Now is an excellent time to be visiting the Sedona Verde Valley area. Of course, for those of us fortunate enough to live here, we think any time is an excellent time to be visiting. Though few of us were born here, we tended to get here as quickly as we could. Above the brutal desert heat of Southern Arizona and below the sometimes bitter cold of the northern parts of the state, we have great weather. The views are extraordinary, and there is a wide array of unique places to explore
The geology is breathtaking. The history—from the Native Americans arrival 8,000 to 10,000 years ago, to the earliest European contact in 1583—is fascinating. A more modern history encompasses the mining, ranching, and area development that is so recent that you can see, touch, and experience it on-site or in our many museums. We have a great culinary scene with a recently added culinary school at Sedona’s Yavapai College. The art culture is spectacular. Galleries and studios provide opportunities to see where art has been, where it’s going and, in many cases, what inspired its creation. Add to the list our world-class resorts and spas, and you will see the many reasons that Sedona is on every list of the top destinations in the world. Like the Grand Canyon, we have become a ‘bucket list’ item for many. That is not by accident. And if you, like me, are a wine enthusiast, this has become a great time to be here
It’s not often that you can visit a new world-class wine destination during its infancy. In the Old World, the ones you can easily recite — Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Chianti and the Rhine River — established themselves centuries ago. Most New World sites in places like Australia, New Zealand, South Africa or South America are well established by now. Even prominent American wine regions like the Napa Valley or New York’s Finger Lakes region can trace their origins and development to 1933, the end of U.S. prohibition. But in Arizona, it’s been a more significant challenge.
Oddly enough, thanks to the early Spanish explorers and their search for the Seven Cities of Cibola, we started growing grapes and producing European-style wines in the Southwest before any other region of the country. Some areas proved to be very well suited for growth and harvest. Later, especially after we became an American Territory, the mining began in earnest, and those from Europe wanted their vino. The United Verde Mine in Jerome became the largest mine in the world owned by one man and, early in the 20th Century, employed miners from 23 counties. Jerome was the fourth largest town in Arizona, with over 15,000 people living on the side of the mountain. Here in Sedona, Henry Schuerman — who had found his way here from Germany—set out to meet the challenge.
When Arizona became the 48th state, Henry was producing over 60 tons of grapes per year, sufficient to create over 4,000 cases of wine. Shortly after that — five years before the federal version — Arizona adopted stringent prohibition and put Henry and his winemaking brethren out of business. When U.S. prohibition repealed in 1933, everyone had forgotten about Arizona’s version, and thus it remained in place. A change in the law allowed the first post-prohibition winery in Arizona in 1982, but with severe operational limits. It wasn’t until 2006, in response to an order from the U.S. Supreme Court, that a bill was finally signed into law by the governor. This bill closed the prohibition era here in Arizona, allowing wineries to operate as they do today. Over 100 new wineries have established since then, and the word is spreading fast. Vines are maturing. Winemaker skills are advancing, and quality is steadily improving. Arizona wines now win competitions all over the world. That’s what makes this time of year such an incredible time to be here.
Our popularity established itself long ago. For years, Sedona and Jerome have held the number two and three favorite visitor spots in Northern Arizona, with the Grand Canyon holding a steady first. The wineries have now added another major reason to visit and spend a few days. Lonely Planet, the largest publisher of visitor guides in the world, recently named the Verde Valley one of their Top 10 destinations in the country based on the new interest in the Verde Valley wineries! As I write now, USA Today was nearing the end of their Readers Choice 2019 competition to name the ten best wine regions to visit in North America. While winners have not yet been announced, the Verde Valley has remained solidly in the top five from almost the beginning of voting.
If you’re here for one of the many other reasons people visit, please consider the opportunity to discover the wines of the Verde Valley as a giant case of serendipity. On the other hand, if you are here precisely because of the wine, please take the time to discover everything else the area has to offer. In either case, this is a chance to get in on the ground floor.
Experience some tastings and select a new favorite. Return home to share your experience and your wine, with friends—particularly if you’re discovering it before they have had a chance. You might join one of the winery clubs and assure yourself the opportunity to stay connected with “your” new winery
“Imagine what it would have been like to do that in Napa or Bordeaux! ”
Story written by Tom Pitts Photos Provided by Verde Valley Wineries