Wine! Inside 7 Verde Valley Vineyards
We’ve heard it through the grapevine: While everyone thinks of Arizona as a desert state, local winemakers are thriving.
By Erika Ayn Finch
Speak to the owners and winemakers at the seven wineries in the Verde Valley profiled in our November issue and you’ll hear one thing again and again: Visitors just can’t get over the fact that vineyards are being grown and wine produced in a state best known for saguaro cactus and dusty desert. Believe it: Pioneers made wine here as long ago as the early 1900s, notes Sedona Monthly wine columnist James Monaci. Now, vineyards and wineries are popping up in the Sedona area nearly as fast as timeshare developments – Alcantara Vineyards and Javelina Leap Vineyard and Winery got up to speed in the last year and (shhh) more are in the works. While not all the winemakers use locally grown grapes, nearly all plan to do so or, as in the case of San Dominique Winery, here since 1981, have done so in the past.
Arizona wines are earning respect: The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article singing their praises, and a Cornville wine took top honors at the 2007 Zinfandel Advocates and Producers Festival. Yet the vineyards are refreshingly unpretentious: A slobbering mastiff lounges outside the tasting room at Javelina Leap. Chickens and ducks fight pests at organic winemaker Page Springs Vineyard and Cellars. It takes a high-clearance vehicle to get to Echo Canyon Vineyard and Winery; shoppers on horseback and in golf carts visit Oak Creek Vineyards and Winery. Alcantara keeps a box of toys for kids; Bill at San Dominique cooks lunch for you; John at Jerome Winery says ghosts hang out in his tasting room. As we saw, Verde Valley vineyards all have something special: Quality with a clear local flavor, no matter where the grapes come from.