Pursuing Passion on the Verde Valley Wine Trail By Roger Naylor
Ever wonder what passion tastes like?
It’s easy enough to find out. Just travel the Verde Valley Wine Trail and discover a world of vineyards, wineries, tasting rooms, shops and restaurants that are all part of the hearty wine culture taking root in the area.
It begins with the boutique wineries huddled on rocky shoulders of ground above Oak Creek and the Verde River. Each one is a family-owned, family-run small production operation that sprang from the passion and purpose of the founders. It’s the winemakers and their family and friends pruning vines, leading tours and pouring in the tasting rooms. They chose this place, not just for its soul-stirring scenery but because the Verde Valley, with its volcanic soil, muscular sunshine and overnight temperature drops, offers the kind of microclimate that bullies grapes just enough to bring out their best characteristics.
The Verde Valley Wine Trail was established to make it easier for visitors to explore these hidden gems. The Wine Trail is a deliciously meandering route that weaves past four wineries and eight tasting rooms, with more soon to come on line. To get your bearings start at the Cottonwood Chamber of Commerce where they’ll provide a map and steer you towards restaurants and shops that carry local vintages. If you’re concerned about sampling vino and then driving, they can set you up with one of the many tour companies that travel the Wine Trail.
While still relatively unknown among the general public, Verde Valley wines are garnering acclaim among industry insiders, winning heaps of awards and favorable coverage. Yet the days of flying under the radar are fast coming to an end, thanks to the screaming success of the Verde Valley Wine Consortium.
Formed in 2008, the consortium is a nonprofit organization created to develop the overall advancement of the wine industry, tourism, economic development and education in the Verde Valley. Within eighteen months, they had initiated events, were instrumental in establishing the Wine Trail, and formed a partnership with Yavapai College to teach classes in viticulture, the study of vines and vineyards, and enology, the study of wine and winemaking. No loafers are these wine geeks.
As for what the future holds, the potential seems limitless. The soils and climate of the Verde Valley match up with some of the greatest wine growing regions of the world. Everything required to create unforgettable wines exists at this unique crossroads of desert, mountain and river. Best of all, the infrastructure is already in place to accommodate visitors. There are plenty of lodging, dining and shopping venues, as well as additional attractions and activities.
The Verde Valley Wine Trail may have originated as a marketing tool but make no mistake, it is decidedly a trail. A trail is all about discovery. It snatches you away from the mundane and transports you someplace special. If that’s not the definition of a trail, it should be.
So travel the Verde Valley Wine Trail and discover the pure, sweet taste of passion.