Road Trip to Jerome AZ: Wine, Roads and Ruins

Last weekend, we took a road trip with our good friends Dallin and Nadya to Jerome, Arizona.

Why Jerome you ask?


Well, it's quite simple actually... maybe.  You see, there's a band I (Josh) have been obsessed with over the last several years my life- TOOL.   Maynard James Keenan is the singer for Tool as well as a few other bands like A Perfect Circle and Puscifer.  So... Maynard has moved to the small town of Jerome, Arizona to start Merkin Vineyards and make wine under the label Caduceus Cellars.

He's been making wine for the last several years and we've always wanted to try it, but have never had the opportunity.   You see, we live in a strange little bubble within the world called Utah.  In Utah, you are unable to order any kind of wine online.  So naturally, the only viable solution was to take a road trip to Arizona in pursuit of this wine.

There's a great documentary about Maynard and his wine-making pursuits called Blood Into Wine.  After watching the documentary on Netflix we decided to push our trip from a "someday" trip to a "right away" trip.  We know what you're thinking.... "Is the documentary really that good?" and the answer is yes.  Here's a little preview:

We mentioned that we were planning the trip to our good friends, Dallin and Nadya and they decided to join us.  Yes, it's true... the Vagabloggers have friends.  Dallin and Nadya rented a car and headed south from Salt Lake City to meet us in St. George. We jumped in their car and hit the open road and headed to Arizona.

Upon seeing some strange skull-like red rock formations, we decided we had to stop at a place called Cliff Dwellers.  It had some really cool mud huts made out of and around these strange rock formations.  Cliff Dwellers had kind of a cool story to it: A little over 50 years ago, during the great depression, there was a woman traveling through the Northern Arizona desert and her car broke down at this location right at the base of the Vermillion Cliffs.  For some reason, she decided just to live there for a while and shortly thereafter it became a small community.  There are some really cool little mud huts and ruins as well as a broken-down old car still remaining.  We enjoyed playing around on the rocks, snapped a few pics and continued our trip.  Our next stop was at Navajo Bridge.  It's a pretty stunning bridge running across the Colorado River.  Once again, we played around, took some pics and headed on our merry way.  We made it safely to our hotel room in Flagstaff, Arizona that night -- props to Dallin for getting us hooked up with a bit of a discount at the Hampton Inn.

 The next morning, we headed to Cottonwood Arizona to check out the Arizona Stronghold Tasting Room.  Maynard is partnered with multiple vineyards and together they actually have 3 tasting rooms.  Dallin and Nadya had done some research and according to the online reviews, the service and atmosphere at Arizona Stronghold were a little better than Caduceus Cellars in Jerome, so we decided to go there for the actual wine tasting.  

We got to Cottonwood a bit before the Stronghold was ready to open, so we walked up the street to a cool antique shop.  This place was awesome!  They had over 2 acres of antiques and we found ourselves both entertained and fascinated by all the memorabilia and wondering "Where the hell did they find all this stuff?"  I really never would have fancied myself to be one who would actually enjoy perusing the aisles of an antique store, but it was seriously cool.  Old pocket watches, knifes, razors, action figures, military communication devices, John Wayne posters and phone booths were just a few of the highlights.

We headed to the Stronghold right as they opened.  For $9 you get to try 5 different wines and you get to keep your Arizona Stronghold tasting glass.  We enjoyed learning about each wine as we tried them and hearing all about the pride and craftsmanship that goes into each bottle and glass.  After a great tasting, we hit the road and headed for Jerome.

For being a "Jerome Trip", our time in Jerome was surprisingly short-lived.  Jerome is an interesting little used-to-be-ghost-town known for being "The Wickedest City in the West" at one time.  It has actually burned down a few times and keeps getting rebuilt.  It's an old mining town built on the side of a mountain, so it's full of steep winding streets and cool old mining town architecture.  The only disappointing part was that this town definitely had that "tourist feel".  It was actually quite full of people walking around the small downtown area.

If we would have had more time, it seemed like it would have been really cool to wander off the beaten path into the "underbelly" of the city.  It was full of old run down buildings and I'm sure there's a lot of cool sites to be found there.

We were able to find the official Puscifer Store.  I forgot to grab Meisha's shirts before we left for the trip so she was in desperate need.  We were able to find a cool Puscifer shirt for a sweet deal ($6.66 hehe) and then headed down to Caduceus Cellars to check things out.

Caduceus has a cool style and feel and was absolutely beautiful inside.  However, the reviews seemed to be right-on.  It was much busier and "touristy" inside and lacked the cozy flair we felt at Arizona Stronghold.  We checked out a few bottles, found them to be more expensive than we cared for, bought a couple of t-shirts and decided to head back to Arizona Stronghold to buy our other bottles there instead.  In hindsight, I'm sure there was a good reason for the Caduceus bottles being a little more expensive and I wish we would have spent the few extra dollars to try one of Maynard's actual wines.  Oh well, guess that just means we'll have to make another trip...

After our second stop at Arizona Stronghold, we headed back to our hotel in Flagstaff and bought some cheese and chocolate to enjoy our wine with.  We had a good time just relaxing, hanging out and listening to music.  The next morning, we grabbed some coffee an began the long drive home.  We decided to pull off at the Sunset Volcano Crater, but didn't end up going all the way to it as you had to pay to get it and we were all pretty tired and ready to get going.  So we snapped a few quick pics and found this...

Yep. That's a volcano.

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