Jerome & Cottonwood Wineries—Northern Arizona’s Top Wine-Tasting Region

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Move over, California! You may have some of the best-known wine areas in the United States, but you’re not the only game in town when it comes to incredible wineries in the Southwest.

The Verde Valley in northern Arizona is a wonderful wine-growing region. This growth area has established this part of the state filled with small towns, making them a popular trip from Phoenix. A visit to the Jerome and Cottonwood wineries is a must for wine lovers.

As a Phoenix local, the three wine regions in Arizona are all within easy weekend get-aways. Lucky me, right? As a wine lover and wanna-be aficionado (a.k.a. “wineaux”), I love exploring local wines and was so impressed with the Verde Valley wineries.

Here’s what you need to know to plan a visit to (or drink your way through..) this wonderful region in Arizona.

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Me and my friend, Tish

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Where is the Verde Valley?

The Verde Valley is a region located two hours north of Phoenix. Though you’re still in the desert, it’s a higher elevation offering cooler temperatures than the Phoenix area. It’s between 3,000 and 5,500 feet in elevation.

This area includes Sedona, Jerome, Clarkdale, Camp Verde, and Cottonwood. And there are smaller communities of Page Springs, Rimrock, and Cornville. These are mostly small towns, though Sedona has built up quite extensively in the 15+ years I have lived in the area. It’s a great area to go to see the western influence in small-town Arizona.

If you’ve heard of any of these towns, Sedona would be the one. It’s known for its gorgeous red rock buttes and it’s a very popular trip from Phoenix. I’m so lucky as a local, I have visited quite a lot. But, I haven’t explored some of the smaller towns as much and decided to rectify that with this trip! Visiting the Jerome and Cottonwood wineries is another draw to this area.

The Verde River snakes through the area and there are some really lush and beautiful forested areas. Oak Creek is also beautiful, and worth seeing if you have some time in Sedona.

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Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Cottonwood

Visit Cottonwood and the Cottonwood Wineries

Main Street in Cottonwood is a few blocks long, but it’s really quaint and packed full of wineries. You’ll have to pace yourself as there are an astounding seven tasting rooms within two blocks on Main Street.

A Cottonwood wine tasting is one of the top draws to this area. Though there are more reasons to visit Cottonwood! There are a lot of things to do in Cottonwood—surprising as it’s such a small town.

And, there are plenty more to do in nearby Jerome! There are some excellent restaurants on Main Street for when you need to balance out the grape with great grub.

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Burning Cellars artist-designed label

Pillsbury Wine Company Tasting Room

Out of the tasting rooms we had time to visit on this trip, this one offered the best experience. The staff was just incredible and so much fun! They described it as a “family” (by choice) and they were passionate and knowledgeable about the wines. This winery is the passion project of Sam Pillsbury, Hollywood director, and producer.

Pillsbury offers a make-your-own flight and we opted for the Abby (poured by none other than Abby herself). As we were enjoying her generous pours, we learned that everyone that works in this small family of ten works in different areas of the operation. They learn what it takes to produce wine from grape to table.

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The Inappropriate white wine was wonderful, made of a mix of Symphony and Malvasia. She shared that this one was a happy mistake as thunderstorms moved in and they had to leave the grapes in the press overnight.

The One Night Stand rose was another great one, and she described it as a “summertime porch pounder.” It worked, and this blend of Grenache and Mourvedre was quite good.

The Grenache was another favorite of ours, but the real winner was the “you so deserve this splurge” Guns and Kisses Shiraz. Wow. It was described as a cult wine, old-world style shiraz with the longest and lowest production.

Finishing with the Diva, a late harvest Petite Sirah and lots of laughter made for an incredible tasting. This is one of the most popular Cottonwood wineries, and not to be missed!

Pillsbury Wine Company Tasting Room is located at 1012 N Main St, Cottonwood, AZ 86326. It’s open from 12 to 7 daily.

Menu of the Pillsbury wine company

Merkin Vineyards Osteria & Tasting Room

Eventually, you need to eat to balance the wines, and Merkin is a great place to go. You can enjoy some great wines as you nosh on an incredible charcuterie board (or other delicious delectables).

They pride themselves on coming as close as possible to delivering a 100% Arizona experience to extended family and community. This winery, along with Caduceus Cellars in Jerome, is owned by Maynard James Keenan, the vocalist from the band, Tool.

The red flight was exactly what I was looking for after an afternoon of tastings. And with names like Shinola, Chupacabra (seriously, how fun is that??), and Tarzan Red, how can you go wrong? They are full-bodied and paired wonderfully with food.

This is the most popular of the Cottonwood wineries also offering food, as there’s a wide range to choose from. This one is not to be missed!

