In Italy, an osteria is a restaurant with a short and simple food menu and an extensive and sophisticated wine list. That’s basically what you’ll find at the new Merkin Vineyards Tasting Room & Osteria, which opened in Old Town Cottonwood at the end of last year. The long and narrow neo-industrial restaurant features comfy booths on one side and an enormous bar on the other. Toward the back of the restaurant there are inviting couches and a pasta bar with chefs hard at work making fresh, hand-cut noodles. As for the kitchen? It’s actually located upstairs. Depending on where you’re sitting, you’ll have a view of the action.
Wine comes first here, and it’s the only alcohol on the meu. Merkin Vineyards is located in nearby Jerome, and we have been devotees of the Chupacabra red wine for many moons. The French-style wine is a blend of grenache, syrah and mourvedre. Tasting flights are also available. The food menu at the osteria is divided into three sections: appetizers, salads and pasta. The portions here aren’t large, so we recommend sampling a little of everything. The charcuterie board changes seasonally and features imported meats and cheeses along with rustic bread, nuts and preserves. During our visit, we were raving over the spicy wild boar salami. The Casa Verde salad is a tangle of mixed greens topped with tomato, carrot, cucumber, house-made croutons and balsamic-vinaigrette dressing.
There are five pastas on the menu, and our two favorites happen to be the most popular. Our server told us the Merkin Mac & Cheese is a personal recipe of owner, winemaker and alt-rocker Maynard James Keenan. It features red-wine-and-prickly-pear-infused pasta with a pancetta-mascarpone cream sauce. The pasta is topped with fresh beet powder. A close second is the gnocchi – light, creamy potato dumplings served in a prosciutto di parma cream sauce. If you want to amp up your pasta, order a side of marinated chicken or beef skewers. Here it’s all about attention to detail – even the servers are decked out in on-trend denim aprons – and a lively atmosphere at Merkin Vineyards. It’s no wonder we recognized half the patrons as Sedona residents during our visit. – Erika Ayn Finch. Photo by Alex Landeen.
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