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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Red wine, red rocks: wine tasting in Arizona

This past Saturday promised to be a perfect day for a road trip, so we decided to explore Arizona's wine country for wine tasting.
The Cornville exit is the best way to get
to Wine country from the I-17 highway

It's been a while. We first took a drive to the area way back around 2004, and before that we enjoyed our first wine-tasting trip to Southern Arizona in the very late 1990's. According to a recent newspaper story, however, our state's burgeoning wine industry is finally beginning to mature. I think I remember reading about some crazy dude first planting vineyards back in the late 1970's, but I didn't take it seriously then. I didn't even take it seriously again until a night at the then 4-star restaurant, "Mary Elaine's" in 1998, where we were offered exceptional wines from a Wilcox area winery called Dos Cabezas! Mary Elaines is no more, but the wineries are still here, thank you very much!

Now that it's time to start touting our local vintners to out-of-state friends and family, we thought it would be a good excuse to try out the most recent vintages — just to see if there has been any improvement, (wink wink, nudge nudge.) And because my grandfather kept a few barrels in production all the time, and most of our nearest family comes from California or Oregon, we want to be able to say we're well worth a visit not just because of our cool cacti and canyons, but because we have delicious local libations to offer, too.

We hit two wineries: Page Springs Cellars and Oak Creek Winery. We weren't disappointed. Of course, part of the magic is the trip and the locales, so we can't vouch for your experience if you just find a bottle on a shelf and take it home. Though some of the wines we tried won't be able to stand up against the very best of the best around the world, none were slouches. Not a one was unpleasant or hard to swallow ; ). All were unique, very pleasant to the palate and tasted of top-quality production standards.

Personally, we were in the mood for something rich, flavorful and reminiscent of the Fall harvest — our favorite for the day was "Sedona Woman" from Oak Creek Winery in Page Springs, a rich spicy blend that really went well with our cheese plate. But, having only tried two wineries, we're going to have to hold out our final votes for more trips north — and south!
Also, we didn't want to risk being under the influence while driving on this impromptu trip; I didn't trust myself in my usual role as designated driver because I'd be driving one-handed on curvy mountain roads. So, we decided that next time it would be fun to do the wine-tasting Bus Tour. Yes, they've got one here, too. That way we could DRINK the wine, instead of just TASTING it.

As a nice finish for our day trip, we headed over to Sedona for a hike at beautiful Red Rocks State Park. The scenery in Sedona is never disappointing, but on this day it was extra crisp and clear. The red striped bluffs were absolutely breathtaking from our vantage at the top of the trail. Wow, how I love the geology of my state!

Treat the following photos as a pictorial tour, sans narration, because this area surely speaks for itself. We started off at the state park visitor's center, hiked up to Eagle's Nest Viewpoint, then back down to the riparian area at the base of the bluffs, across Oak Creek and to the meadow. After burning off the wine and cheese calories consumed earlier, we treated ourselves to gourmet pizza pies in Sedona. Steve had just enough energy to drive us back to Phoenix, but really, it was a perfect way to end a perfect Saturday. (Click any photo to make it larger. Click your browser's back button to return here.)

What a great new way to top a wine-tasting trip. With the combination of some great wineries and the beautiful scenery of northern Arizona, our west coast friends and family should have plenty of new treasures worthy of their exploration next time they come for a visit. I can't wait to show them!

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  • Looks like a bunch of fun Ma! Makes me want to take advantage of the wine tasting I have in my own backyard. Love you!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/01/2010 8:23 PM  

  • Next time you come back to AZ, you should gather up some friends and do it, Stacy!

    By Blogger Terry R, at 11/01/2010 10:13 PM  

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