Merkin Vineyards Old Town Scottsdale Tasting Room Opens March 14
Today at noon, Merkin Vineyards Old Town Scottsdale, the highly-anticipated Scottsdale outpost of Merkin Vineyards opens in what used to be the former FnB spot next to Cowboy Ciao. Owner and head winemaker Maynard Keenan of Caduceus Cellars and Merkin opened Merkin Vineyards Tasting Room & Osteria in Cottonwood in November of 2016 and, as I mention in my feature here, it’s become a destination in itself. With executive chef Chris Smith turning out handmade pastas, bread baked daily and dishes taking advantage of Arizona’s bounty, it’s a regular stop when we are headed north to Sedona or Verde Valley wine country.
Earlier this year, I interviewed Maynard and co-winemaker Tim White for a book I’ve written on the history of Arizona wine (to be released this summer as part of Arcadia Publishing’s American Palate series). As a bonus, he also filled me in on what he has planned for this new location.
“It’s an extension of what I’ve created at Merkin Osteria Cottonwood,” explained Maynard. “What we’re doing is trying to present you with a fully-incorporated Arizona wine and food experience.” The Cottonwood menu is anchored by pastas and breads made with Arizona-grown grains. but also puts an emphasis on local produce - much of the fruit and vegetables on the changing seasonal menu is sourced from Maynard’s own gardens and orchards. “I put an orchard in,” said Maynard, “apricots, plums, pomegranates, peaches, Asian pears, apples and figs. It’s about a quarter of an acre up there, we have another acre and a half in Cornville, and the greenhouses themselves are a couple of acres.” In fact, while I was there, I was happy to get a chance to meet Maynard’s father Mike Keenan, who was dropping off some fresh vegetables harvested from the greenhouses he runs on Maynard’s property.
”The experience in Scottsdale will be slightly different because we won't have a full kitchen for pastas, and the breads will probably come down once a week from Osteria.” For Maynard, whose 110 acres of vineyards skew toward Italian and Spanish grapes (he’s a fan of varietals such as Graciano, Negroamaro, and Sagrantino), tapas are a natural pairing for his wines. “In terms of wine, if we are, in fact, more of a Spanish and Italian growing region, it should follow that Spanish and Italian dishes should pair well. We’ll have Spanish and Italian cheese and charcuterie, and I just racked off the brine from 15 gallons of olives off my olive trees. The menu will feature everything that we can grow, so tapas plates heavy on vegetables, and I’ve come up with an idea of how we can grow our own fingerlings and smaller potatoes to harvest.” Gelati and sorbetti will round out the menu, made by Kelly Foy (the original founder of Crema Cafe in Cottonwood). “For that, we’ll use fruit from our orchards, herbs from our gardens, and Arizona dairy products.”
“There's roughly 120 seats at the new place. There will be a full bottle shop with all the Merkin wines, Caduceus, including some exclusive Caduceus archive wines, and Arizona Vignerons Alliance and Four Eight wines will be represented as well. All the Merkin wines will be on tap. We’ll have bubbly, a Puscifer cider, and we’re working with some brewers in the state on two Merkin beers and a Puscifer beer. I’m a malty-roasty guy - I like somewhere between a Xingu and a Negra Modelo - so that will be the Puscifer beer in the can, and then we’ll have two Merkin beers on tap.
“It’s a wine bar,” says Maynard, “but the food menu is going to be the thing that really drives it.”
“Our farms to your table, our vines to your glass.”
Merkin Vineyards Old Town Scottsdale is located at 7133 E. Stetson Dr. Suite #4, Scottsdale, AZ 85251. HOURS: Sun-Thurs 11 am - 9 pm. Fri & Sat 11 am - 11 pm. Phone: (480) 912-1027