Way up north in Arizona, where the oppressive desert heat is cooled by elevated heights, and rumored ghosts never show their faces, lies Jerome—a small city of spirits. An eccentric former copper mining town nestled within the Verde Valley, Jerome has a secret: it is the home of best wine region in the American desert.
Where to Sleep
You’ll be tempted to book a room at the Jerome Grande Hotel, a supposed haunted former asylum a mile-high on the hill, but you shouldn’t; you’ll end up paying way too much for a drab room. Instead book a room at the retro cool Hotel Connor, a central boutique that is pure history, with an accommodating wait staff and a downstairs bar great for meeting locals.
Where to Eat
Grab a seat at the bar, ask for a pour of something local, and pair it with a few rounds of bruschetta, cheese, almonds, and olives. After dinner, have another pour and take it on the back patio to enjoy the early dusk sunsets that define Arizona’s starburst skies.
Just because you didn’t book a room at the Jerome Grande Hotel doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have drinks and dinner at the appropriately named restaurant, Asylum (the building used to house mental patients before the city became a ghost town). The restaurant boasts great food and better views, and you’re guaranteed to encounter bizarre Jerome characters.
Where to Taste Delicious Wine
Cellar 433 is a quick walk from the Hotel Connor. In this quaint tasting room we like to sip local red Tempranillo or almond sparkling wine and sit on the back patio for views of Sedona’s distant red rocks.
If you want to learn all about Arizona wines and how, like Argentina’s Mendoza region, it produces some of the fullest reds anywhere, you should stay a while at Passion Cellars, a cozy, modern space with a knowledgable staff willing to educate you. Listen closely while sampling $4.50 pours and enjoying a cheese and meat plate.
The lead singer of Tool, Maynard James Keegan, owns Caduceus Cellars, and if ever the many emotions of Jerome intersected in one place, this would be it. In 2003, Maynard’s mother, Nagual del Judith, passed away. He scattered her ashes across his vineyard, and then named their full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon after her. Haunting, beautiful, meaningful and delicious, like the city itself, we suggest you have a glass in this lovely tasting room and experience the bizarre, macabre beauty of America’s loveliest ghost town.
Discover the Area
Take a drive through the bucolic Verde Valley, where tumbleweeds cartwheel through verdant grape vineyards; you’ll end up 10 miles down the road in Old Town Cottonwood, a charming forgotten city full of tasting rooms, charming boutiques, and a few restaurants worth the trip.
Kenny Porpora has been a writer for The New York Times, New York Daily News, Newsday, and has been an editor for The Huffington Post. He joined Man About World as an editor in 2012.