The town of Cottonwood is home to the largest concentration of the valley’s wineries. At 87-acre Alcantara, you’ll find everything from zinfandel and sangiovese to sauvignon blanc and late-harvest riesling sourced from the winery’s vineyards, as well as a small array of simple snack plates. The single-vineyard whites and red blends at Arizona Stronghold are served in a funky downtown tasting room with red walls and an elevated bar menu of skewers and tapas.
Set in a former car dealership and featuring eye-catching labels, Burning Tree Cellars will appeal to fans of single-vineyard chardonnay, mourvèdre, cabernet sauvignon, and local art. Carlson Creek sources its 13 varietals—including muscat, malvasia bianca, and malbec—from its enormous 240-acre estate vineyard, and serves them (as well as $10 cheese-and-charcuterie plates) at an unhurried pace in their downtown tasting room.
Owned by musician Maynard James Keenan (frontman for the band Tool), Merkin Vineyards Tasting Room and Osteria offers an all-local experience, from its estate-sourced wines—including Sinola Orancia, an “orange” malvasia bianca which was fermented on its white-grape skins for 10 days in stainless steel—to its full kitchen serving seasonal lunch and dinner menus that feature produce grown by Keenan’s dad.
Clarkdale is home to the Southwest Wine Center of Yavapai College, which offers winemaking degrees and a tasting room where you can sample students’ efforts from noon to 6 p.m., Thursday through Sunday. Run by two husband-and-wife teams with a combined 30 years’ experience in Arizona wine production, Chateau Tumbleweed offers single-vineyard reds such as sangiovese and whites like vermentino, as well as a complex rosé of six varietals, and Spanish and Rhône-style blends, all with quirky, illustrative labels.
The former copper-mining town of Jerome is now the funkiest spot on the Verde Valley Wine Trail. Here you’ll find Four Eight Wineworks, a collective of eight local micro-wineries who share wine production and tasting room space, including sister wineries Bodega Pierce, locally lauded for its tropical-note sauvignon blanc, and Saeculum Cellars. When hunger strikes, head up to the Asylum Restaurant, a 19th-century miners’ hospital turned hilltop hotel, where you can indulge in achiote-spiced pork tenderloin, butternut squash soup, and decadent chocolate cake while scoping out the Verde Valley from on high.
For travelers with a taste for the good life, southern Oregon is a clear draw. Ashland's Oregon Shakespeare Festival sells 400,000 tickets a year for modern classics, world premieres, and the Bard's works. At Crater Lake National Park, an hour and a half away, more than half a million people visit annually to gaze in wonder at the country's deepest lake. Some linger to fish or raft the Rogue River.
With so much to do in the area, it would be easy to forget this is wine country. The hilly terrain of the Applegate, Rogue, and Umpqua Valleys—cool here, warm there—has let vintners succeed with chardonnay, pinot, and zinfandel. But the grapes now winning special applause are red tempranillo and white albariño, both natives of Spain.
"Tempranillo grows here in a climate and a soil that lets it taste like the tempranillos in Spain," says Earl Jones, founding winemaker at Abacela, off Interstate 5 near the popular Wildlife Safari south of Roseburg. "It's a delightful wine that goes well with spicy and boldly flavored dishes." As for his straw-gold albariño, "Someone told me it pairs well with a book on a deck on a hot summer day," Jones says. "To me, its aromatics of citrus, apple, and pear make it perfect with seafood. Chef Mario Batali called it killer."
South on I-5, in Medford, the tasting room of RoxyAnn Winery offers another rich tempranillo made from estate-grown grapes. You can also try wine and cheese at Wooldridge Creek Winery and CrushPad Creamery on the Applegate Valley Wine Trail—a short drive off State Route 238 between Grants Pass and Jacksonville. At Jacksonville Inn Dining House, visitors headed for the Britt Music & Arts Festival can pick up gourmet picnic fare.
Back in Ashland, playgoers forget the torments of Prince Hamlet and King Richard II with massages, herbal wraps, and botanical facials at classy Waterstone Spa. Not your thing? A wild-and-scenic brand of hydrotherapy relieves any stress during half-day Rogue Wilderness Adventures raft trips out of Morrison's Rogue River Lodge near Grants Pass.