Verde Valley Arizona
One of the best kept secrets is the award winning wines that a handful of wineries in Arizona are making
Verde Valley Arizona is home to some of the most promising American wines in the country. One of the best kept secrets is the award winning wines that a handful of wineries in Arizona are making. Although modern wine producing in this state only began in 1973, these wine makers are the pioneers of an emerging industry and many of them are already attaining critical acclaim.
About 100 miles north of Phoenix, Verde Valley Arizona is comprised of several small communities; Camp Verde, Clarkdale, Cornville and Cottonwood, Arizona as well as Jerome, Page Springs and Oak Creek Arizona. November is a perfect month to visit the Verde Valley Arizona area; the temperatures are comfortable and the summer crowds have gone. A visitor can easily spend a day or more exploring the variety of wineries in Verde Valley Arizona and the wine tasting rooms this region has to offer.
A Town named Cornville…Can they Really have Wineries Here?
Travelling down Cornville Road, past construction and excavation companies, discovering wineries in Arizona would seem to be the last thing a visitor might find. But keep driving and be on the look-out for “Casey’s Corner” gas station; that’s the landmark for where to turn onto Page Springs Road to the first of three Verde Valley Arizona wineries.
Besides wine, the winding Page Springs Road is home to a variety of other businesses. The Grasshopper Grill right on Casey’s Corner, boasts the best baby back ribs in the area. You can also find the Page Springs Bed & Breakfast; a holistic Veterinarian; an organic produce farm stand and even a fish hatchery. Travel about three miles and turn left to Page Springs Cellars.
The first thing visitors will notice are the rows of grape vines growing along the sloping desert hillside. The tasting room building, which is a metal structure, is accessed by driving down a small hill into an ample dirt parking lot. Walking towards the tasting room, there’s a glimpse of more grape vines, and if one listens closely, the soothing sounds of nearby Oak Creek can be heard.
Co-owner Eric Glomski calls his Verde Valley Arizona winery and vineyard a “Rhone House” and the red grapes that he works with are primarily Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache and Mourverde. White grapes include Viognier, Rousanne and Marsanne. The philosophy behind Page Springs Cellars is to build wines to drink sooner rather than later with a focus on quality winemaking using traditional methods as much as possible.
Entering the metal building, the interior is a pleasant surprise; warm, inviting and alive with patrons and knowledgeable and enthusiastic wine pourers. On a recent visit, Dylan was the wine pourer and is also the chef for the winery; he is very talented in both roles.
A tasting costs $10.00 and includes five flights, which is an average cost for wine tasting in Arizona. The 2009 Vino del Barrio (or “White Wine of the Neighborhood”), is a blend of mostly Arizona grapes with some from California. It is crisp with a grassy and herbaceous taste with clay notes. We could almost imagine being in a gathering place with family and friends while enjoying a glass or two of this refreshing white wine. “SPICE” Spelled Backwards…
The 2009 ECIPS (which is “Spice” spelled backwards), is a red wine that begins with setting aside the six spiciest Arizona grown wines from six of the spiciest barrels. The result is a complex wine with hints of wood, charcoal and of course, spice; a delightful and surprising blend that has become a Page Springs Cellars favorite..
The flagship red is a 2008 El Serrano (or “Man of the Mountains”) which is an Arizona blend of Mouverde, Syrah and Petite Sirah grapes. It has spicy characteristics and fruit flavors that would pair well with a grilled and lightly seasoned steak.
Wine tasting in Arizona can make one hungry! At Page Springs, Chef Dylan has created tantalizing small plates to satisfy practically everyone. On one occasion, we were served a bruschetta plate consisting of three different kinds: brie, fig and caramelized onion; artichokes and roasted garlic and balsamic tomatoes with mozzarella and basil…all absolutely divine!
Tables and chairs are set on the outdoor deck that overlooks the vineyards making Page Springs one of the most popular wineries in Verde Valley Arizona. It’s a perfect place to relax and enjoy the food along with a glass of wine. Chef Dylan will also prepare a small picnic to enjoy with a bottle of wine on the deck that overlooks the well-known Oak Creek Arizona rushing waters, located just a short stroll through the vineyards. This is a place to enjoy excellent wines, delectable food and to take in the ambience of beautiful Verde Valley Arizona and Oak Creek!
It was hard for us to leave Page Springs Cellars, but there were two other Verde Valley Arizona wineries on Page Springs Road that still had to be explored.
The Verde Valley’s Best Kept Secret
Travel about a half-mile down the road from Page Springs Cellars and turn right to Oak Creek Vineyards. The adobe-style dwelling that houses the tasting room sits among ten acres of gentle slopes and grape vines. Vineyard owner Deb Wahl calls Oak Creek Vineyards and Winery, “The Valley’s Best Kept Secret”.
The winery is eight years old; small but growing; currently producing about 1,200 cases of wine annually. The grapes for the wines are grown in the vineyard or are purchased from wineries in Arizona located in the southern part of the state, making it one of the only Arizona vineyards to use Arizona grapes nearly exclusively.
The front patio leading to the entrance of the tasting room is set with chairs to take in the vineyard views or to sip a glass of wine and perhaps enjoy a selection of cheeses, olives and cured meats from the deli case; all very tranquil and soothing to the senses. Inside, the modern and spacious wood décor of the tasting room is pleasant and inviting with plenty of room to taste wines or to browse the interesting selection of wine-related gifts.
The wine pourer is friendly and attentive although new to the job and not as well versed about the wines as the staff at Page Spring Cellars. Tastings cost $5.00 for four tastings.
