Writer Fadi Sitto
Photography Courtesy of Sedona Adventure Tours and 360 Adventures
Opening photo by Kelsey Knight
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen it comes to rolling wine country hills and terroir, Northern Arizona doesn’t usually come to mind, but it should.
“You can’t help but feel connected to the earth and dirt and all the happiness it gives back to you when sampling the wine here,” says Byron Clammas, a tour guest from Scottsdale visiting Javelina Leap Vineyard, just one of the many popular Verde Valley wineries.
Arizona winemaking dates back to the late 17th century when Franciscan missionaries planted the first vineyards in the state, with early Sedona settlers getting the ball rolling—people like Heinrich Schuerman who arrived in Sedona in 1884 and planted an orchard and vineyard. A few years later he was selling apples, peaches and wine to the loggers in Flagstaff and the miners in Jerome.
The Verde Valley offers the climate and sourced access to water that grapes need to thrive. The plentiful sunshine and dramatic evening cool-downs, combined with rich volcanic soil, create an ideal environment for robust boutique vineyards. These small-production vineyards showcase the passion of the local winemakers.
If you’re a wine aficionado, taking a day or two to follow the Verde Valley Wine Trail should be on your bucket list. Each stop along the wine trail allows you to tour the grounds and sample locally made wine.
Sure, you could simply make that two-hour drive up north, schedule a wine tour and be cheerfully on your way to a pleasant Verde Valley experience. However, if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous and spontaneous, why not discover this award-winning wine region in a more unique way?
Kayaking and Wine
One unique way to discover local wineries is by kayak. Organized by Sedona Adventure Tours, this exhilarating way to explore the region’s beauty with the main goal of arriving at wineries is an adventure-seeker’s dream come true.
Their Classic Water to Wine Tour begins with a one-hour kayak trip on a scenic stretch of the Verde River with just enough ebbs and flows to get your heart racing. The floating trip ends in the shade of massive cottonwood trees at the confluence of Oak Creek and the Verde River, where you’ll take a pathway up through the vineyards to the Tuscan farmhouse at Alcantara Vineyards.
Alcantara Vineyards are a tourist favorite on the Verde Valley Wine Trail, featuring premium wines and welcoming sommeliers to guide you through your personal wine tasting.
The Verde River is still one of Arizona’s best-kept secrets, and kayaking to reach wineries is a remarkable way to discover the geology, archeology, flora, and fauna of the region.
Biking and Wine
If you’re one that’s always looking for another way to add some exercise to the mix of your day, you’ll want to check out the Grape Escape Bike Tour organized by 360 Adventures. There are different biking skill levels, and you’ll have plenty of time to get that perfect photo.
This outing offers you the choice between a 10-, 20- or a 37-mile bike ride from Sedona to Page Springs Wine Cellars. There, you can bask in a five-wine flight tasting, a guided cellar tour and all the bells and whistles a notable winery provides its guests.
With sun-drenched bike rides through Red Rock Country, towering rock formations and deep vistas, Sedona offers the wine-touring cyclist many challenges, personal rewards and an abundance of fun. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely family sightseeing ride or an all-day adventure, biking to your glass of wine could be the right fit for you.
Air and Wine
If you’re hoping for a bird’s-eye view of Arizona’s wine country, a short flight from North Phoenix’s Deer Valley Airport will make your trip to Verde Valley extra special.
Another off-the-cuff way to discover the wineries is through a scenic air tour with 360 Adventures. You’ll fly past the ridge of Pine Mountain and be delighted by the view of the Verde Valley, Montezuma’s Well and, of course, the red rocks of Sedona.
Once you’ve landed at the Sedona Airport, you’ll be escorted to your private luxury limo bus and travel to three distinct area wineries. A charming picnic lunch awaits you at one of the vineyards, and your adventure continues as you’ll have the opportunity to sample exquisite wines in friendly tasting room settings. Your relaxing day concludes with complimentary drop-off at the Sedona Airport.
The return flight back to Phoenix travels above the Mogollon Rim, past Sycamore Canyon and then on to the historic mining town of Jerome. Your journey will end with a view of Lake Pleasant before landing at the Deer Valley Airport. Expect an eight-hour day for your entire unique jet-set wine getaway.
Whether you’re with friends or celebrating a special occasion, you’ll discover Verde Valley vineyard destinations to be rich in taste, history and diverse beauty.