Redemption at Last: The Arizona Wine Tour

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Arizona Stronghold  |  Four Eight Wineworks  |  Page Springs Cellars  |  Caduceus Cellars

The Quick Back Story...

Just before beginning our “Vagabloggers” experience of full-time travel a few years ago, we saw a documentary called Blood Into Wine. The documentary chronicles the up-and-coming wine industry in Arizona. More notably, the documentary features the story behind the wines of the ubiquitous musician (and now winemaker) Maynard James Keenan. For those who may be unfamiliar... in short, Maynard in an individual who has had a resounding impact on my life through the music and lyrics of the bands he fronts: Tool, A Perfect Circle, and Puscifer. Shortly after seeing said film, we found ourselves inspired to experience this Arizona wine scene and taste the wines for ourselves. So… we planned a road trip to Flagstaff/Cottonwood/Jerome with a couple of friends and off we went. The experience, however, was incredibly short-lived and we, well… made mistakes. Like not even buying or tasting Maynard’s artisan line of wines: Caduceus. If you’re super curious about those mistakes, check out our older Jerome blog post here.

Now, after having lived the nomadic lifestyle for over 3 years, we were presented with the opportunity to meet up with some friends (one of whom joined us on the previous trip) for a redemption visit. This time, we had all the time in the world, a van to stay in, and frankly, better access to the wines.  

Ok… let’s get on with it.


Our first stop was in Cottonwood, where we revisited the tasting room of Arizona Stronghold. The Stronghold’s tasting room lies in the heart of Cottonwood’s old downtown historic district, which is littered with shops, bars, restaurants, other tasting rooms, and it’s capstone at the south end: Larry’s Antiques. Downtown Cottonwood is definitely worth a stroll and Larry’s is not to be missed. We also hear tale that locals and tourists alike have a hard time keeping clothed as they drink themselves silly at Kactus Kate's .


This time around, we were lucky enough to be in the company of our good friend, Ozzy, who happens to be a wine club member at 3 of the 4 wineries we visited on our trip. That being said, we had the luxury of trying all 12 available red varietals Arizona Stronghold had to offer. Looking for recommendations? Well… Meisha and I have palates which lean towards dark beer, dark chocolate, strong coffee, and dry red wines. If this sounds like you, our favorite was the Mourvedre, a red varietal that seemed quite common to the Arizona region. The Stronghold’s particular take on it seemed to lean towards notes of smoke, leather, tobacco and spice. Seriously, a winner.

The environment at Arizona Stronghold? Super chill, big fluffy leather couches to hang out on, great music (of course), and some stellar art to admire. Particularly the steampunk style bugs from local artist Lindsey Bessanson.



Just a short drive around the corner from Cottonwood’s Historic Downtown is Clarkdale. Unfortunately, we didn’t do much exploring around Clarkdale so we can’t give you the rundown there. You’ll have to do that yourself. But we did visit the tasting room…

So the concept behind Four Eight Wine Works is rad…

Maynard and other winemakers of the Verde Valley are working like mad to promote and build awareness of just how good the wines coming out of Arizona really are. Perhaps even the next Napa Valley? Maybe. Time will tell. Either way, in order for the region to grow, it needs lots of wine and lots of winemakers. Well, word on the street is that not just anyone can stroll into a bank and say “Hey, I wanna make some wine and I need money to fund it. I’m really good. I promise. Can I have some?”.

That’s where Four Eight comes in. Funded by Maynard James Keenan, the project allows winemakers access to the expensive facilities and equipment needed to make wine. Furthermore, they allow these select winemakers to sell their wines in the Four Eight tasting room. If a winemaker does well, they have viable data to prove to themselves and the bank that they can, in fact, make good wine. At which point they’ll step out into the big bad world of winemaking all on their own, leaving room for a new winemaker to try their hand and get their start at Four Eight.

We were able to sample a few of the whites and a few of the reds at Four Eight, our favorite there being a tempranillo from Chateau Tumbleweed. The tasting room at Four Eight has a story of it’s own as well. Way back in the old cowboy days, the building used to be a bank. There’s a cool story about that bank being robbed and a shooting and a pocket watch, but you’ll have to watch the video above to hear it. Go ahead… you’ll like the video. Or you’ll stop watching. The choice is yours.



Page Springs Cellars is home to the wine of Eric Glomski. Eric, who is also featured prominently on Blood Into Wine has fought diligently to keep the wine scene alive in Arizona. He’s been around since the “early days” and as we understand it, was a key mentor in getting Maynard started with his winemaking endeavors in Arizona.

As it is situated within the actual vineyards themselves, Page Springs Cellars' (PSC) tasting room is more of a compound compared to the other tasting rooms we visited. PSC is not just a place to taste wines, but rather somewhere to spend an entire day. Their property has space for horseshoes, bocce ball, corn hole, a giant chess board, and even a vineyard-side massage tent. We also found it commendable that they had a picnic area next to the river where guests are allowed to bring in their own food to eat while enjoying their wine from PSC.

