Random notes from Arizona wine tasting rooms

I’ve watched people at wine tasting events and wineries and remember how connoisseurs will jot down wine notes or dictate messages into their cell phones. They want to remember their wine tasting experiences, save information about the wines. They make notes about the wine’s appearance, aroma, taste and finish.

On a recent day trip to Jerome and Cottonwood, I jotted down some notes of my own — of the tasting rooms themselves. Here are some excerpts taken from my day trip travel journal about three tasting rooms I visited:

Arizona Stronghold

Appearance: Rich colors; dark sandstone red. Oak and iron. Exciting, bustling, comfortable atmosphere. Warm, friendly and inviting.

Second impressions: Oil paintings of sunsets. Bold, edgy. Surreal. Apache photos and symbols. Uninhibited.

Tasting experience: Friendly and relaxed. Smooth. Five for $9

Location: 1023 North Main Street, Cottonwood. Hours: Sunday-Thursday 12-7 p.m. Saturday-Sunday 12-9 p.m.

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Arizona Stronghold tasting room in Cottonwood

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Arizona Stronghold tasting room celebrated its 'birthday' in March with balloons and entertainment

Bitter Creek Winery

Appearance: Bright, airy. Vivid burgundy-colored walls. Welcoming, friendly.

Second impressions: Gallery of watercolors and ink. Panoramic views of Verde Valley from picture window. Artistic labels and unique names for blends. Gifts. High ceilings.

Tasting experience: Informative. Innovative. Mystical. Sultry Cellars reds: Four for $10. Bitter Creek reds and whites: Four for $8.

Location: 240 Hull Ave., Jerome. Hours: Sunday – Friday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Open one hour later, beginning in May.

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Bitter Creek Winery

Bitter Creek Winery tasting room features sitting area to enjoy panoramic views of Verde Valley

Bitter Creek Winery

A gallery of watercolor, ink and charcoal towers over the long wine bar at Bitter Creek Winery

Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards Tasting Room

Appearance: Red brick. Walnut and maple wood. Steel gray wine bar with brushed chrome hardware.

Second impressions: Imaginative. Bold. Rustic-looking with modern edginess. Shop is definitely worth a browse. Apparel and wine accessories.

Tasting experience: A bit pricey. $14 per flight of four wines.

Location: 158 Main Street, Jerome. Hours: Monday-Thursday, Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Caduceus Cellars

A cozy, intimate atmosphere at the Jerome tasting room of Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards

Caduceus Cellars

Unique wine accessories and apparel in the shop at Caduceus Cellars & Merkin Vineyards tasting room

Jerome eatery a must: 15.quince grill & cantina

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15.quince grill & cantina: highly recommended for dining in Jerome, Arizona

 

Up until a few years ago, when we’d visit an Arizona town, we’d always wonder how to find the best lunch spot. We would check all the rating-review websites and chamber of commerce listings. We soon realized, to find a really great lunch spot, you need to become a ‘stalker.’ When the local residents leave work for lunch hour, just follow them. Or, better yet, I guess you can always ask around. We asked our pourer at one of Jerome’s wine tasting rooms for his recommendation. He didn’t even need to think about it. “Quince,” he said.

Quince (or actually 15.quince grill & cantina) was without a doubt right on the mark. We had to wait for a few minutes, as 15.quince is a cozy little storefront and seating comes at a premium on one of Jerome’s sunny March Saturdays. While we waited we were captivated by a taste of the Jerome Art Walk, which occurs each first Saturday of the month. Although the art walk actually is later in the evening, a few artisans and a musician had already set up in the vacant lot next door.

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Artisans and musicans set up on a Saturday afternoon

 

 

In just a few minutes we were seated and I couldn’t help but notice the large number of painted cow skulls and carved wooden crosses on the wall. What a nice collection! Colorful examples of Mexican folk art are everywhere. The clientele is part local and part tourist, however, if you know Jerome, sometimes it’s hard to tell the two apart. Think: cowboy hats, Hawaiian shirts and Harley-Davidson leathers. The atmosphere is very animated; we liked that. People smiling and laughing in a restaurant is always a positive sign. Our server was excellent: attentive, personable and efficient.

 

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Colorful cow skulls and cross adorn the walls at 15.quince grill

 

We immediately were brought our icy cold Negra Modelo beers. And it wasn’t long before our entrée was served: a very hefty looking burro with shredded beef, black beans, green rice. We ordered it “half-and-half:” one side red sauce and the other side green. Both colors were swimming along side the chipotle cream and melted cheeses. Excellent!

 

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Lunch is served: "Orale Vato Loco" Smothered Burro

 

The entire menu looks very appealing; enough to even make the most finicky diner drool. We also heard the margaritas are over-the-top, but those will have to wait for our next Jerome getaway. We did, however, opt for a slice of decadent cherry cheesecake. After a lunch like that, we felt a siesta was in order but we decided to instead walk off the experience by window-shopping through the streets of Jerome. If you have relatives and friends visiting this month, you will want to bring them here.