The staff was wonderful, the service was great, and the food and wine were fantastic. You can’t go wrong with Merkin in Cottonwood. They also have a location in Scottsdale.

Merkin Vineyards Osteria & Tasting Room is located at 1001 North Main Street
Cottonwood, AZ 86326. It’s open daily from 11 to 9. Merkin also has a tasting room in Scottsdale, AZ in the Phoenix metro area.

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Burning Tree Cellars

Burning Tree Cellars is at one end of Main Street in Cottonwood. This boutique winery prides themselves on their small-batch wines and that they will never be sold in grocery stores.

It’s a lovely and comfortable tasting room and the staff is fun and clearly passionate about their wine. Each bottle in our tasting was lovingly described as someone would that old uncle that everyone enjoys. It was like sitting with family for a tasting, with a family that you really like.

They have artists who make each of the bottle labels. They are creative and fun and worth checking out as you try the wines. We both got a combo flight. It included a white wine with Malvasia, two rose wines and two reds.

While I enjoyed all of the wines, I did find they were quite mineral-ly leaving a slightly chalky sensation in my mouth after drinking them. I enjoyed the flavor though and the experience in the tasting room.

This is the most popular of the Cottonwood wineries. Give it a try and if you do, comment below!

Burning Tree Cellars is located at 1040 N Main St, Cottonwood, AZ 86326. It’s open from 12 to 6 Sunday through Thursday and 12 to 10 on Friday and Saturday.

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Arizona Stronghold Vineyards Tasting Room

This was the first winery I visited in Cottonwood from a short trip a couple of years ago. It stands out in my mind as, well, I was a bit of a wine snob before visiting and *thought* I didn’t really care for Arizona wines. I couldn’t have been more wrong, and Arizona Stronghold proved it.

We had brought my dog on this trip, and they were happy to let him inside to enjoy wine with us. (Well, enjoy watching us enjoy our wine.) I can’t tell you what I tried, but I remember being dumbfounded as I enjoyed every single wine I tried—even the whites. I tend to prefer reds, though I have found whites that strike my fancy.

We did try to visit during this trip, however, the timing didn’t work out. There was a waiting list, and when we were called, we were grabbing a bite. Then, we got distracted by so many other wineries in the area. Even so, I would highly recommend this one.

Arizona Stronghold Vineyards Tasting Room is located at 1023 N Main St, Cottonwood, AZ 86326. It’s open from 12 to 7 Sunday through Thursday and 12 to 8 or Friday and Saturday.

Other Cottonwood Wineries and Tasting Rooms

There are a number of other wineries on the main block in Cottonwood. The one that I really wanted to try and missed was Tantrum. It’s female-owned and run (yay!) by Brighid McLoughlin.

On their site, it says, “Tantrum Wines reflect the moods and attitudes of women with a purpose. As the winemaker, I focused on creating wines that gave us room to be ourselves, free to explore, reflect and enjoy.”

So, I see another trip to Cottonwood in my future.

For a fun hop-on hop-off ride from Sedona to Cottonwood and other great tasting rooms in the Verde Valley, this tour would be a great option! Or explore the wineries in luxury on this tour.

Cottonwood main street
Main Street Cottonwood

Top Cottonwood Restaurants

You may not think of small-town Arizona as being a mecca for cuisine, but this town does not disappoint! There are some really great places to dine here in between your wine tastings.

  • Pizzeria Bocce—This place was incredible! If you need a palate cleanser, we tried their daily drink special of the blackberry prosecco mule and it was incredible. I *may* have asked if the bartender was married. They have a pizza and salad special that was the right amount of food. We tried their Cire’s (meat lovers) and carbonara, for something different. Both were great little three-piece pies and quite tasty.
  • Merkin Osteria—The perfect place for food and wine together, this one hit the spot. We stayed at Pillsbury way longer than expected as we had such a great time, and needed a late(ish) night snack. The charcuterie board really hit the spot. There are lots of other yummy goodies where this came from, so definitely check this place out.
  • Crema Craft Kitchen & Bar—We enjoyed this place so much, there was a repeat performance. It did help that they offer a killer good breakfast within crawling distance from the hotels in town. The bloody is incredible and spicy, and their specialty coffees tasty, including the Mexican mocha and the creme brule. Don’t miss their cinnamon bun (get there early for this!) The Monte Christo is tasty and quite filling and their Traditional is anything but with chile-rubbed bacon and homemade English muffins.

We were told Nic’s Italian Steak and Crab House is very good for a more upscale meal, though we didn’t have a chance to try it.

