Most travel writers will inform readers about all the highlights, most iconic things to do and see in a particular part of Arizona. Sedona Arizona is a prime example. Guidebooks and information centers are plentiful, offering the most popular (and most populated) sights. They steer people to such sights as Red Rock Crossing, Cathedral Rock, Slide Rock and Bell Rock… all those rocks! But so many excellent activities and sights are not given enough due in other websites. Here are a few:
Many folks travel to nearby wineries for tasting. Most will sample the vintages at Page Springs Vineyards and Oak Creek Vineyards. We suggest also including a stop and spending a bit more time at Javelina Leap. Step behind the winery’s original main tasting room into the new “Arizona Room” and you’ll find a larger gathering spot for trying out the best vintages from Javelina Leap. There’s even a airy patio for nibbling and noshing when the weather’s right. We not only sampled wines, but some excellent appetizers — tapas — to cleanse our palate.
Before you spend an afternoon instagramming rock cairns at Red Rock Crossing, which by the way will now cost you $10 to park, visit Red Rock State Park. for a short stroll along Oak Creek or a moderate climb to Eagle’s Nest. It’s amazing what you may see along the way.
Many Sedona/Cottonwood visitors may have Montezuma’s Castle on their itinerary, but Montezuma’s Well — maybe not so much. Stop at Montezuma Well and follow the trail to the end. You’ll see the native inhabitants’ cliff dwellings and natural springs which feed the well. Roaming rangers and docents will provide the history of the well and its original water users.
A recent road trip to Sonoita Arizona made us realize a visit to a winery can add up to so much more than merely wine-tasting. It can mean relaxing on a storefront patio, viewing a gallery of art prints or shopping for olives, jams, honey, flour and T-shirts. One lingering, leisurely visit to this tasting room brought to us a sense of discovery… discovering another part of Arizona’s cultural and physical geography, plus making new friends — all while sampling Arizona wines. The following photos represent additional ways to capture the complete experience at Dos Cabezas WineWorks:
Welcome the cool, southeast Arizona breezes through open patio doors
Peruse interesting art prints and unique pantry items
Gather with friends and family to sample some of Arizona’s finest wines
Shop for glassware and T-shirts in front of the winery’s main barrel room
Expect the unexpected — you’ll never know what goodies you may find at an Arizona wine tasting room…
Remember: Sonoita Arizona is usually ten degrees cooler than Tucson and Phoenix metro areas.
According to most dictionaries, “quirky” is an adjective meaning ‘full of quirks,’ which basically means: odd, peculiar or offbeat. I wanted to look it up again before I started writing, because I wanted to make sure I wasn’t using the word incorrectly. You see, many of my fellow bloggers seem to use this word quite frequently. They describe themselves as ‘quirky travelers’ or ‘quirky foodies.’ They visit quirky destinations, eat at quirky restaurants and stay overnight at quirky inns, bed-and-breakfasts or Airstream trailer parks. Recently Chuck and I stopped by a wonderful place to spend an afternoon tasting wine – at an southeastern Arizona winery that fits the definition of quirky – Arizona Hops and Vines in Sonoita.
But this winery is not only a location for wine lovers to sample and buy their reds and whites. It’s a family-run business, a popular local tourism destination and, if SB1301 makes it way through the Arizona legislative process, Arizona Hops and Vines, could also be called a brewery. Current state law prohibits brewing beer at a winery property. (Read more here.)
Here are a few other examples of this winery’s fun twists. It may be a bit offbeat, off the wall, off the cuff and even a little off the beaten track, but Arizona Hops and Vines is well worth the drive to Sonoita.
Fun-filled events: Back in February to announce a new beer-wine blend of a libation called Drag Queen, Arizona Hops and Vines hosted, “The Drag Races.” In this fundraiser to support a expectant mothers’ shelter, any contestant could dress up in drag and race in high heels for a free glass and a tasting. Coming up on May 11 is the Annual Bachannal Festival, a celebration of wine, micro-brews, arts and crafts, food and music. This should be a perfect time to enjoy those expansive views from the hilltop winery’s patio. Take a look at its Facebook page for more information about upcoming functions and photos of past events.
Fascinating pets: Arizona Hops and Vines owners-sisters Megan and Shannon must love their animals almost as much as they love family, friends and their farm life. Animals are everywhere: goats, chickens, turtles. Chuck and I were properly introduced to pets Vino and Lola inside the tasting room. Both cat and dog also are respectively quirky. (Admittedly, cats are just quirky by nature.)
