Mention Arizona and most people envision cacti, not Cabernet. Yet between heat-battled desert basins and soaring mountains, pockets of microclimates exist that echo some of the most famous wine regions of the world. Sedona occupies such an oasis. The Verde Valley’s abundant sunshine and dramatic nighttime cool-downs, combined with rich volcanic soil and a good water source create an ideal environment for hearty varietals.
Winemaking may seem like a trendy tourism wrinkle in Arizona, but it actually dates back to the late 17th century when Franciscan missionaries planted the first vineyards in the state. One of Sedona’s earliest settlers got the grape rolling in red rock country. Heinrich Schuerman arrived in Sedona in 1884 and planted an orchard and vineyard. A few years later he was selling apples, peaches and wine to the logging camps of Flagstaff and miners in Jerome.
Today, a handful of estate vineyards dot the hillsides just outside of town. Oak Creek inspires a lush greenbelt along the sloping flanks of House Mountain and it’s easy to forget that you’re anywhere near a desert.
One of the beauties of the Sedona wineries, is they’re all small production facilities. So what you experience are the passions of the winemakers. Every bottle has been doted over. Local wines can be found in stores and on the menus of restaurants throughout the area. Better yet, go Napa Valley style on these idyllic little places with your own personal wine tour. Visit the vineyards and try the tasting rooms. If you’re concerned about driving, several companies offer tours. You can travel by limo, jeep and even kayak.