Nestled in the aptly-named Verde Valley and sprawling across its rocky slopes is one of Arizona’s hidden secrets. Long-believed, even by those who live in the state’s largest cities – Phoenix and Tucson, the entire state, while situated between the low and high desert, is not all brown scrub and saguaro cacti.
In fact, between the towering pines of Flagstaff in the high desert to the north and the towering saguaro of Phoenix and Tucson in the low desert to the south, one of Arizona’s most fruitful regions can be found – Arizona’s northern wine country. Within the heart of this region is a trio of small towns slowly making a name for themselves as Arizona’s wine mecca. The largest of these is Cottonwood, and the home to one of only a handful of inns and hotels strung along Main Street in the city’s Old Town district.
The fairly-new establishment, hotel known as the Tavern Hotel, was first opened in 2011 by Eric and Michelle Jurisin – the husband and wife team behind The Haunted Group, a well-known Arizona restaurant group known for local successes like Grapes Restaurant & Bar and The Haunted Hamburger in Jerome and four other eating establishments up and down Main Street in Old Town Cottonwood.
The building originally served as a grocery store during the Valley’s early cattle ranching days, and eventually became the Valley Athletic Club. In 2010, the Jurisins purchased the building and set about converting the historic space into a Euro Style Hotel with ten rooms, the Tavern Cottage and two penthouse suites, one of which is located above the Tavern Grille. The 2,300-square-foot suite features three bedrooms, three baths, a gourmet kitchen, and 500-square-feet of patio living space. It once served as the Jurisins original home for the first few years they lived in Cottonwood. The 900-square-foot Bocce penthouse suite is located above Bocce Patio Bar at the other end of Main Street and offers two bedrooms, a rooftop patio and gourmet kitchen. The hotel’s ten, well-appointed, contemporary rooms include hardwood floors, walk-in showers and luxury spa items. To-date, the little hotel has evoked a small-town feel, inviting guests to check-in at the Tavern Grille, located just across the parking lot from the hotel’s entrance. Upon check-in, guests receive a complimentary cocktail, and a voucher for a free continental breakfast at another of the couple’s restaurants, Crema, across the street. But, as more and more tourists have chosen to visit Arizona’s Verde Valley for wine tastings, outdoor activities and cooler temperatures, the demand for rooms has increased.
As a result, the Jurisins decided to expand The Tavern Hotel and open an additional 31 rooms. The new building also includes a 24-hour lobby and additional services for guests.
Since the hotel’s inception, they have been offering a series of getaway packages, including the Verde Canyon Railroad Package, which offers a look at Arizona country that can only be seen by train and Date Night in Old Town, featuring the ingredients of any good date night: chocolates, roses and chilled champagne, plus drinks at the Tavern Grille, a gift card for dinner at Nic’s and breakfast the next morning at Crema. But, it is the ever-popular Wine Getaway packages that attract the Valley’s wine enthusiasts.
The Tavern Hotel’s Very Special Getaway in Old Town gives tourists an overnight stay and a taste of Old Town Cottonwood. Guests begin with welcome drinks at the Tavern Grille before they amble over to the Pillsbury Wine Company, Burning Tree Cellars, and Winery 101 tasting rooms for a complimentary taste of Arizona wines. Each of the tasting rooms showcases some of the state’s most popular wines and brings with them a unique and savory experience of the Arizona terroir. For example, the Pillsbury Wine Company, brainchild of modern-day renaissance man Sam Pillsbury (film director, producer and writer, architect, sailor, horseback rider, and award-winning winemaker), features some of Arizona’s best wines and their tasting room in Cottonwood is an excellent place to get to know them. Burning Tree Cellars features small-batch, boutique wines out of their tasting room in Old Town Cottonwood. Enjoy their Arizona-made wine on their expansive patio where guests can drink in an Arizona sunset, too. And Winery 101 has two lines of wine. Gallifant Cellars and SouthPaw Cellars. Their new tasting room is exceptional, and during any weekend tasting, you will likely be served by the owners themselves. If you haven’t already guessed, both are southpaws. Guests can sip and savor the fruits of their labor at these three tasting rooms in Old Town Cottonwood.
