Writer Shoshana Leon
Photography Courtesy of Grace Stufkosky and Aridus Wine Company
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n addition to great restaurants, shops and nightlife, Old Town Scottsdale has several tasting rooms where guests can enjoy wines from the state’s three wine regions—the Verde Valley near Sedona, Willcox in Cochise County in southeastern Arizona, and Sonoita, located about an hour south of Tucson. Tasting rooms in Old Town Scottsdale include Carlson Creek, Salvatore Vineyards, LDV Winery and Aridus Wine Company.
The newest tasting room in Old Town Scottsdale is Merkin Vineyards, which opened in March 2019. Merkin Vineyards and Caduceus Cellars are owned by Maynard Keenan, Grammy-winning vocalist for the metal band Tool, and his wife Lei Li.
The grapes are grown on 110 acres of land located in Willcox and the Verde Valley, and they produce 7,000 cases of wine per year. Caduceus has a tasting room in Jerome, and Merkin has a tasting room and restaurant in Cottonwood.
“In order to truly understand Arizona wines, we feel it is essential to visit these magical regions and experience them firsthand. However, not every visitor to the greater Phoenix area has the time to visit these areas. The Merkin Vineyards location in Old Town Scottsdale is meant to be an introduction to that magic,” said Keenan.
Merkin offers three wine programs–Chupacabra wines are French, Shinola wines are Italian and Tarzan/Jane wines are Spanish. Popular wines in the Scottsdale tasting room include Merkin Jane Pink, Merkin Shinola Rosado, Chupacabra Blanca and Chupacabra red. Keenan’s Puscifer canned wines and Arizona beer are also available in the Scottsdale tasting room.
Merkin’s Scottsdale tasting room’s food menu includes cheese and charcuterie plates, house-made gelati and sorbetti created with Arizona ingredients, and several vegetable dishes featuring fresh produce grown in the vineyards’ garden and orchard and grown by Arizona farmers.
“Guests will find a unique focus on vegetables and a telling of the story of Arizona, as far as what is growing and going on in the state. The menu will continue to evolve and rotate as new produce is harvested and the seasons change,” said Executive Chef Dirk Flanigan.
One of the most popular menu items on Merkin’s menu is the beet tartare, a vegetable-centric twist on traditional beef tartare.
“The food menu is purposefully designed around our wines, just like our wines are made for meals. I intentionally held back on some of the acid components of most dishes to allow the wine to take its place. This creates a harmony and balance,” said Chef Flanigan.
Merkin’s new Scottsdale tasting room attracts a variety of patrons. “We have had many different types of guests, from tourists discovering Arizona wine for the first time, as well as the die-hard fans of what we are doing and what the state is producing,” said Chef Flanigan.
In addition to the Merkin tasting room, LDV Winery has a new Scottsdale tasting room. LDV first opened a tasting room in Old Town Scottsdale in 2014, and moved to its new location in October 2018.
LDV has a vineyard in Southeastern Arizona and specializes in wines produced from Rhone varietal grapes, including viognier, grenache, syrah and LDV’s popular petite sirah.
“The new location is truly in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale. The space is open with a wraparound patio and great views of the bustling Stetson shopping and food district,” said Peggy Fiandaca, one of the owners of LDV Winery. “We have a lot more visibility and a lot more traffic, and we are truly blessed by the positive feedback we have received.”
Aridus Wine Company opened its Scottsdale tasting room in 2015. Aridus, the Latin word for dry, has an estate vineyard in Southeastern Arizona, and also uses grapes from California and New Mexico. Aridus wines include sauvignon blanc, viognier, malvasia and cabernet sauvignon.
“Our plan was to bring Southeastern Arizona wine country to Old Town Scottsdale,” said Scott Dahmer, owner of Aridus Wine Company. “It is a perfect place to have a local wine tasting room, and less of a drive. Our Scottsdale tasting room has a similar design and feel to all of our buildings with reclaimed lumber, dark steel, glass and leather in a rustic, modern, chic setting.”
Visiting Arizona’s wine regions around the state is a unique, enjoyable and special experience. When you don’t have time to make a trip, you have the option to enjoy some of Arizona’s best wines right in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale.