Weekend winecations — so many bottles, so little time!

0812Ns Entertainment (Wine Bottles)

Do you hear that?

It’s wine season calling!

Each year, from late August to early November, our region’s wineries take part in perhaps the most crucial part of the winemaking process – harvesting the actual grapes.

With more and more wineries locally and regionally inviting guests to take part in the picking process and hosting celebrations to fete the occasion – and California going so far as to proclaim September as its statewide wine month – there is no better time than now to make plans to take some time out for a weekend of wine tasting.

Here is a handy dandy overview of some best bets this fall, each just a few hours away by car or plane.

Verde Valley
A stone’s throw from Sedona, the Verde Valley is less than two hours from Scottsdale by car. Made up of three sub-regions – Cottonwood, Jerome and Page Springs – this area has been lauded in recent years for offering not only award-winning wine, but innovative tasting events and creative day trips, including one that allows guests to kayak the Verde River right up to a vineyard.

Among your best bets in the Verde Valley are:

Page Springs
Those in the know will always call it Cornville, but the bustling area known today as Page Springs, home to some of the most awarded winemaker in the region, has become a go-to destination for wine-themed weddings, weekends and girlfriend getaways thanks in great part to the aptly named Page Springs Vineyards and Tasting Room.

0812Ns Entertainment (Wine)A short walk – or even shorter drive – from Page Springs Vineyards are also the Javalina Leap and Oak Creek Creek tasting rooms, which seem to both always be building bigger and better spaces for their growing legions of fans. But, if you can, venture 10 minutes from the threesome for Alcanterra Vineyard, which can also be accessed, as noted above, via kayak, thanks to Sedona Adventure Tours.

Commonly referred to as the “Heart of the Verde Valley” by locals and tourists alike, Cottonwood has become the “it” place for local tasting thanks to brand powerhouses Pillsbury Wine Company and Arizona Stronghold – which served as the official wine of the Arizona Centennial in 2012 – being just steps from each other, plus the addition of newer outfits including Burning Tree Cellars, opening up nearly next door.

If not staying in Sedona and carpooling the half hour to the Verde Valley for your tasting adventure, Cottonwood is a best bet for dining and lodging in the area as well.

Once a booming mining town and more recently a ghost town, the hilltop town of Jerome – which literally overlooks Cottonwood and is an easy add-on to any trip planned to that area – was reborn as a refuge for artists in recent decades. Creativity bred creativity, and today Jerome boasts some of the best tasting options in Arizona.

Beyond Arizona – Temecula
About the same distance by car from Scottsdale to Las Vegas – and just an hour’s drive from San Diego, Orange County or Palm Springs – is the best kept wine secret in California – Temecula.

With legions less tourists than northern California juggernauts Sonoma and Napa and vineyards as far as the eye can see, the diverse climate – raising as high as 11,500 feet in some areas, allows a wide variety of grapes to grow including Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Syrah, Grenache, Sangiovese, and even Tempranillo.

While the region is best-known for Wilson Creek, a sparkling wine-focused vineyard available at most wine and high-end grocery stores in the area, there are resorts, spas, vineyard tours and even grapes being grown in caves that are more than worth the trip.

Want More Ideas?

Willcox Wine Country – home to more actual grape-growing than anywhere else in Arizona, this region has been ramping up and readying to become the next big tasting town for years. About an hour east of Tucson and less than four from Scottsdale by car, there are three major tasting rooms – Carlson Creek, Coronado and Keeling Schaefer – that are not to be missed. They also have a host of vineyards that are open by appointment only.

Sonoita Wine Country – an hour south rather than east of Tucson, this region produces winners, wine award winners. It is the only AVA in the state, and boasts 10 tasting rooms in the general area. Still a growing area – especially when it comes to paving the way for thirty tourists – the drive is rustic but worth it once it starts cooling down.

Ms. Bailin is a volunteer correspondent at the North Valley Office of Independent Newsmedia.

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