Verde Valley, Arizona — Family, food and wine visit

Last week we went to Cottonwood, the center of the Verde Valley in central Arizona.  Our son is studying viticulture and winemaking in a program at Yavapai College there, and he is applying those studies in the local wineries and tasting rooms.  We had four delightful days with Aaron and Bree, exploring the beauty and tastes of the region.  This post will give you the highlights and recommended places, should you find yourselves in this part of the country in the future.

We stayed in the Old Town in Cottonwood, at The Tavern Hotel.  It has the well-deserved reputation of being the best place to stay, and we endorse that recommendation heartily. It has 11 rooms, I believe — 10 in the main building and one in a separate cottage directly behind it.  The cottage is perfect if it’s available (we stayed there 2 nights, and in a smaller room the other 2 nights).

The next morning Aaron and Bree took us up the hill to the college to see the vineyard they had planted recently and to explain to us the challenges of growing wine grapes in this region.  It was very impressive and an amazing amount of work.

Yavapai vineyard

inside Yavapai vineyard

We went to tasting rooms in Cottonwood, Clarkdale, Jerome, and near Sedona, and we enjoyed wines in all of them.  Among the best were:

I was particularly impressed by the wide variety and quality of the wines, mostly with Rhone Valley and Italian varietal grapes.  The industry is still very young in this part of the state, so they make wines with some Arizona-grown fruit, but also a lot from Central Coast California and New Mexico.  The people we met are very knowledgeable, passionate and skillful, so I believe the promise is very good for its future.

Four Eight Wineworks

Aaron now works part-time at Four Eight (the name is a reference to Arizona’s becoming the 48th state in 1912) in Clarkdale, and we had great fun watching him in action in this very cool location.  The building was actually the first bank in Arizona, and it was the scene of a famous bank robbery in 1928.  Clarkdale was founded in 1912 as a smelter town for the nearby copper mine in Jerome.  At the time it was one of the most modern mining towns in the world.

Four Eight - pouring a white Four Eight -Aaron serves Four Eight -5 top hats Four Eight - and in this hand Four Eight -Teller cage Four Eight - vault

Verde Valley map

Between tastings we managed to fit in some very good meals in Cottonwood.  Our favorites were The Schoolhouse (Kale & Spinach Salad), Abbie’s Kitchen (custom-made fettucine with wild mushrooms — see photo below), and Thai Palace (Ginger Silver Noodles and Vegetables soup).

Fettucine and mushrooms

Aaron had the Rib Eye Steak.

Ribeye Dinner

The next blog will show you Page Springs, Jerome, and Sedona.

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