We’ve discovered something fun about Arizona wineries. Many have tasting rooms located in more than one location unlike Virginia and California, where the tasting rooms are at the winery and rarely anywhere else. Of course, the winery settings offer spectacular views of mountains and vines, but you have to drive to get there.
In Arizona’s Verde Valley, the historic center of Cottonwood has capitalized on the idea of tasting rooms and boasts at least a half dozen spots to stop in, try some wine, then wander a few doors down and try more wines. There are even a couple of hotels within easy walking (stumbling?) distance.
A favorite of ours is Merkin. Not only are the wines really great, but the food offerings are insanely delicious. And here’s the best part: Merkin Vineyards also has a tasting room in Old Town Scottsdale – which is much closer to home. They dazzle visitors with the same wines and the same fun vibe … but there are differences.
The Old Town Scottsdale location is darker – perhaps to keep out the heat of the desert. The tasting room features attractive lighting showing off the different wines. In Cottonwood, floor-to-ceiling windows bring in the sunshine.
The wines and tastings are the same … Shinola, Chupacabra, Caduceus Dos Ladrones and more. The fruit for the wines is 100% Arizona-grown in the Verde Valley and Wilcox, I’ll admit, I’ve gotten a little picky about my wine. The more I taste, the more I like certain wines over others. Merkin is a definite favorite.
Perhaps the best part, though, is the food. Great wine deserves great food and Merkin NAILS both! Their mission is to “Come As Close As We Can To Delivering a 100% Arizona.”
Experience To Our Extended Family and Community.” The freshness of the ingredients certainly comes out in the incredible flavors. I love the concept and commitment!
The Scottsdale location’s smaller menu still left me wondering how to choose. Greg and I settled on an Artisan board jam-packed with flavors then added a wood-fired pizza. In Cottonwood, the tasting room is also an Osteria. It’s the best Italian food I’ve found in Arizona!
After tasting the bolognese on the lasagna cupcake, I begged to talk to the “Chef Smithers”. It turns out, he uses a technique similar to an Italian grandmother who shared her secrets with me years ago. Greg’s choice of the daily special included sirloin steak, mushrooms and onions over handmade pasta served with a flavor-bursting jus.
Both Merkin tasting rooms are staffed with exceptional men and women who know their stuff … from the wine to the food, they offer suggestions and smiles and knowledge.
There’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored. When you run across something you love, explore it often.
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