Novel palate cleansing methods: Cheetos are served from a large red tub on the tasting counter. I’m no expert so I can’t tell whether or not these cheesy puffs actually cleanse the palate, but they do taste pretty good in between sips of First Crush or The Fluffer.
Imaginative wine names and labels: Take a look at some of the wine names, not to mention the unique blends of fruits, flavors. I’m not saying that Arizona Hops and Vines set the standard for quirky appellations, but it’s definitely following suit.
Interesting traditions: Read more about Arizona Hops and Vines interesting yet quirky traditions on its website, including The Wishing Barrel, and Buffalo game. You can even join a brewers group called The Buffalo Club. There’s something for everyone in the family at Arizona Hops and Vines: a soda making room called, The Sober Shack,” a petting zoo for the younger set and outdoor games such as Tetherball, horseshoes and bocce ball for adults and teens.
Find more information about things to do at Arizona Hops and Vines on its website. Better yet, why not plan Arizona road trip to Sonoita on some Saturday or Sunday and find out for yourself? You may even find a wine that pleases!
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:
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.
Windmill Winery isn’t just a winery and tasting room. It’s also a farm, market, plant nursery, wedding venue, restaurant, corporate meeting place, entertainment location and farm implement museum. It’s also a nice destination for an afternoon day trip.
The winery features a different set of wine selections monthly, making it possible for wine lovers in the San Tan Valley area to enjoy a variety of varietals from different wine regions. Plus Windmill Winery has its own private label including a sweet white wine and a robust red.
Located at the western edge of Florence, Windmill Winery is just a short half hour drive from the southeast suburbs – probably just over an hour from Phoenix. It may have started out as a nursery, but it has grown into a popular wedding and reception venue, as couples opt for a setting of country charm. When we arrived, owner Harold Christ immediately made us feel welcome and invited us to sample some of the white Hummingbird Nectar and the red Dutchman’s Bold. Although these wines are from grapes grown and processed outside Arizona, plans are in the works for grape vines to be planted onsite. In about seven years, if all goes well, Windmill Winery may be boasting not only its own label, but its own wine.
With wine in hand, we strolled outside to the tour the grounds. A quaint outdoor patio welcomed us at the door. The patio encompasses several tables and gas heaters for the cooler evenings. The lush setting made us forget we were in the desert – the entire property reminded us of an eastern or mid-western farmyard. And after learning the history of the big red barn, we knew why. The 45-foot high structure was dismantled in Green Bay, Wisconsin then shipped to Arizona and reconstructed on the 60-acre property.
Windmill Winery, as an entertainment venue, has all bases covered. Events such as Brews, Brats and Blind Man’s Bluff, Mardi Gras Madness, and Murder Mystery Nights are upcoming dates the winery’s calendar. Diners need to book these events in advance as they sell out early. The Valentine’s Prime Rib dinner was already sold out. These special events are for advanced purchase only. Also in February, Windmill Winery starts Friday happy hours from 4 to 7 p.m. with half price specials on house wine and light appetizers. There’s also a solid collection of craft brews and local beers available.
Catered dinners on one night a week provide visitors with a menu that would make any master chef drool.
You might choose from a gourmet burger, created with homemade garlic-mayo aioli, with horseradish cheddar served on a bed of Arugula leaves, topped with a fresh-baked Kaiser roll, including a special condiment of bacon jam or a platter of Hawaiian-style pork with sea salt herbs and spices, slow cooked in banana leaves with a coconut rice grilled pineapple and slice of Pina Colada bread. Hungry yet? Many of the ingredients were grown on Christ’s same property, known agriculturally as Florence Farms. Much of the Florence Farms harvest also finds its way to the kitchens of about a dozen local resorts and restaurants.
Although it’s not actually a museum, there’s a collection of farm implements on display such as John Deere tractors and other implements. Harold and his wife Katie recently were featured in an installment of Massey Ferguson’s’ online magazine: MyFarmLife.com. Windmill Winery, located at 1140 West Butte Road in Florence, is open Tuesday through Thursday and Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. and Friday noon to 10 p.m.
What are your favorite day trips around Arizona? I would welcome any ideas, suggestions or recommendations from readers. Just let me know by emailing me at email@example.com.
