Jerome AZ: a Ghostly Place for a Wine and Food Destination
Jerome AZ Now Serves Wine with “Spirits”
The town of Jerome AZ was founded in 1876 and is one of the most famous ghost towns in Arizona. It sits above what was once the largest copper mine in the state. According to Jerome Arizona history, from the late 1880’s to the early 1950’s Jerome AZ was a thriving mining community and survived four fires that destroyed many sections of the town. In its heyday, the population swelled to 15,000 and prosperity in Jerome was abundant; with the Jerome grand hotel, saloons, restaurants, stores, a hospital, schools, and churches. But as with all booming Wild West towns, Jerome also had a seedier side and soon gained a reputation for gambling, drinking, and prostitution.
When the Depression of 1929 came along, Jerome AZ lost its luster; mining premium copper became more difficult and prices tumbled. In 1930 the mine closed and residents began leaving in droves. As quickly as Jerome AZ had grown, it dwindled down to just a handful of die-hard residents and many of the abandoned buildings went into disrepair. During those prosperous copper mining years, many men and women lost their lives, some while working in the mine; some at the criminal hands of others, and some as patients in the hospital. It is reported that many of those spirits never left Jerome; giving way to the belief that this Jerome ghost town is one of the largest “ghost towns” in the country.
Much of Jerome AZ remains a gritty mining town with some of the old buildings renovated but many that still are not. And although Jerome would seem an unlikely candidate as a tourist destination, this town has evolved into a thriving artisan community and is now home to writers, artists, wine tasting rooms, musicians, art galleries, bed and breakfast inns and hotels. It’s the history of this Jerome ghost town that attracts visitors who are interested in how the past melds with the present to create an eclectic and unique wine, food and travel experience. What makes this area a destination are the unexpected pleasures of finding excellent restaurants, cafes, galleries and wine tasting rooms that reside side by side with biker bars, bakeries and nostalgia shops. Jerome AZ is a town that offers something for everyone.
Fall is the perfect time to visit Jerome AZ! Cool temperatures and beautiful mountain vistas make up a large part of this area known as Verde Valley, Arizona Jerome AZ is a good starting point for exploring the northern parts of Arizona and the many restaurants and vineyards in the region.
An October weekend visit in Jerome offered visitors interesting wine tasting experiences and a few quirky “haunted” happenings, just in time to put anyone in the Halloween spirit.
This small establishment is located on the ground level of a former Jerome AZ hotel and boarding house purported to be haunted by spirits who to this day, slam doors and steal hammers. Seating is tight inside the restaurant but on a warm day the outdoor deck seating is comfortable with spectacular mountain views.
Although delicious burgers are the specialty here, there are plenty of other items on the menu to satisfy just about anyone. Among the selections are: The Ghostly Burger with mushrooms, bacon and cheddar cheese and The Haunted Burger with mushrooms, bacon, cheddar and Swiss cheese, green chilies, grilled onions and guacamole. These hamburgers are definitely not for the faint-hearted.
Portions are generous and moderately priced. “Spirits” (the liquid kind) are served from the full service bar. With the excellent food this tiny restaurant offers, it’s no wonder that people flock to it and the ghosts don’t want to leave; they all probably believe that they’ve died and gone to heaven!
John’s sister, Melanie runs Jerome Winery. Enter the tasting room and step up to the long copper bar; a tribute to the mining roots of Jerome. A tasting costs $6.00 for four wines of your choice. “The Harlot” is a sweet and light red best enjoyed slightly chilled. The dry white Vermentino could easily be enjoyed with lemon pepper chicken or a brie appetizer. A fellow wine taster enjoyed the Zinfandel Port and claimed that it was one of the best ports he had ever tasted. All of the wine labels feature vintage family photos, many of them from the Jerome AZ area.
During one visit, there were two self-proclaimed ghost hunters who were taking a break from Jerome ghost town exploring, to taste wine. They were overheard asking Melanie if there were any spirits living in the building occupied by the winery. Apparently there are, as Melanie explained showing the visitors that padlocks on the top of the door had been installed to prevent the ghosts from unlocking and opening the doors during the night!
Even though there may be some paranormal incidences occurring during evening hours, during the day, the Jerome AZ Winery is a pleasant experience with first quality wines. And, if you’re hungry and want to sit out on the grapevine-adorned courtyard, the Jerome Chamber of Commerce, which is part of the winery, offers soups, salads, sandwiches and small plates for noshing while sipping these delightful Arizona wines.
The dining room is small but well appointed, albeit a bit quirky with artifacts from the former hospital decorating the restaurant entrance and hallways leading to this Jerome grand hotel. The large windows offer scenic vistas as visitors dine on Roasted Butternut Squash soup, Prickly Pear Barbeque Pork Tenderloin or Mesquite Bacon Wrapped Filet Mignon, to name a few. The food and the service are excellent; lunch and dinner are served daily.
The wine list is extensive and features Arizona, Oregon, Washington State and California wines as well as Australian, Portuguese, Spanish and Italian wines. A Wine Tasting menu is offered featuring four wines to taste, compare or blend.
Dining on top of the mountain, tasting exceptional wines, and perhaps getting a glimpse the spirits that inhabit the building are all part of the unique Jerome ghost town ambience of The Asylum!
Entering the building, a visitor is immediately drawn to the rear windows that offer beautiful views! Comfortable sofas to sit and admire the natural scenery along with quality artisan crafts and artwork beckon visitors to savor the ambience that this well-appointed modern gallery has to offer.
Look to the left and see a long, wine tasting bar, handcrafted with an inlaid grape design. The wines are offered for $6.00 for 4 tastings of your choice. On a recent visit, the tasting area was crowded with tourists and wine aficionados.
In 2010, Bitter Creek Winery released the first wines with Tarot card labels designed by local Jerome AZ tattoo artist Rich Wyckoff. Each label is distinctive, colorful and a work of art. With such names as “Joan of Arc”, “Knight of Wands”, and “Hangman” these wines are diverse red and white blends and fit well with the character of this Jerome ghost town.
The gallery also offers one of- a-kind handcrafted items such as jewelry, artwork, and home accents. It’s a pleasant atmosphere where old, new and unusual blend well!
What is nice about Jerome AZ is that it doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. Its roots are in the copper mine and the people who travelled from all parts of the world to live here and claim a chance at a better life. Walking along the jagged, narrow sidewalks, and trekking up stairs and steep roads, a modern-day visitor can feel the presence of former residents. And whether you believe in ghostly spirits or not, walk into some of the old buildings and find yourself inhaling the scent of history- old smells- still full of the life and the stories of the people who lived here.
By: Carol A. Wilcox
New! CommentsHave your say about what you just read! Leave us a comment in the box below.