Cottonwood, Arizona: In the Heart of Verde Valley

Reds, whites, and rosés flow freely in this charming town at the heart of the Verde Valley.

The chapel at Alcantara Vineyards with blue sky in the background
Alcantara Vineyards' chapel sits among 13 acres of vines. 
James Bueti

Ten years ago, Cottonwood was a quiet outpost en route to Sedona. Then the first tasting room opened, and the town ripened into a culinary hot spot. Now, tasting rooms and restaurants line Main Street—a perfect pairing for the nearby vineyards.

photo of kayakers on a muddy river
Kayaking with Verde Adventures on Verde River.
James Bueti

The Verde River fuels both the outdoor culture and viticulture of the valley. Embrace both on Verde Adventures' Water to Wine excursion. You'll kayak gentle, riffling waters beneath cottonwoods, then head for Alcantara Vineyards to drink in syrahs, sauvignon blancs, and epic views.

photo of a maze of rock walls at Tuzigoot National Monument
Tuzigoot National Monument and the view beyond.
James Bueti

Long before the vintners arrived, the Sinagua people created a society that thrived here for centuries. Around a.d. 1000, they began building a labyrinthine 110-room complex, preserved as Tuzigoot National Monument. Wander the restored, roofless rooms overlooking the calm creek below.

beef brisket served Texas style and a pitmaster manning the barbecue at Colt 804 in Cottonwood, Arizona, picture
Colt 804 serves up beef brisket, Texas style.
James Bueti

A meaty, mesquite scent wafts out of Colt 804 Grill. Inside, the chairs are adorned with cowhide, and practically everything is smoked—the brisket, pulled pork, and even ice for the whiskey lemonade. Locals have a special fondness for the house-made sauces and the down-home welcome from Carson Clouston, the tattooed pitmaster manning the smoker.

Start your tasting crawl with a wine that's sold only in Cottonwood: the zesty Rose B. You'll find it at Burning Tree Cellars, the side project of Page Springs Cellars winemaker Corey Turnbull. Then, stroll over to Pillsbury Wine Company to sip the lauded winery's blends, such as the crisp, floral WildChild.

photo of Merkin Vineyards Tasting Room and Osteria with a fancy light fixture in the foreground
Merkin Vineyards Tasting Room and Osteria. 
James Bueti

Rock vocalist Maynard James Keenan makes wines as bold as his music. At his newest Verde Valley venture, Merkin Vineyards Osteria, you can sit at the glamorous bar and dine like a rock star—pairing a flight of spicy reds with fresh made pasta, such as the buttery mac and cheese, pink with an infusion of prickly pear and wine.


This article was first published in Spring 2019.