly, knowledgeable staff while the lounge (opened in August 2011) has inviting leather couches and hosts live music and wine specials Fridays and Saturdays from 6 to 9 p.m. But we always head for the outdoor decks, wine in hand, when we visit. The deck off the main tasting room (and the adjacent members’ area deck) has wonderful views of the vineyard. Head downstairs and take the dirt path that leads to a second deck perched right above Oak Creek (our personal favorite spot) for a truly memorable experience.

Corey Turnbull, the tasting room manager at Page Springs Cellars since 2008, oversaw the tasting room expansions and says Page Springs has become a total experience. “You can spend the entire day here,” he says. “People picnic, play games on our bocce ball court and giant chess board, book massages in the vineyard. On October 5, we’re hosting our annual Harvest Festival with music and kids’ activities. It’s an informative but relaxed atmosphere. We’ve taken the snobbery out of wine – we’re laid-back and family-friendly.” Then there are the wines. At any given time, you can taste 25 to 30 wines at Page Springs. The flights are divided into four categories: white, red, a mix of both and Arizona grown. The winery is known for small-batch wines, and specializes in Rhone varietals. Eric Glomski, founder and director of winemaking, prefers the 2011 Landscape Page Springs Estate, a blend of estate petite sirah, estate mourvèdre and estate syrah. And everything you’ve ever thought about pink wine will fly out the window when you try the 2011 La Flor Rosa, a blend of zinfandel, gewürztraminer and mourvèdre. “There’s a lot of diversity here,” says Corey. “We produce 40 to 60 wines a year. Our wines aren’t huge and don’t have a high alcohol content. We are more interested in what the vineyard gives us and what grows well here.”

Page Springs Cellars, 1500 N. Page Springs Road in Cornville (928-639-3004). Tasting room hours: Monday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Thursday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. A tasting flight of five wines costs $10 and includes a souvenir glass.

Pillsbury Wine Company

A few months after Arizona Stronghold opened its tasting room in Old Town Cottonwood, Pillsbury Wine Company followed suit. The boutique winery, owned by New Zealand-born filmmaker Sam Pillsbury, only produces 3,000 cases of wine each year and sources all of its fruit from vineyards in southern Arizona. The tasting room, which is divided into three different spaces, is located in a 110-year-old building in Old Town with exposed wood-beam ceilings and a rotating display of art from local talent as well as members of the Pillsbury family. The tasting room also hosts live music and “Yappy Hour” every Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. when wine lovers are encouraged to bring their pooch and take advantage of discounts, says Justine Winchester, the winery’s sommelier. You can also indulge in handmade artisan chocolates from Phoenix, and the tasting room staff will pair your chocolates with their wine.

Find a spot at the bar or take a seat at one of the couches and browse the tasting menu, which includes five white wines and five red wines. Pillsbury doesn’t distribute its wines outside of Arizona, and its only other tasting room is at its vineyard in Willcox, Ariz. (it opened earlier this year). Justine says the winery favors Rhone varietals. “Sam really likes clean wines with a lower alcohol content,” she says. “At Pillsbury, it’s about subtlety and nuance.” Two of Sam’s blends, the Wild Child White and the Wild Child Red, are incredibly popular, and with good reason. Though the blends change each year, the white has no residual sugars, which means it’s dry and pairs well with lots of different food. The winery produces more cases of the red blend than any other wine in its library, and there’s no question why. It’s always delicious.

Pillsbury Wine Company, 1012 N. Main St. in Old Town Cottonwood (928-639-0646). Tasting room hours: Wednesday through Monday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (8 p.m., Friday and Saturday); Tuesday, 1 to 6 p.m. A tasting flight of five wines costs $10. For an extra $2.50, keep the glass.

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