We did some exploring of nearby towns, Cottonwood and Jerome. On the way we stopped at a couple of wineries in the Verde Valley of northern Arizona for some tastings – Oak Creek Vineyards and Page Springs Cellars. Although several people told us Page Springs was the best, we preferred Oak Creek.
Oak Creek has been crafting wines since 2002, ten years at the time of our visit in 2012. The owner, Deb Wahl, was born in Croatia, spent most of her youth in South Africa, before coming to the US. While visiting Sedona in 2000, she and her family purchased ten acres and began planting grapes. The tasting room had a welcoming feel to it, and we had no complaints about the wines we tasted.
At the Page Springs tasting, the young woman behind the counter seemed to be more interested in visiting with a co-worker than discussing the wines we tasted. We were disappointed in the wines as well, they didn’t live up to their reputation. Maybe it was just a bad day for them? At least, we did get some nice wine glasses as souvenirs of the tasting, so not a total disappointment.
Cottonwood bills itself as “The Old Town City.” The town was founded in 1879, and was named for a circle of sixteen large cottonwoods growing near the Verde River. It was supposed to have the best bootlegging booze withing hundreds of miles (wonder how that compared to Minnesota 13?) The downtown has many lovely shops, and a person could spend several hours exploring. We did some olive oil and balsamic vinegar testing at Verde Valley Olive Oil Traders. We purchased a few oils and vinegars, and dinner that night consisted of bread, cheeses, meats, olives, oil and vinegar – pretty tasty.
From there, we drove to nearby Jerome, an old copper mining town, which bills itself as a mile high town. Jerome is an old copper mining town. Native Americans were the first miners, followed by the Spanish seeking gold. In 1876, the first Anglos staked a claim, and staked a claim, and mining continued until 1953. the first open pit mine was started in 1918 after an uncontrollable fire had erupted in one of the mine tunnels. Dynamite blasts rattled the hills, the surface began to shift and buildings began to crack. Entire sections of the business district slid downhill. There are still 88 miles of tunnels under the town, some as deep as 4.800 feet below the surface.
Jerome is now an artists’ community (some would say hippie town.) We checked out a few of the galleries and wandered around town for a while. The town is built on the side of the mountain, there’s a lot of walking up and down hill. Driveways, where they exist, are extremely steep. You want a car with good brakes to live in this town, like in Duluth, Minnesota, or Houghton/Hancock, Michigan (another community that flourished during bygone copper mining days.)
It was challenging walking up and down the streets until we became acclimated to the altitude. We had a good lunch at the Mile High Grill (verified by our GPS as being just shy of 5,280 feet.)
Jerome is home to the Jerome State Historic Park. This park is the site of the James. S. Douglas Mansion, built just above his Little Daisy Mine, and the Audrey Headframe Park. The mansion was designed as a hotel for mining officials and investors as well as for Douglas’ family residence. It featured a wine cellar, billiard room, marble shower, steam heat and a central vacuum system. It was constructed of adobe bricks made on the site, and is the largest adobe structure in Arizona.
Now it is a museum devoted to the history of the town of Jerome and the Douglas family. On our way to the mansion, we (actually Kathleen, as usual) managed to take a wrong turn and ended up driving on a one-lane gravel road down the side of one of the hills in Jerome and through the open pit mine – just another adventure. We chose to go back a different way.