Despite the threat of rain, last year’s inaugural Verde Valley Wine Festival was a sold-out event: 1,400 people spent the cool afternoon at Clarkdale Town Park, sipping wine, beer and spirits, noshing on tidbits from local restaurants and listening to live music. As a result, festival organizers have expanded this year’s event to two days. Verde Valley Wine Festival returns to Clarkdale May 13 and 14, from 1-5 p.m. The festival will feature 15 Arizona wineries and seven breweries and distilleries along with expanded food offerings. New this year is the festival’s culinary partner, Merkin Vineyards Tasting Room & Osteria. Chef Chris Smith will be cooking up pasta and grilled meats on-site. Festivalgoers will also have the chance to purchase full meals and make an entire afternoon out of the event.
“The food aspect is a big deal,” says David Baird, the festival’s director. “There are plenty of festivals that highlight wine, but there aren’t many offering beer and spirits while allowing local restaurants to sample their products. Our goal is to show off all the Verde Valley has to offer.”
This year’s entertainment includes PK Gregory (honkabilly blues), What’s the Big Idea (jazz), Shri Blues Band (blues) and Sarah Chapman Music (standards). VIP ticketholders will be allowed to enter the festival at 11:30 a.m., and at noon they will be treated to a lineup of speakers that includes host and winemaker Maynard James Keenan, Todd Bostock of Dos Cabezas WineWorks and Kent Callaghan with Callaghan Vineyards. Verde Valley Wine Festival is presented by Four Eight Wineworks and the nonprofit Made in Clarkdale. David says the Verde Valley has been hungry for an event like the wine festival, and he only expects it to grow larger as more people become aware of Verde Valley wines.
“Wine is the focus of the festival, but it’s also about the Arizona libation industry,” says David. “Arizona has some old laws that are rooted in the Prohibition era. It’s only been in the last 10 years that entrepreneurs have been trying to change that old mentality and have Arizona catch up with the rest of the country.”– Erika Ayn Finch. Photo by Miguel Guzman.
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