Wining & Dining in Old Town Cottonwood

The Place: Cottonwood, Arizona
The Highlights: The Tavern Hotel, Merkin Vineyards Tasting Room and Osteria
Shoshana Leon

Arizona has an abundance of small towns with spectacular scenery and Western charm. One of my favorites is Cottonwood, which is located less than two hours north of downtown Phoenix in the Verde Valley.

Over the past few years, Cottonwood has become known as a wining and dining destination with modern accommodations, excellent restaurants and multiple wine tasting rooms. As it expands, Cottonwood continues to maintain its small town charm and provides a relaxing respite from the city although not much of an escape from the heat as summer temperatures in Cottonwood are just a few degrees below Phoenix.

As you approach Cottonwood from Phoenix, you can start your Verde Valley wine tour at Alcantara Vineyards located about 10 miles from Old Town Cottonwood. It is a beautiful property with fields of grapevines, peaceful views and a comfortable tasting room that is open from 11am-5pm daily.

The hub of Old Town Cottonwood is Main Street, which is lined with shops, restaurants and wine tasting rooms. My favorite place to stay in Cottonwood is the Tavern Hotel located right on Main Street. The Tavern Hotel opened in 2011 and is owned by the Haunted Group, which also owns several restaurants in Cottonwood and Jerome. Earlier this year the Tavern Hotel expanded from 13 rooms to more than 40, including two penthouses and a cottage.

I highly recommend the hotel’s Sip and Stay package which includes free welcome cocktails at the Tavern Grille, free Continental breakfast at Crema Craft Kitchen and Bar, one of the Haunted Group’s restaurants, a $50 gift card that can be used at any of the Haunted Group restaurants, and free tastings at some of the tasting rooms on Main Street.

Walking Wine Tour
In addition to contemporary accommodations and excellent service, one of the benefits of staying at the Tavern Hotel is the walkability to Main Street’s shops, restaurants and wine tasting rooms, so no need to worry about driving after a day of wine tasting.

Old Town Cottonwood’s wine tasting rooms include Pillsbury, Burning Tree Cellars, Arizona Stronghold and Winery 101. Visiting these tasting rooms is an interactive experience where you can sample different wines (tastings average about $10), enjoy wines by the glass, buy bottles and learn about Arizona’s thriving wine industry. Most of Old Town Cottonwood’s tasting rooms shut down by 7pm during the week but many stay open later on the weekends and some offer live music.

Good Eats
There are several restaurants along Main Street in Old Town Cottonwood with exceptional food, wine and service. One of my favorites is the Merkin Vineyards Tasting Room and Osteria, which opened in 2016 and offers fresh pasta, seasonal vegetables, beautiful charcuterie plates and Merkin wines by the flight, glass or bottle. Merkin Vineyards is owned by Maynard James Keenan of the band Tool, who also owns Caduceus Cellars which has a tasting room in Jerome.

Other notable restaurants on Main Street include the Tavern Grille, Nic’s Italian Steak and Crab House and Pizzeria Bocce, which are all owned by the Haunted Group.

Day Trips
If you have the desire to venture beyond Old Town Cottonwood, you can explore other Verde Valley towns. One of my favorites is the quirky town of Jerome which is 20 minutes from Cottonwood. Jerome is home to tasting rooms for Caduceus Cellars, Cellar 433 and Passion Cellars. Dining options in Jerome include the Haunted Hamburger and the Asylum Restaurant located in the reportedly haunted Jerome Grand Hotel, which overlooks the Verde Valley.

Another favorite destination about 20 minutes from Old Town Cottonwood is Cornville’s Page Springs Cellars, a beautiful winery where you can take a tour, learn about the wine making process, and enjoy great wine and delicious food in a picturesque setting.

For a scenic adventure, the Verde Canyon Railroad, which leaves from Clarkdale, takes guests on a four-hour, 20-mile ride through beautiful terrain and interesting history. In addition to its regular schedule, the Verde Canyon Railroad offers the Grape Train Escape on select dates throughout the summer which offers first-class accommodations, gourmet food and tastings from Arizona winemakers. In September and October, guests can enjoy Arizona craft beer on Ales on Rails train rides. The Tavern Hotel also offers a Verde Canyon Railroad package.

Whether you need a break from the city for a day or want a weekend of wine tasting, Cottonwood is an idyllic destination to experience the simpler pleasures of Arizona and lots of great food and wine.

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