Guide to tasting rooms and cellars

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There is a common saying among Arizona wine professionals when discussing the state’s wine production: “We are still in our infancy.” And honestly, that makes for a pretty exciting time.

The opportunities are ripe for experimentation, as wine producers are still grappling with what grape varieties and growing practices make sense for different Arizona terroirs.

As one of three different wine regions in Arizona, along with Wilcox and Sonoita, the Verde Valley is home to several completely different expressions of terroir.

Jeremy Weiss, program manager for the Arizona Weather Network, said much of this was due to the variety of elevations in the area, as well as different types of soils with different percentages of clay, nutrients, deposits of gravel, organic matter, drainage and other components. .

This means that while one grape grows wonderfully on one plot in the Verde Valley, it may not grow well on another.

While winemakers are always hard at work trying to understand the best growing practices for the region, another hurdle these winemakers face is recognition.

Professionals in the local wine industry are very hopeful that the area will soon be designated as a federally recognized American wine zone by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Their application was submitted in February 2020.

This AVA designation would not only add to the recognition of the region at the national level, but would go a long way in increasing awareness and enthusiasm around the wines produced in the region.

To better understand the wild west that are the wines of the Verde Valley, it is best to start by knowing the winemakers and winegrowers who are already pushing the limits.

Orange wine at the Southwest Wine Center

The view at the Southwest Wine Center is a great backdrop for your wine education.

As of last year, there are twenty-four commercial wineries and eleven different wineries within the proposed Verde Valley AVA, as well as the Southwest Wine Center at Yavapai College.

Operated by seasoned wine professionals, this educational winery is home to twelve varieties and 12,157 vines, managed by Michael Pierce, a well-known Arizona winemaker and the school’s director of viticulture and oenology.

Lisa Aguilar, the manager of the tasting room, was one of the first graduates of the program and now uses her knowledge of the terroir and cultivation practices to guide guests through the tastings at the center.

During a visit on a rainy afternoon at the start of this year’s harvest, the garage-style door to their tasting room was open, revealing a view of one of their vineyard plots operated in partnership with the local winemaker. Maynard James Keenan. The fresh smell of Arizona rain and rows of vines provided the perfect setting for wine tasting.

Aguilar took us through 10 different wines, explaining the types of grapes, harvest, soils, and winemaking practices – everything you could want to know about the wines tasted.

One of the notable bottles was their 2019 orange wine. Many are only familiar with white, red, and rosé, but trendy orange wine is made by letting white grapes ferment while remaining in contact with their skin and rosé. pips, which creates a darker orange hue and a robust flavor.

Orange wine is growing in popularity. Think of it as the tasty sister of white wine. This particular bottle was made from 100% malvasia bianca and fermented on skin contact for ten days.

As a learning winery, experimentation is strongly encouraged and as the program trains the next generation of winemakers, it is hoped that this level of creativity will trickle down to local wineries.

Their tasting room is open by appointment, which you can book online, and flights are $ 12 per person and offer 5 different wines (red or white categories).

Details: Yavapai College Southwest Wine Center, 601 Black Hills Drive, Clarkdale. 928-634-6566, sudouestwinecenter.com.

Tempranillo at DA Ranch Lodge and Estate Vineyards

The DA Ranch vineyard is perfect.

Located in Cornville, DA Ranch is perhaps the most picturesque of the Verde Valley wineries and tasting rooms. Created in 2002, the family vineyard offers a magnificent setting to immerse yourself in the wine of the Verde valley.

Besides the unique characteristics of the vineyard, such as a stunning body of water and grazing goats, the family only grows a handful of grape varieties, including Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Tannat, Seyval. white and, more recently, a tempranillo which they named Twelve Dog Tempranillo. .

It’s full bodied with lots of leather and less acidity, which isn’t a bad companion in cooler weather.

Because wines are produced in such small quantities, you can only try them in the tasting room and to purchase bottles you need to sign up for their wine membership. If you’re a fan of bolder red styles or want to sit by a pond with a drink in hand, this is the place for you.

Their tasting room is generally open Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (unless booked for events) and tasting prices vary by flight and glass, but typically start at $ 15 and go up $ 25.

Details: DA Ranch Lodge and Estate Vineyards, 1901 Dancing Apache Road, Cornville. 928-301-0791, daranch.com.

White Vermentino at Page Springs Cellars

You can’t talk about Verde Valley wine without talking about Page Springs Cellars, owned and operated by Eric Glomski who planted the first vines with his family in 2004.

As one of the state’s most recognized and awarded wine producers and the first Arizona wine producer I have ever tasted, PSC has long been a key player in the local wine industry.

Home to four different vineyards, Glomski is known for producing southern Rhône-style wines, cultivating petite Syrah, Grenache and Roussanne to name a few of their grape varieties.

If French grapes are an important factor in their vinification, so is sustainability. To minimize the release of carbon, they opt for no-till vineyards, as well as to minimize transport by keeping the distribution of the wine as it is. Since last year, they also use 100% solar energy for their electricity and have started an association called “Vin de Filles” (which means “wine girls / women” in French), where a subset of vines is specifically reserved for the creation of wines by women winegrowers.

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Chateau Tumbleweed Winery & Tasting Room is located in the Verde Valley, Arizona.

One of my favorite options is their 100% vermentino white wine grown on their Dos Padres vineyard. Aged in stainless steel, this underrated white grape does very well in the mineral-rich rocky slopes of the vineyard and produces a citrus wine with moderate acidity and just a little bit of bitterness at the end, like the zest of the vineyard. ‘orange or overly brewed tea.

Chateau Tumbleweed, which has a tasting room in Clarkdale, sources Vermentino grapes from the Dos Padres plot. With the August 2020 harvest, winemaker Joe Bechard was able to pick the grapes at an ideal sugar level (22.5 brix) before pressing the whole bunches.

Fermentation and initial five-month aging took place in stainless steel before being put into neutral French oak barrels to age for one month. The end product is bright and balanced and clearly a grape variety well suited to the Verde Valley.

Page Springs tasting rooms are open daily, Sunday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Flights cost $ 12 and include five tastes, plus a drink, or you can pay $ 25 for a limited edition five-wine tasting set.

Château Tumbleweed offers tastings on its patio accepting dogs from Sunday to Thursday from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Call ahead to reserve.

Details: Page Springs Caves, 1500 N. Page Springs Road, Cornville. 928-639-3004, pagespringscellars.com.

Details: Chateau Tumbleweed Winery & Tasting Room, 1151 W. State Route 89A, Clarkdale. 928-634-0443, chateautumbleweed.com.

Guided tours of the Verde Valley

For those who prefer a guided tour of the Verde Valley, Wine Tours of Sedona and Sip Sedona both offer customizable tour options led by accessible and well-connected Verde Valley wine experts.

Details: Sedona Wine Tours, 928-204-1473, winetoursofsedona.com.

Details: Sip Sedona, 928-308-5166, sipsedona.com.

Rows of vines at DA Ranch in the Verde Valley of Arizona.

A tip or a question about wine? E-mail [email protected]. Follow Amelia Goe on Instagram @agoewaffles.

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