Willcox, Arizona is earning a well-deserved place among Arizona’s tourism communities. When Arizona visitors think about Willcox, they will not only imagine singing cowboy-actors, apple orchards and agriculture, but also quaint shops, museums, fine wines and nature festivals.
Willcox can boast about being hometown to one of Arizona’s favorite celebrities: singing movie cowboy Rex Allen. His son, Rex Allen Jr. also brought his own fame to the small, but growing southeastern Arizona city. The region around Willcox also became known for its famous apple orchards and pistachios. More recently, a new crop of wine grapes has flourished and wineries have sprung up around Willcox. The town is now a popular spot for wine tasting.
What many don’t know: Willcox is famous for birds, birding and bird watching. Wings Over Willcox (WOW) is an annual birding and nature festival with the main focus on the winter migration of sandhill cranes. Seminars, trade show and bird tours bring visitors to Willcox for the four-day festival. This year’s event is January 12-15.
While in town for the event, visitors and festival attendees will have much to do and see. The chamber website has listings for attractions as well as dining and lodging. The city’s website also contains visitor information. Here are just a few of the places we recently visited:
Readers: what are your favorite things to do in Willcox? Any favorite restaurants? Attractions?
Sedona is a popular getaway destination for many living in Arizona. Residents of Phoenix, Flagstaff and even Tucson are drawn to Sedona for its magnetizing beauty even if they don’t buy into the “harmonic convergence” vortex theories. (I’m not going to attempt to explain it. You have Google; look it up.)
We travel to Sedona for a number of more mundane reasons:
1) Close proximity to the Phoenix metro area (only takes about 2 hours)
2) Wide range of lodging and dining experiences because of the heavy volume of tourists
3) Extensive options for outdoor recreation activities such as hiking, camping, backpacking
4) Numerous opportunities for art, music and film fairs and festivals
5) Historical sites
6) Wine tasting in the Verde Valley
Here are some photos of our last trip to Sedona in April. We spent a week there, hiking, shopping, wine tasting, dining, sightseeing and relaxing. This time was very much like previous trips, except we were traveling with Molly, our border collie. And from our point of view, she has lot more energy than those vortices.
When we visit Sedona, we always try to take a different trail, or explore a different area. Marg’s Draw Trail is easily reached from the “Y” — just a short 2.5 mile walk up Schnebly Road. It’s almost an urban trail running path — with plenty of neighborhood residents using this as their morning or evening workout. Don’t be discouraged; this is a wonderful trail with excellent views of many rock formations as it weaves beyond the reach of the subdivisions.
For seven nights, Los Abrigados Resort & Spa would be our lodging. We found it comfortable, but a little cramped. But we spent most of our time on the patio, watching the wind sculptures, soaking in the hot tub and snacking on Verde Valley wine and cheese.
Our dog, Molly really enjoyed being next to Oak Creek, where she could watch the ducks and meet some of the other guests.
No trip to Sedona should be without a side trip to some of the Verde Valley wineries and there are several, but we stopped at three — Page Springs, Javelina Leap and Oak Creek.
One of the sights I would highly recommend is Montezuma Well. Everyone goes to “Montezuma’s Castle,” but few take the extra half hour to see his “Well.” Believe me, it’s worth the time. And it’s more than just a “hole in the ground.” It’s a set of cliff dwelling ruins and an easy and beautiful path to a natural irrigation system, still in use by local farmers. We just happened upon the back entrance to Montezuma Well when we were attempting a trip to the West Clear Creek trailhead. (Our low profile passenger car would not reach that destination without a severe beating.)
Another trail we explored on this trip to Sedona was the Boynton Canyon Trail. We always felt slighted on each of weekends to Sedona, not having the time to fit this one into a short two-day trip, but we finally got our chance to walk the popular “vortex” trail in northwest Sedona.
We thought it was a good idea to get an early start on the trail, for reasons including afternoon temps in the upper 80s, parking availability and the chance of heavy hiker volumes. Boynton Canyon is a scenic mixture of red rocks, manzanita thickets, ponderosa pine stands and soaring cliffs housing ruins of prehistoric cultures. The approximate six-mile round trip is an easy, leisurely walk which will take about 3 hours.
Every time we go back to Sedona, whether it’s for a weekend or a week, we never get bored with the views, trails, dining experiences or resort stays. We’ll always be back.