Fun Things to do in Cottonwood

There’s a lot of fun things to do in Cottonwood and around the area. Wine tasting is a popular one, and it’s often the draw for people to come here. Here are some of the other things to do in the area:

  • Explore Old Town Cottonwood—The center of Cottonwood is quaint, small, and really worth wandering. In addition to the many wineries, check out the small boutique shops, specialty stores, and antique shops.
  • Dead Horse Ranch State Park—This gorgeous park is packed full of trails. Most of them area easy, and some are moderate. Walk along the Verde River or around the lagoons for a special treat.
  • Clemenceau Heritage Museum—If you’re looking to learn a bit about the local history, check out this museum.
  • Hippie Emporium—This fun little treasure trove of goodies will bring you back to another time. It’s a cute little shop to browse.
  • Explore the area—Cottonwood is a great place to see some of the surrounding areas from. Head to the old mining town of Jerome, visit the Native American ruins of Tuzigoot, or explore the gorgeous red rock buttes of Sedona.

Where to Stay in Cottonwood

If you want to stay right on Main Street so you can walk (or stagger) from the Cottonwood wineries back to your room after a fun day of wine tasting, you have two options. The upscale option is the Tavern Hotel. It’s a beautiful hotel and the rooms are very comfortably appointed. The beds are incredibly comfortable and the rooms have a little white noise machine to drown out any noise.

The Iron Horse Inn is an affordable option. The rooms are basic but comfortable and it has a cute inner courtyard.

There are other options that are a short drive away, including the Best Western Cottonwood Inn, Pines Inn and Suites, and the Lux Verde Hotel.

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Iron Horse Inn courtyard

Visit Jerome and the Jerome Wineries

For a glimpse into the mining past of this area, head to Jerome! This small town carved onto the side of a large hill is a fun visit. When the mines closed, the town almost became a ghost town. Then, the artists from Sedona moved in when Sedona was getting built up, losing some of its small-town charm.

You’ll see artists and get to watch them work here including a glassblower and a pottery thrower. This town is built on steep switchbacks, so you’ll get a great workout as you make your way through town.

If you’re up for it, the Jerome Grand Hotel at the top of the town is said to be haunted.

History of Jerome

Jerome is perched on the top of Cleopatra Hill. It’s the historic site of an old copper mine founded in 1876. Jerome had a storied past as “the wickedest town in the west” and it’s quite colorful and fun today.

It’s considered a ghost town as when the mine closed, the town packed up and moved out. It later became inhabited by some of the artists from Sedona that moved out when that town got built up and more heavily touristed. Jerome now is the home to between three and four hundred residents.

They have kept the flavor of the town with the historic buildings, impressive for their not sliding off the mountain. (Some look like they still might!) You’ll find a couple of historic hotels, old bordellos, haunted structures, and lots of interesting stories.

Like Cottonwood, Jerome also has a number of wineries and tasting rooms among the boutique shops and artist studios.

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Jerome

Passion Cellars

Passion Cellars, and Sister Winery, Cabal Cellars, are on the must-try list for any visit to Jerome. It’s below the famous Haunted Hamburger Restaurant (down a flight of stairs).

The wine tasting was a nice experience at Passion Cellars. Our server clearly knew her wines and was passionate about describing them. She shared what she got from the wines in terms of taste and smell, and asked us what we noticed.

They offer a “create your own flight of five” and we selected a range. I enjoyed the Sauvignon Blanc and really liked the Hacienda, a GSM (Grenache Syrah Mourvedre). In fact, we both went home with a bottle of it, we liked it so much! The Dios Mio is a beefy red that was quite good as well.

My surprise winner was the Sierra Bonita dessert wine. She served it with a piece of dark chocolate, instructing me to sip, bite, sip again. Oh wow, the flavors just exploded in my mouth. That went home with me too!

Passion Cellars is located at 301 Main St, Jerome, AZ 86331. It’s open from 11 to 6 Sunday to Thursday and 11 to 7 on Friday and Saturday.

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Passion Cellars tasting room

Cabal Cellars

Cabal Cellars’ inspiration and namesake is described as “contrived schemes of a group of persons secretly united in a plot.” This winery was entertaining as many of the labels featured wanted posters, or had images from sketchy happenings with redacted faces.

One example was the trial of John and Yoko vs. Hoover and Nixon, where Hoover and Nixon had a black band across their eyes. Another wine was called Predator and Prey featuring Andy Warhol (redacted) and Edie Sedgewick.

Our server, Josephine, was a young woman from Tenessee. She shared that wines can’t be made over 20,000 bottles to keep them smaller as boutique wineries in the area. It keeps the large players from moving in here.

