Nestled in central Arizona, the Verde Valley is a vast expanse of lush greenery and red rocks, spanning approximately 714 square miles. This breathtaking region is named for the Verde River that flows through it, one of the few perennial rivers still present in Arizona. The land holds a remarkably rich and diverse cultural history, with humans first inhabiting the Verde Valley before the end of the last ice age!
About 80% of the Verde Valley is a part of protected National Forests and continues to be the home of the Yavapai and Apache Indigenous American communities in the Yavapai-Apache Nation.
Winemaking in Arizona also has a colorful and unique history that began long before the first vineyards of California’s famous wine country were established. Despite many challenges over the centuries, the vineyards, wine in Sedona, and communities along the Verde Valley Wine Trail have come a long way. Wine Tours of Sedona is proud to serve them while celebrating the triumphs and growth of our stunning wine country!
Wine’s Turbulent History in Arizona
To understand how far Verde Valley vineyards and wine in Sedona have come, one must look back into the land’s history long before the state of Arizona was even a thought. Spanish explorers and Catholic missionaries were the first Europeans to explore the area as early as the late 1500s and early 1600s.
Many recognized similarities between the soils of Arizona and Spain, leading to at least nine Spanish Catholic missions and their vineyards for sacramental wine making their stake by the end of the 17th century. These vineyards became the first wine grapes established within what is now the United States.
The Mexican-American War and the Gadsden Purchase in the mid-1800s shifted the Verde Valley and surrounding areas into the hands of the United States and white settlers expanding west through Manifest Destiny. Not long afterward, rich deposits of gold, silver, and copper attracted hundreds of European-American settlers and miners to Arizona’s central mountains, quickly boosting the territory’s overall wine and brandy production well into the early 20th century.
The United States formally granted statehood to Arizona in 1912 as the 48th and final addition to the contiguous states. Then in 1915, alcohol prohibitionists passed a bill that completely halted wine consumption and production in Arizona—a mere three years after becoming a state and five years before Prohibition became the federal law.
The Re-Birth of Arizona’s Wine Industry
Although federal prohibition was overturned in 1933, growing and producing wine in Sedona and throughout Arizona would not occur again for nearly 40 years. Arizona lawmakers were not too eager to encourage local production of wine and other alcoholic beverages. Instead, they adopted a three-tiered system for the return of alcohol to the state:
- First-Tier: Licensed distributors can obtain wine and other alcoholic beverages from domestic producers or import them from other countries.
- Second-Tier: The distributors sell the beverages to licensed retailers (i.e., bars, restaurants, liquor stores)
- Third-Tier: Residents purchase and consume alcoholic beverages from designated licensed retailers
This system remained the standard until a spark of change emerged when a soil scientist named Dr. Gordon Dutt joined the staff at the College of Agriculture at the University of Arizona in the 1970s. Thanks to his background analyzing soil for establishing vineyards in California, he soon realized that Arizona’s soil had the potential for growing and producing exemplary wines to rival those from the Golden State.
By this point, the state’s distributors had a chokehold on Arizona’s alcohol market and heavily pushed to maintain stringent laws to keep it that way. However, after some successful sample plots and tedious legal battles, Arizona legislators opened the doors for winemaking to begin again and commercial vineyards began to emerge once more in the 1980s.
Unfortunately, restrictive shipping and selling product regulations prevented the fledgling wine industry from seeing significant growth until a US Supreme Court ruling in 2005 deemed those restrictions unconstitutional. In the year 2000, there were only nine licensed vineyards across the whole state. Now, Verde Valley vineyards are incredibly popular destinations.
Why the Verde Valley Wine Trail Attracts Winemakers and Enthusiasts
The Verde Valley offers unique and fabulous qualities for grape growers, winemakers, and wine enthusiasts alike. Thanks to the variety of soil compositions and proximity to the equator compared to other global wine-growing regions, there are over 40 wine grape varieties grown between 3500 and 5000 feet in elevation in Verde Valley vineyards. Additionally, the significant diurnal temperature shifts of the region allow knowledgeable wine growers to craft exceptional wines with delightful acidity and ripened profiles.
Plus, the notable city of Sedona sits in the northern region of the Verde Valley surrounded by magnificent red rock formations, steep canyon walls, and breathtaking landscapes. It’s also home to vibrant artists and many people seeking to experience the area’s renowned mystical energy, making it a popular destination for those seeking outdoor recreation and spiritual connections.
The city also boasts eight vineyard locations and 25 wine-tasting rooms along the Verde Valley Wine Trail with mind-blowing views of the surrounding landscapes. There is simply no shortage of fantastic wine in Sedona to pair with unforgettable experiences.
Experience Unparalleled Wine Tours
Since the wine scene and industry are still in their early stages in Arizona, the Verde Valley Wine Trail offers a multitude of unique wine-tasting experiences. Traveled wine tour veterans often remark that the atmosphere and experiences available during wine tours in the Verde Valley are excellent for everyone, regardless of their wine knowledge.
With Wine Tours of Sedona, anyone wanting to experience the hidden gems of Arizona’s wine country can cultivate the precise experience they desire. From couples looking for intimate wine tastings or traveling groups wanting to learn more about the region’s history and wine culture, create the perfect wine country tour with the most experienced wine tour company in Sedona. Wine Tours of Sedona is the key to experiencing the diverse Verde Valley vineyards and incredible wine in Sedona.