Cottonwood, called “The Biggest Little Town in Arizona” in the 1920’s, due to it prosperity from the bootlegging business, is today a beautiful community along the Verde River, in the heart of the Verde Valley Wine Trail. This valley is surrounded by jagged mountains with colorful mesas and buttes that run for miles, an extension of the beautiful red rocks of stunning Sedona, a few short miles to the north. Cottonwood is named after the trees that grow along the river, beautiful green punctuations in an otherwise dry landscape. Picturesque historic Old Town, complete with high sidewalks and false fronted buildings lend an atmosphere to the old west that was once Arizona. This revitalized area boasts a boutique hotel, trendy cafes, coffee houses, restaurants and shops. Just outside of town, ancient Indian ruins, historic parks and ghost towns dot the area and merit a visit, after the wineries, of course.
In the heart of old town, on Main Street, Arizona Stronghold has a bold tasting room. Vibrant art graces the red walls, comfortable lounging furniture offers a relaxing and inviting atmosphere where all you have to concern yourself with is which wine to taste next.
Arizona Stronghold was started in 2007, by Eric Glomski and Maynard Keenan, who after each starting their own wineries, partnered and purchased a 120-acre Dos Cabezas vineyard southeast of Tucson. They renamed it after the Native American Cochise Stronghold: a maze of rock where the Apache warrior Cochise once hid from Mexican and U.S. soldiers after raiding settlements that were encroaching on his tribe’s land. Eric says that the powerful name “Stronghold” personified both the Native American roots in the area as well as the strength and beauty of the Southwestern landscape. The seller of this vineyard was Sam Pillsbury, who coincidentally owns the Pillsbury Wine Company across the street in Cottonwood.
Eric Glomski is somewhat of a rock star in this region. He believes in the wines of AZ and he is a champion for the Verde Valley Wine Region. He has devoted his wine career to bringing AZ wines to the national stage. He promotes wines of value and quality and believes that wines don’t have to be expensive to be good. He also is anti-pretentious about wines. A self-taught winemaker, Eric started making wines from heirloom apples, pears, and other fruits. He moved to California and worked in wineries for 6 years before returning to Arizona and working at Echo Canyon Vineyards & Winery.
Maynard Keenan, was motivated to start this venture because he felt that “as a culture we have become disconnected. We’re constantly dreaming up ways to give away more and more of our power. We’ve lost touch with our ability to make fire, find fresh water, to hunt, gather or cultivate our own food. So in a nutshell, this project is about reconnecting. It’s about rekindling a relationship with the Earth.”
Together these two men have created numerous wines whose criteria is that it has to be great and be made by people that care.
The Arizona Stronghold line-up of wines varies frequently. Some samples of their current wines are: Dryden (Dry Rose) Tazi (Aromatic White Blend) Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mangus (Tuscan blend) and Nachise (Rhone blend). Their 2010 Grenache is stellar. All wines are reasonably priced and under $25.00 a bottle.
For more information go to: www.azstronghold.com. The tasting room is located at 1023 Main Street, Cottonwood, AZ, 86326. Phone: 928-639-2789. Hours are: Sun-Thurs 12noon-7pm, Fri-Sat 12noon-9pm.
Pillsbury Wine Company
Across the street on Main Street is Pillsbury Wine Company’s tasting room. Sam Pillsbury, a filmmaker from New Zealand, sold his vineyard, Doz Cabezas to Eric Glomski and Maynard Keenan and started a personal dream project with 100 acres of prime desert vineyard land nearby his original vineyard 40 miles north of the Mexican border, outside of Tucson. The high desert vineyard temperatures compare to the Rhone Valley in France and high altitude vineyards of Argentina, with an average summer temperature of 96 degrees, dropping more than 30 degrees at night to the low 60s. Sam’s dream was to celebrate the local terroir and create a sustainable Rhone vineyard producing premium quality 100% Arizona wines. Sam calls his tasting room Pillsbury NORTH.
Pillsbury wines are lighter and made to pair with foods. Three highlights on the tasting menu were a $36.00 Viognier that was not shy. It boasted a fruity nose and pronounced terroir. Sam’s $32.00 Chardonnay was delightful. It is unoaked and light in dimension, but distinct in flavor. And the Wild Child Red, a Merlot and Zinfandel blend with a strong cherry, blackberry and conifer nose, I also tasted hints of peach. Priced at a reasonable $18.00 this wine is a perfect table wine.
Sam is experimenting with many varietals and finding what works best for his property. He has great plans for Pillsbury SOUTH; a wine village, with dwellings, a winery, spa and a restaurant. It will be fun to watch this come to fruition. For now, it is not to be missed while browsing the shops of Cottonwood.
For more information go to: www.pillsburywine.com. The tasting room is located at 1012 Main Street, Cottonwood, AZ, 86326. Phone: 928-639-0647. Hours are: Sun, Mon , Wed & Thurs 11am-6pm, Tues 1-6pm, Fri-Sat 11am-8pm.
Restaurants and Lodging in Old Town Cottonwood
Eric and Michelle Jurisin have been busy rejuvenating the culinary and boutique lodging scene on the same Main Street. You can base yourself at the lovely and well-appointed Tavern Inn, on Main Street and walk to all of the shops and restaurants. The Jurisin’s have renovated a saloon from the town’s former bootlegging days called Nic’s Italian Steak & Crab House. The décor is similar to a supper club in Boston. The restaurant has won every “best of” award in the Verde Valley. Across the street is The Tavern Grille, the historic home of the Old Town Palace Theater. The menu is an eclectic combination of ethnic selections, creative originals and all-American mainstays.
Cottonwood is a perfect one to two day stop on the Verde Valley Trail. Visit Native American ruins and art galleries before heading up the hill to the mining town of Jerome.