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Want a unique experience while visiting Sedona? Check out this post on exploring the rich wine region of the Verde Valley, AZ and book your flights… NOW!
Wine in the desert? I was a skeptic, too. But trust me–visiting Verde Valley, AZ on your trip to Sedona is non-negotiable. I wish I could remember who told me about the Verde Valley because I owe them one!
After spending a few days hiking in the red rocks, an afternoon spent under the shade of trees with cheese and red wine was just what our group needed on our visit to Sedona! We spent about 3 days in Sedona and this is the perfect amount of time to do *all the hiking* but still have time to explore this wine region.
If you need Sedona inspiration, check out a weekend itinerary here and a list of less-crowded hikes here. But if you’re looking for wine-spiration (see what I did there?), you’ve come to the right place!
ABOUT VERDE VALLEY
Dotted along the desert about 30 minutes outside of Sedona sits the Verde Valley which is home to approximately 20 wineries. The viticultural area of the Verde Valley actually encompasses 7 towns and the surrounding area in Yavapai County to create the wines. The area is perfect situated below the cold, high elevations and above the hot desert conditions.
The Verde Valley gets its name from the Spanish explorer Antonio de Espejo, who recorded his travels in the area back in 1583! The Verde River runs through the valley, as well.
Per the viticultural association, the ‘‘diurnal temperature swing’’ is substantial (aka there is a big difference between how hot and how cold it is in one day). This slows the maturity of the wine grapes, extending the growing season, and leading to more complex wine flavors. Grapes that are well suited for this area include Syrah (my fave!), Cabernet Sauvignon (another fave!), Petit Sirah (maybe I just like all wine grapes?), Zinfandel (ok nevermind you lost me here), Viognier, and Malvasia Bianca. If you’re seeing a theme, it’s grapes that produce dry wines.
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According to Northern Arizona University, the Arizona wine tourism impact is big. The wine sector brings in $56.2 million, provides 640 jobs, and provided $3.6 million in local and state taxes. Obviously, the wine region is very important to Arizona!
The Verde Valley wine region is also an American Viticultural Area, a distinction that requires submitting a petition and having a strict review by the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. This identifies this unique geography, topography, soil, and climate of the Verde Valley as a grape growing region.
In 2012, Lonely Planet named Verde Valley one of the top 10 places to visit in the US. It may be 2022 now, but I think Verde Valley still holds a top 10 ten spot!
Are you impressed? I’m impressed.
GETTING TO VERDE VALLEY
Verde Valley is located approximately 30 minutes outside of Sedona in Cottonwood, Arizona.
For those of you arriving locally or renting a car, getting here is a breeze! It’s an easy and very scenic drive. I recommend this if you are only planning on hitting 1-2 wineries or have a designated driver. This is the route we took and it worked out great for our little group.
However, if you plan to visit multiple wineries or are here on a girl’s/bachelorette trip, I HIGHLY recommend hiring a driver or booking a tour.
Viator is a great resource for booking tours! Viator has an option for a private luxury vehicle to drive you to up to 4 wineries of your choice. Also, you get cutie charcuterie and discounted wine tastings! This isn’t sponsored but I sure do wish it was (Hey Viator, email me).
Another great option is the AZ Wine Crawler hop-on hop-off tour. I love this unique spin on a wine tour because it’s affordable and still flexible–you get to create your own itinerary but still save a bit of money compared with a private tour.
For those travelers that are a bit more luxury, you can book a private Sedona Wine Tour with a certified guide through Elevated Sedona wine tours.
If you’re new here, I tend to fall in the camp somewhere between budget and luxury so I’d opt for the private tour with a group of friends! For a solo adventure, the hop-on hop-off option is great and I’d be willing to bet you’ll make some fun new friends!
WHAT TO DO IN VERDE VALLEY
What should you do in Verde Valley, AZ? Drink wine of course!
Okay, I kid. Aside from wine, there are so many other things to do in Verde Valley! With Sedona just a half hour away from the wine region you can easily explore that beautiful city (if you need ideas, check out this post!) but you can also hang out in the valley.
Bike or walk the Verde River Greenway
Indulge your outdoorsy side with a bike ride of walk on the Verde River Greenway in Cottonwood.
Take a train ride through the desert
Head over to Clarksdale for a 4 hour train ride through the high desert landscape. You’ll learn the history of the region and the railroad as well as enjoy some beautiful scenery!
Tuzigoot National Monument
Also in Clarksdale is the Tuzigoot National Monument. The monument is a cluster of buildings where the Sinagua Indians resided in the 12th century! After learning about ancient history, head over to the Verde Canyon for sweeping views of the Mogollon Rim.
Out of Africa wildlife park
Traveling with kids? Head over to Camp Verde where you can interact with animals at Out of Africa!
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Visit the West Clear Creek or Wet Beaver swimming holes. We swam at The Crack at Wet Beaver Creek and it was one of my FAVORITE parts of our Sedona trip!
This small list of things to do is just scratching the surface of amazing things to do in the Verde Valley but I listed out a few of the best (I’m very biased).
WINERIES TO TRY
Are you up for a challenge? Because you could definitely try ALL 19 wineries in a few days…. But if that’s too much, I can recommend the few that we tried. We thoroughly enjoyed each of them and I imagine all of the Verde Valley, AZ wineries are similar. The people that work in the wineries are kind, passionate, and friendly.
Located along the river, you’ll enjoy some amazing dry reds and a beautiful view of the river. We learned SO much about the wine region and grape growing while we were here!
An amazing outdoor space, complete with misters in the warm desert sun. We had a blast drinking some lighter dry wines and snacking on a charcuterie board.
I can’t personally speak to others, but I’ve heard great things about Burning Tree Cellars and Javelina Leap.
You can see a full list of the wineries available here.
Before heading on our trip out west, I had never heard of the Verde Valley. I am SO glad we were introduced to this unique area and it actually sparked my interest in smaller wine regions. Don’t get me wrong, we LOVED Sonoma and Napa but there is something so special and intimate about these other wine regions around the country! Each brings a unique vibe to their delicious wines.
Verde Valley makes great dry wines and is in a beautiful valley surrounded by red rocks of the Arizona desert. That enough should make you want to go, right?! I hope this guide is helpful to plan your trip to Arizona’s unique wine area.
Are you inspired to head to the Verde Valley, AZ now?! Have you been and did I miss anything in this guide? Let me know in the comments!