Renowned winemaker and musician Maynard James Keenan and his dedicated team, the creative minds behind Caduceus Cellars, Four 8 Wineworks and Merkin Vineyards, have brought a new addition to its ever-growing wine collection: Merkin Vineyards Hilltop Winery & Trattoria. This Cottonwood-based vineyard and tasting room offers a picturesque vantage point overlooking the Verde Valley, where glasses are filled and delectable food is savored.
Situated across seven sprawling acres, the new compound is a culmination of two decades of relentless dedication by Keenan and his team. The grounds are a mixed-use property, combining Caduceus Cellars Hilltop Facility & VSC Ventura Room and Merkin Vineyards Hilltop Winery & Trattoria. These spaces house the new state-of-the-art winery and cellar, an inviting tasting room, a charming restaurant, retail spaces, a food production greenhouse, a gelateria and a picturesque vineyard nestled in the heart of Old Town Cottonwood.
“In the many years I’ve been working towards this moment, one of the things I discovered when it comes to bridging the hurdle of exposing people to Arizona wine is context,” says Keenan in a press release. “So by putting a place like this in the middle of Cottonwood with five acres of vines, to winery facilities with a full greenhouse and a full kitchen, all the context becomes visible and you kind of break down the barriers of whatever preconceptions you have of Arizona wines.”
Caduceus Cellars Hilltop Facility & VSC Ventura Room is a highlight of the grand space, featuring a 9,500-sq.-ft., cutting-edge production facility, a five-acre vineyard graced with Graciano, Tempranillo and Garnacha grape varieties and a brand new VSC (Velvet Slippers Club) private tasting room. Private tastings and tours offer visitors an exclusive look into the rich history and intricate processes behind Caduceus Cellars. The vineyard can be perused during a visit, with vines engulfing the space.
Merkin Vineyards Hilltop Winery & Trattoria is equally captivating, housing a winery, a barrel room, an on-site greenhouse and a bottle shop. Led by Chef Chris Smith, The Trattoria, an award-winning restaurant, offers a picturesque 270-degree view of the Verde Valley and serves a menu of fresh greens, handmade pastas and wood-oven pizzas. Some Merkin favorites are highlighted on the menu, including Merkin Mac & Cheese with prickly pear-infused pasta, pancetta-mascarpone cream sauce and dusted beet powder; gnocchi with traditionally prepared potato dumpling, sage and a prosciutto di parma cream sauce; and lasagna cupcakes, each of which have been crafted with duck egg pasta, fresh ingredients from the greenhouse and served with ciabatta. These cupcakes include a veggie, meat or chicken relleno.
Treat yourself to the delightful dolce menu, boasting the renowned housemade Gelati & Sorbeti, showcasing seasonal flavors inspired by the season’s freshest ingredients. Choose from delectable options such as fresh cannoli or the timeless coffee classic, tiramisu. Past gelati flavors have included lavender Malvasia, pomegranate lemon and salted caramel cream.
Each plate, whether sweet or savory, has a complementing wine pairing. We recommend a flight to help you experience and savor each label, with vintages including Chupacabra Bubbles, a sparkling white shape-shifter with a focus on Sauvignon Blanc and Malvasia Bianca; Shinola, an Italian red with bright acidity; or Caduceus Sancha, made entirely with Tempranillo vines for a Rioja-style glass (to name a few). For those who wish to take the experience home, each bottle of wine, including the extensive vintage collection curated by Keenan, is available for purchase at the restaurant’s front. Enthusiasts of rare finds will be delighted to discover limited-edition gems like the coveted Legion in this selection.
At the focal point of the 6,600-sq.-ft. restaurant is a spacious central bar and a charming outdoor patio complete with cozy string lights, mixed metals and wood elements. Adjacent to the restaurant, guests can observe an 8,000-case production facility and a display barrel room, complete with six custom concrete fermentation and aging cubes.
Merkin Vineyards Hilltop Winery & Trattoria is open to visitors Sunday to Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
For more information, visit www.merkinvineyards.org.
770 N. Verde Heights Dr.
Cottonwood, AZ 86326