This year one of my goals has been to get to know the lay of the land better. I moved here and then the pandemic happened shortly after. It’s made it hard to feel like I have been here for 3 years already because I feel embarrassingly undereducated on the state and what it has to offer.
I really had no idea some of the best wine I’ve had could be grown in the desert. Turns out, aside from the lack of water, Arizona has the climate to grow most things. The better news? Grapes are a low-water plant!
That’s only part of it though. Being grown in Arizona doesn’t make it great wine automatically. I went to Merkin Vineyards Old Town Scottsdale and found out it also requires a lot of heart from a passionate team working towards the same goal.
Everyone there is striving to be as close to 100% Arizona local as they can be. They want regional, sustainable and they want an authentic, clearly Arizonan experience that you want to come back to.
Just how regional is Merkin Vineyards? All of the wines are produced from their 110 acres of estate in Verde Valley and Wilcox, AZ. The fruits and vegetables that go into your dishes are farmed by Randee Larremore and the Keenan family throughout their Verde Valley location. If it’s not coming directly from there, they seek out premier Arizona farmers to source it from (My favorite example is there olives. They come from Queen Creek and are to die for. They throw some spices on them, warm em up in a tiny cast iron and I could eat them all day.) Even the house Gelati and Sorbetti (crafted by Kelley E. Foy) are made with AZ produced dairy and fruits from the Merkin Greenhouses, Gardens and Orchards.
Where does sustainable come in? This is one of their goals they continue to reach for! As they discover more ways they can protect the earth they are growing on, it goes into action. One of their more recent moves towards a more sustainable product is switching to paper labels for the wine that is recyclable/compostable!
In addition they also change their menu with the tides of Mother Nature’s whim. (Sustainable to not force things to grow out of season!) You’ll find something new every time you’re there. Always a reason to go back.
This time, I was back for a wine tasting. It was a pretty comprehensive one where we actually used the bucket provided (*because we had to be responsible drivers!*) as we went through a hefty list of wines, each just as unique in taste as the last.
Of our wines, I did have a few favorites I want you to try when you go. First, ask about their mead wine, the Puscifer Queen B. It’s light but has a very identifiable flavor from the Arizona honey. It’s sparkling but the bubbles are subtle. Unlike a champagne, this won’t leave you feeling full of air after finishing a glass. If you love it as much as I do, you’ll buy some to take home.
My last two to gush about are further along in the flavor profile. I’m a big reds girl so I had that bias going in. The Merkin Tarzan Red is a great way to get introduced to reds if you’ve not previously explored them. As far as red wine goes, it’s light in your mouth and doesn’t leave you feeling dry. I liked that it was still full with flavor without it being front and center, keeping it smooth on the way down. Get the Tarzan Red to be a general crowd pleaser at your next backyard BBQ party.
Your everyday red should be their Airavata. What’s cool about this one is the way it’s made. It doesn’t touch oak, but rather is stored and turned in concrete eggs. Ask to see the pictures! I ended up buying a bottle of this bad boy to take home. I like it as a casual sipper wine that you can kind of just pour with whatever appetizer or dinner you’re having and don’t want to put effort into it.
There is a lot to learn about the production of wine and they are very knowledgeable about what they serve at Merkin Vineyards. It’s a labor of love and passion that they are eager to share with the state.
They have something new coming soon too! In eye’s view from Old Town Cottonwood is a new development in the making from Maynard James Keegan. This new property will have not only bountiful vineyards and greenhouses but also everything needed for full production of the wine, a restaurant/wine bar, patio, retail area and more complete for an “everything” experience with Arizona wine (and food.)
If you are now so intrigued by the process of wine-making or sustainable farming, you have to swing into Merkin Vineyards Old Town Scottsdale! With their ever-changing menu and eager creators of wine it is sure to feel “new” each visit.