Oh yeah, the wine… that’s good, too. As Ozzy was a wine club member here as well, we were able to enjoy the back deck seating in the VIP section and access the VIP wine list to boot. All members of our group opted for the VIP red flight. No mistakes there, I assure you. The consensual group favorite? A (mostly) counoise fondly known as “The Bear’s Choice”. The wine gets it’s nickname because one year, several bears decided to raid the vineyard of PSC attempting to devour it’s grapes. The strange thing is, they literally only attempted to eat the counoise  grapes. They had no interest in the others. Eric and crew fought hard to maintain their crop and this delicious wine bears evidence that their efforts were completely worth it.

CADUCEUS in Jerome

Redemption at last. The last time we visited the Caduceus Tasting Room, we popped in, had a quick look around, bought some t-shirts, and left. That’s really it. This time around we vowed to do things differently. And indeed, we did. Now I must admit, because I admire Maynard’s pursuits as much as I do, one can’t help but accuse me of extreme bias. Say what you will and I'll say I've written honest words here.  We'll leave it at that.  With that it mind, I can, with all sincerity say I find Caduceus wines to be transcendental. Just as my first macchiato from Intelligentsia in Chicago vaulted me into the realm of coffee snobbery, Caduceus was the wine that truly made me feel like I’d finally “experienced” wine and not just tasted it.

Our tasting at Caduceus was once again, a red flight this time complimented by a well-presented food plate called the “Spanish Road Trip” featuring a variety of Spanish finger foods. Maynard is working hard to make Caduceus a go-to spot for not just great wine in Jerome but great food as well. They source much of their produce locally and even offer apricots grown right on the Caduceus property. Aside from great food, from a coffee snob’s perspective (I know coffee much better than I know wine), Alan’s barista skills are on par with some of the nation’s best, a compliment I don’t pay lightly. So, the favorite wine here? Nagual de la Naga. How’s it taste? I’ll leave that one for you to explore on your own, dear reader. 


Bonuses of a long term stay

After our friends parted ways and headed back home to Utah, Meisha and I were left to explore the world in our particularly nomadic and slow-paced fashion, starting with almost a week in Jerome. We ended up making base camp atop Mingus Mountain, commuting it’s scenic winding roads to and from town each morning and evening. Our days in Jerome always began with coffee at Caduceus. We’d sit in the couches near the window and enjoy one of our favorite pastimes of “tourist watching” and got to know the employees of the tasting room. Without going into grave detail on each and every one of the them, I’ll say this… if it’s not too busy when you visit, talk to them. They’re all incredibly friendly and each has a unique background and story.

We were able to spend a bit of extra time with Alan Bur Johnson (our barista a wine slinger) outside of the tasting room, as he invited us to come check out his art studio in the Old Jerome High School. On the Caduceus website, it says that Alan is known by many as "Bug Jesus". Upon visiting his studio, it was incredibly clear as to why. Alan’s art struck a chord with both of us tremendously. He meticulously places hundreds of round transparent slides with printed images on them in a particular way to create a larger overall image. That probably makes no sense at all, but the result is breathtaking. Alan is able to extract beauty in decay, a concept with which we’re all-too-familiar as we’re far more drawn to such things over and over again throughout our travels. To gain a greater understanding of Alan’s work, check out our photos below or visit his website.

And then there’s Jerome…

Aside from it’s wine and restaurant offerings, the town of Jerome itself is certainly rich in flavor. Both in its run-down historic buildings and local culture. Once known as “The Wickedest City in the West” due to it’s copious availability of paid sex, alcohol, opium, and much more, Jerome has dwindled from a population of more than 10,000 in its heyday to its current sparse population of less than 500, rendering it in essence, a living ghost town. Making little effort regarding upkeep of sidewalks, stairs, and other public areas, we found ourselves thrilled to walk around photographing and exploring the urban decay that exists everywhere in Jerome. Our favorite spot? The cemetery. But then again, we have a thing for cemeteries. Particularly those that are unkempt and maintain a level of “natural landscape”. Jerome’s is top-notch in that department.

In the heart of Jerome, there’s an amphitheater of sorts. It’s basically a large set of cement “steps” on which many locals can be found (legally) enjoying the beer or spirit of their choice. One day, when we just couldn’t find anything else to do, we decided to hunker down on the steps and tourist-watch with the locals. Immediately, we were offered a beer and invited to sit and chat. Having learned from regretfully declining such experiences in the past, we didn’t think twice about redeeming the offer and chatting. What followed was an incredibly entertaining several hours spent talking with a couple of the town’s old-timers who’ve been around for years and had “seen it all”. They were more than willing to share tales of the town’s prostitution history (including several personal experiences) as well as explaining things like how the entire water pressure system in Jerome works and all about the level of alien involvement in the Verde Valley.

The conclusion?

Since our last visit 3 years ago, the wine scene in Arizona has appeared to have grown exponentially. With this growth, it seems to have shed light on a vast amount of artisanal wines in an unexpected region. Although we only tried those wines associated with Maynard James Keenan, I’m sure there are a plethora of quality vineyards/wineries/tasting rooms to explore in the Verde Valley region. During the couple of weeks that we spent in the area, we grew more and more attached to the people and the spirit of this high-desert locale (particularly that of Jerome). We continually wondered how people came to land and make a life in such an area and each time we asked, the response was the same: “You don’t just choose Jerome. Jerome chooses you.” With that, I ask you this: Can you hear it calling?

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