Reap the harvest of Arizona’s growing wine scene and dine beneath majestic red rocks
It’s early on Sunday afternoon and winemaker Eric Glomski is welcoming guests to Page Springs Cellars. Some have come to enjoy the sunshine on a stroll through the vineyards, but most are here to while away the hours on the top deck of the cellar, uncorking bottles to taste the fruits of the fields that stretch out below.
Eric is something of a viticultural celebrity in these parts. He used to run the Arizona Stronghold winery with an actual rock star, Tool frontman. Maynard James Keenan, and he bought the Page Springs Cellars site in 2003. Wandering into the vineyards past the fast-flowing brook which gives the winery its name, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in Burgundy in France or Portugal’s Douro Valley.
“Everyone asks, isn’t it too hot and dry in Arizona to grow grapes?” says Eric. “I remind them that grapes originated in the Middle East, Lebanon and Syria, so they’re very adaptive. There are different microclimates throughout the state. If I were to liken us to anywhere, in terms of climate, we’re closest to parts of Spain, France and Italy — some of the homelands of grape growing.”
So, here in the Verde Valley, Eric finds terroir to suit the grapes. One side has limestone soil, just as at Chateauneuf-du-Pape in France, while the other side is volcanic, like on Sicily’s Mount Etna. “We’re also trying new things,” he says. “Just because it works somewhere else doesn’t mean it will work here.”
So far, something is working. This is just one of 22 vineyards that have sprung up in the valley to feed Arizona’s burgeoning wine scene. Perhaps the most scenic is Barbara Predmore’s Alcantara vineyard at the confluence of the Verde River and Oak Creek, where she also hosts weddings at a palatial villa that looks like it’s been transported wholesale from Ancient Rome.
While the grapes maybe grown down here, most of it seems to get drunk up the valley in Sedona. Here the landscape changes again, adding imposing red rock formations that rise from the earth like Martian mountains and have attracted ambitious climbers for decades.
It’s not just the scenery that brings people to this laid-back town. New Age types have also long been attracted by the belief that benevolent swirling vortexes of ‘subtle energy’ emanate from the land. The result is a town with a thriving arts scene and plenty of vegetarian cafés, including Chocola Tree, where you can pick up a kale smoothie while recharging your crystals. The emphasis on organic, locally grown food extends to high-end restaurants, the star of the being Mariposa, a Latin-inspired grill. Chef Lisa Dahl has grown used to hearing about the impact Sedona’s panoramic views have on her customers.
“I’ll never forget one guy telling me that sitting on the patio is like being on the ocean,” she says. “There’s a level of serenity you feel here that’s overwhelming.” As Lisa heads back to the kitchen, burgers, tostadas, cocktails and local wine appear. Maybe there’s something to these swirling energy vortexes after all.
- The Vineyards Bed & Breakfast is on the Page Springs Road outside of Cornville, where Bruce and Tambrala Shurman are welcoming hosts.
- Page Springs Cellars’ tasting room is open daily, with tours on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays except during the harvest season.
- Mariposa is just off Highway 89A, the main route through Sedona.