I've been spending a lot of time in Sedona and northern Arizona this year, and it's about time I start listing my new favorite spots to visit. Merkin Vineyards Tasting Room & Osteria is one of them. Located on Main Street in Old Town Cottonwood, it's the perfect lunch or dinner detour as you are heading into, or departing, Sedona, one I plan to do again on this week's trip.
While most wine tasting rooms that offer food focus on snacks and cheese plates, owner James Maynard Keenan of Merkin Vineyards and Caduceus Cellars wanted guests to be able to pair his wines with Arizona's local cuisine. That means a focus on seasonality and quality ingredients like fresh fruit, nuts, and vegetables sourced from Keenan's orchards and greenhouses, and the Hayden Mills flour (stone-ground from Arizona-grown heritage grains) used in the pasta that anchor the menu. Keenan tapped Executive Chef Chris Smith, formerly of The Asylum, to capture his vision, and he's done this, to much success.
Keenan has transformed the site of a previous Greek restaurant into a modern Arizona saloon, with an etched copper-tiled ceiling, an expansive tasting bar, and seating at community tables, cozy booths tucked against the reclaimed wood-lined wall, front-row seats at the pasta-making counter, and a small streetside patio.
Under the antipasti section of the menu, we started with Pane (foccacia and walnut bread) accompanied by a trio of hummus, house preserves, and thyme and red wine-infused butter.
Rosé tasting flight: Shinola Rosado, Chupacabra Rosa, Jane Pink
And then - lucky for us! - we ran into Keenan, who generously offered an exploration of the menu.
Salumi plate with prosciutto crudo, hot coppa, and chorizo salame.
The summer Merkin Seasonal Salad with fresh greens, cherry and teardrop tomatoes, zucchini ribbons, and toasted pistachios.
Milanese Bruschetta topped with prosciutto, mascarpone, and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Cacio e Pepe with cracked black pepper and Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino-Romano cheeses
Tagliatelle e Ragu with beef and pork meat sauce
Cavatelli Pesto with ricotta and goat cheese pasta in a pesto sauce
The signature Merkin Mac and Cheese made with campanelli pasta infused with Merkin Vineyards wine and beet or prickly pear juice and tossed in a creamy mascarpone sauce (my favorite!)
Lemon panna cotta
Follow along on my Instagram as I head to Sedona again tomorrow, December 12, and plan a Friday lunch at the Osteria.
Merkin Vineyards Tasting Room & Osteria is located at1001 N Main St, Cottonwood, AZ 86326 in the hub of Old Town Cottonwood and close to other Arizona tasting rooms, shops, galleries, boutique hotels, bars, and restaurants. It is open 11 am to 9 pm daily. Phone: (928) 639-1001