Under a big-top tent on the field at Posse Grounds Park, wine lovers leisurely made their way from one winery to the next, sipping on glasses of red, white and rose. They nibbled on squares of intricately decorated chocolate, relaxed with chair massages and congregated at picnic tables outside where they noshed on steamed pork buns and spicy barbecued beef sandwiches. This was the scene at the 2016 Sedona Winefest, an event that keeps drawing bigger crowds each year. This year’s festival happens on Sept. 23 and 24 (rain or shine) from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Posse Grounds Park. This time the tent will be on the grass, making it more comfortable for everyone, says Paula Woolsey, who serves on the Sedona Winefest and Verde Valley Wine Consortium board of directors (she teaches in the viticulture department at Yavapai College and owns her own winery and restaurant consulting business, too). The ninth annual festival will also feature expanded parking, indoor educational seminars, a car show, 14 food vendors and, of course, Arizona wineries – 18 of them (as of this writing). It’s no wonder the festival is expected to draw upwards of 3,000 people.
“This has become Arizona’s premier food and wine event,” says Paula. “People come to the festival because there aren’t long lines, we offer everything from Asian to Italian to comfort food and the wineries are really enthusiastic about introducing their products.”
Festival admission includes six wine tastings and goody bags. Additional wine tastings can be purchased for $2 each, three for $5 or six for $10. Food is available for purchase, but there will be copious samples including bread, chocolate, olive oil, jam, sauces and cheese, to name a few. Attendees will enjoy free 15-minute chair massages courtesy of Massage in the Vineyard, and artists from Sedona Arts Center will be painting on-site to promote next month’s Sedona Plein Air Festival. There will also be a raffle featuring wine and restaurant and hotel packages. Raffle tickets are $2 each. On Sunday, the Sedona Select Pre-War Motorcar Exhibition will take place at the festival and showcase 15 automobiles built before 1930. The cars are all owned by private collectors; some have rarely been seen by the public while others are one of a kind.
This year’s educational seminars – free to attendees – include chocolate and wine pairing, cheese and wine pairing and a presentation by Yavapai College’s Southwest Wine Center where participants will get to sample student wines. Seminars are 45 minutes and take place on the hour starting at noon. All three seminars will be offered on Saturday and Sunday. Seating is limited, so line up early.
Paula says the joint effort between the restaurants, wineries, college and hotels is helping put the Verde Valley on the wine-region map. “People want to eat and buy local, and as more and more learn what Arizona has to offer in the way of wine, our festival grows,” says Paula. “Here’s your opportunity to taste wine from more than 15 wineries all in one shot. Are you looking for wine to serve at Christmas? Thanksgiving? The wineries are committed and knowledgeable and happy to help.”
Sedona Winefest 2017 takes place Sept. 23 and 24, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., at Posse Grounds Park (525 Posse Ground Road in West Sedona). Tickets are $35 in advance ($50 for two days) or $40 at the door. Children and designated drivers attend free of charge. A shuttle service will be provided – look for the signs. For more information, visit www.sedonawinefest.com or call 928-862-0210.
Tasting room: 1023 N. Main St. in Old Town Cottonwood (928-639-2789)
Owned and operated by winemaker Eric Glomski (who also owns Page Springs Cellars), Arizona Stronghold is focused on showcasing Arizona terroir. The winery’s grapes are grown in Willcox, and the wines showcase single varietals as well as blends.
Tom recommends: I’ve been fond of the Nachise, a medium-bodied Rhone blend, since its first release in 2007. Named for the son of Cochise, it was one of the winery’s first award winners, capturing a gold medal at The Dallas Morning News competition in 2012.
Tasting room: 4511 E. Robbs Road in Willcox (602-320-1722)
All of the grapes from Bodega Pierce come from the family’s estate vineyard in Willcox. The 80-acre Rolling View Vineyard was purchased by the family in 2011. There are currently 27 acres planted.
Tom recommends: Look for the Bodega Pierce Pandora. It’s an intriguing white blend of pinot gris, sauvignon blanc and malvasia bianca made with estate-grown grapes. It creates tropical fruit flavors with floral notes and a rich finish with mineral overtones.