The 2008 Chardonnay was fermented in steel barrels so there is no heavy “oaky” taste. It is crisp with a nice citrus finish that has traces of banana and pears. This wine would be a nice accompaniment to fish or poultry.
The 2008 Fume Blanc is grassy and refreshing while crisp and dry. It would pair well with a seafood appetizer.
During the wine tasting, a patron asked about the wine with the unique label called Sedona Woman. This 2008 red Zinfandel with the red and white label and the eyes of a seductive “Sedona Woman” is a signature wine produced by Oak Creek Arizona Vineyards and inspired by the beauty and energy that Sedona, Arizona has to offer. The wine tastes spicy; it’s also smooth and sleek (and guaranteed to start a conversation)! We agreed that this too was another nice wine tasting in our Verde Valley Arizona experience.
Wine Tasting in Arizona Never Tasted so Good
The last stop on Page Springs Road is Javelina Leap Vineyard & Winery located directly next door to Oak Creek Vineyards and Winery. Veteran entrepreneur and owner/winemaker Rod Snapp believes that “Arizona Never Tasted so Good” when it comes to his award winning wines; he may be on to something.
There’s creative energy that we sensed the minute we pulled into the parking lot of this Verde Valley Arizona winery. From the metal Javelinas dotting the property to the whimsical front entrance to the tasting room; this boutique winery can stand on its own. It was started “from scratch” ten years ago with out-of-pocket funds, growing grapes in small vineyard blocks which are pruned and harvested by hand. There is a lot of passion here as evidenced from the quality of these barrel aged wines.
Entering the tasting room, one feels as if they’re in a local, western saloon. The rich dark wood bar is inviting; the tin ceilings and crystal chandelier all add to the ambience. A tasting costs $8.00 for four tastings.
Co/owner and assistant winemaker, Cynthia Snapp is an artist and designs all of Javelina Leap’s wine bottle labels. Her creative background, along with her husband’s wine making expertise equals a Verde Valley Arizona winemaking experience that combines art and science, resulting in unique, handcrafted, pure varietal wines made in small quantities. We tasted the 2009 Merlot and found it to be complex, smooth and full bodied.
“What is Zinthia?” we asked. This recently released Zinfandel grown from Arizona grapes from Willcox is Cynthia Snapp’s first wine making creation. It’s light but spicy with a nice peppery finish. It would pair well with grilled meats and is destined to become a favorite.
Local Artwork Everywhere
Photography, sculptures and pottery are among the many pieces of artwork displayed (and available for sale) in the tasting room, all from local area Verde Valley Arizona artisans as well as employees of Javelina Leap. It’s a testament to the commitment from the Snapps to be one of the wineries in Arizona that stays true to the land, its history and the local culture. It also adds to the ambience and unique flavor of this winery. Visitors can taste the wines and check out the local artisans at the same time!
Ornithologist turned Wine Tour Guide
We are always interested in small wineries in Arizona and what makes them tick. Enter a retired ornithologist- turned- wine tour guide. Dr. Russ Balda, North America’s leading ornithologist provides complimentary and educational wine barrel cellar tours. This jovial gentleman is as knowledgeable as he is enthusiastic about Javelina Leap’s wines. A visit to this winery would not be complete without a guided tour from Dr. Balda.
Too Many Vino Tastings? Call Arizona Grape Escapes!
Enjoying wine tasting in Arizona can have its drawbacks if you have to drive, especially through unfamiliar winding rural roads. Enter, Arizona Grape Escapes , a local wine tour company dedicated to providing visitors with a personalized, educational and exceptional wine tasting experience.
Originally inspired by Page Springs Cellars, Arizona Grape Escapes co-owner Tina Gibson and her partners enjoyed the wines at Page Springs so much that they decided to start a wine tasting tour company to help promote wineries in Arizona. “We thought that these vineyards should be something that Arizonans should know about,” said Tina Gibson.
This isn’t just a bus tour for the casual tourist looking to kill some time; Arizona Grape Escapes provides a wine education class during the hour and a half drive from Phoenix to the Verde Valley Arizona Wine Trail. By the time the bus arrives at the first stop at Page Springs Cellars, tour bus riders have learned about the history of Arizona winemaking, the winemaking process and the grapes used to produce the wines; all in an interactive and “non-wine-snobbish” way.
“Skeptical” About Arizona Wines
Fifty percent of tour bus patrons are from Arizona; with the remaining coming from other states or Canada. All are skeptical about wines from Arizona…until they taste them.
The wine tasting bus tour picks up patrons in Phoenix at two hotel sites. The bus holds ten visitors, a wine tour guide and a bus driver. The cost is $150.00 per person or $125.00 per person for a party of ten. The price includes the wine education class, a picnic lunch by the banks of Oak Creek Arizona at Page Springs Cellars, all wine tasting fees and a souvenir wine carrying bag containing all the wine tasting in Arizona essentials. Two wineries and two tasting rooms are visited during the tour.
This tour company receives rave reviews from their patrons for their comprehensive wine knowledge and personalized attention. Visitors are impressed and tend to purchase Arizona wines just because of this experience.
Grapes Grow Here and the Wine Flows Here!
According to the Verde Valley Wine Consortium, there are many more wineries and tasting rooms in the Verde Valley Arizona area and more are starting up every year. They are all diverse and have their own particular specialties, much like the diverse nature that makes up the state of Arizona. Grapes grow here and the wine flows here! Enjoy the experience and don’t hesitate to make a day trip or a weekend visit to Arizona Verde Valley wine country!
By Carol A. Wilcox
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