I really enjoyed the Grenache, Gentleman’s Gambler, a Cabernet Franc, the High Noon Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Predator and Prey. The 27 Club dessert wine was another surprise favorite, featuring a picture of the Rolling Stones with Brian Jones. Apparently, there is a “27 Club” of people who died at that age, including Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Jimmi Hendrix, Morrison, Amy Winehouse, and others.

Cabal Cellars is located at 417 Hull Ave, Jerome, AZ 86331. It’s open from 11 to 6 Sunday to Thursday and 11 to 7 on Friday and Saturday.

Caduceus Cellars Tasting Room

Caduceus Cellars, like Merkin, is owned by Maynard James Keenan. It’s a small, family-owned, small-volume boutique winery.

The tasting room is beautiful and they have an interesting assortment of items for purchase including a case of different kinds of bitters, and a larger case of an assortment of chocolate. They have one with ghost pepper in it, the hottest pepper around, and one, which intrigued me, with “duck sh*t” in the name. I’m assuming that doesn’t contain the obvious.

They offer two different tastings, and I tried one with Nagual del Marzo Cabernet Sangiovese, Kitsune Sangiovese, Sancha Tempranillo, and Anubis Cabernet, Cab Franc, and Anglianico. I thought the wines were all good, though not enough to buy.

And this tasting room has a bit of a reputation for not being very friendly, and I’d agree with that assessment. I was handed the tray of wines with a brief listing of the names. When I asked, I was given tasting cards but nothing further. There’s a real opportunity to be known for great service here.

Caduceus Cellars Tasting Room is located at 158 Main St, Jerome, AZ 86331. It’s open from 11 to 6 daily.

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Other Wineries

Another place that was highly recommended but we didn’t get to is Vino Zona. The Original Jerome Winery and Forty Eight Wineworks in the Connor Hotel are some other options.

Top Jerome Restaurants

  • Clinscale Hotel Bar & Grill—Abby at Pillsbury raved about this place, so of course, we had to try it. Our server was full of personality and (if you’re following along), is married to the bartender from Bocci. (yes, the very one I inquired about his marital status due to his amazing drink). We got a rosotto and steak tip special and a pork chop with pasta and a marsala wine sauce and had to be rolled out of there. Incredible!
  • Haunted Hamburger—If you’re looking for a casual place with a killer view, this is the place to go. It’s the only Jerome restaurant I had been to previously and it’s probably the best known in town.

For a little fun color, the Bordello of Jerome is now a restaurant. I’m not sure how it is, but it would be interesting to say you’ve eaten there! Bobby D’s BBQ and The Asylum also look interesting.

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The Clinkscale

Fun Things to do in Jerome

Jerome is a lot of fun to wander around and to read the plaques around town with snippets of the history. As you make your way up the steep switchbacks, you’ll see lots of interesting shops and galleries to catch your eye.

  • Watch the artists—There are several artists in town where you can watch them creating their beautiful pieces. You’ll find a glassblower and a pottery thrower and sometimes you’ll see painters.
  • Explore the galleries—Raku Gallery is my favorite. And conveniently, there’s a staircase to get to where the glassblower studio is. I actually never realized there is another entrance to the studio, which is actually quite interesting as the face of a ruined building (where only the front wall remains).
  • Go wine tasting—Of course, there are a lot of places to choose from! Two of the most popular places are Vino Zona and Caduceus, though we enjoyed Passion Cellars and Cabal Cellars as well.
  • See the Sliding Jail—It’s really no joke about the city of Jerome sliding down this hill. This joil actually slid 225 feet!
  • Jerome Historical Society Mine Museum—Learn about Jerome’s past as well as the many stones and minerals mined here.
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Where to Stay in Jerome

If you decide to stay the night in Jerome, which isn’t a bad idea so you can enjoy the wineries, there are several options. At the top of the hill is the Jerome Grand Hotel, but stay at your own risk as it’s reputed to be haunted. (Though, likely almost every place in a town like Jerome comes with a colorful past!)

There’s also the Connor Hotel is a cool historic building (right next to Caduceus!) and The Clinkscale has a few rooms as well. If the hotel is anywhere near as incredible as the restaurant, it should be a sure bet!

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Connor Hotel

Get a Taste of the Jerome & Cottonwood Wineries in the Verde Valley

The Jerome and Cottonwood wineries nestled in the Verde Valley region are a bit of a hidden gem. Many people come to visit the Phoenix area, Tucson, and the Grand Canyon. But, if you have an extra few days when you visit Sedona, don’t miss this area. It’s worth seeing and gives you a very different feel for the state and all it has to offer.

If you’ve been to the Verde Valley wine region before, well, lucky you! Did you prefer the Jerome or Cottonwood wineries. What was your favorite? Comment below.

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