After an evening of Arizona winetasting, guests have a $50 gift card for dinner at the Jurisin’s old Italian steakhouse – Nic’s Italian Steak & Crab House. Located just across the street from the hotel, Nic’s offers a delicious end for a relaxing evening. After a night spent at The Tavern Hotel, participants can enjoy a continental breakfast at Crema Craft Kitchen + Bar, another of the Jurisin’s restaurant success stories. The cost of the package is $199 plus tax (single or double occupancy). A two-night stay is available for guests between Monday and Thursday.
The Getaway Wine Package combines some of the best of the Verde Valley, and provides a mere taste of what’s there to experience. A stay in The Tavern Hotel, a taste of two of the town’s restaurants and winetasting at three of the seven tasting rooms in Old Town, still leaves plenty to be discovered, including two more of the Jurisin’s restaurants in Cottonwood and two others in the old, hilltop mining town of Jerome. TheTavernHotel.com
The Haunted Group Restaurants
In all, there are seven establishments owned by The Haunted Group, the company, founded by Eric and Michelle Jurisin, which owns and operates The Tavern Hotel as well as Grapes Restaurant & Bar and The Haunted Hamburger in Jerome, and The Tavern Grille, Pizzeria Bocce Patio Bar, Nic’s Italian Steak & Crab Restaurant and Crema Craft Kitchen + Bar in Old Town Cottonwood. The couple, together for thirty years, decided in the mid-1990s to spend half their time in Scottsdale and the other half in Cottonwood. After a few years, they discovered they loved small-town living and decided to move to the Verde Valley full-time. They first lived in the Haunted Hamburger building in Jerome, then relocated into what is now the penthouse suite above the Tavern Grille. A few more years and several restaurants later, the couple moved to a small vineyard on the edge of town. Together, they manage the business – Michelle, a chef, handles the menu and food for all six restaurants, and Eric attends to the operations. Each of the restaurants features a full menu, craft cocktails, local beer and wine and a unique dining experience that showcases great food, historic Cottonwood, haunting Jerome, and Arizona’s beautiful weather.
The Haunted Hamburger
Located along Clark Road/89A as it begins its descent down the north side of Mingus Mountain through the old mining town of Jerome, The Haunted Hamburger offers stunning views of the Verde Valley below and the San Francisco Peaks in the distance. It also serves up delicious fare with southwestern flare and more than a little local ghost lore. Indulge in one of the Southwest’s signature drinks, the margarita, but with a Haunted Hamburger twist (the Hauntarita) or a local craft beer. Known for their hamburgers, their menu showcases countless variations on the burger as well as a full menu of “Not the Burgers” to peruse. In the mood for something sweet, grab a traditional handspun milkshake or one of their grown-up choices like the Bourbon and Bacon milkshake.
410 Clark Road, Jerome, AZ 86331, 928-634-0554, TheHauntedHamburger.com
Nic’s Italian Steak & Crab House
Nic’s Italian Steak & Crab House may be situated on Main Street in Old Town Cottonwood, but the nearly twenty-year-old restaurant is reminiscent of the old Italian steakhouses of the East Coast. Step inside and you’ll discover brass railings, dark wood, and an atmosphere that will immediately transport you. The traditional menu includes pasta favorites such as the house specialty (Classic Lasagna), Eggplant Parmesan and Baked Ziti as well as Tuscan-style steaks from the grill, and seafood dishes like Shrimp Scampi and Lobster Ravioli. If you can’t decide between steak or fish, no worries: simply add from the surf and turf portion of the menu. Don’t forget to try the house favorite soup – New England Clam Chowder. Mondays are Martini Nights; there are several to choose from. You’ll also find Italian and local draft and bottled beer and local Arizona and Italian wines.
925 N. Main Street, Cottonwood, AZ 86326, 928-634-9626, NicsAZ.com
The Tavern Grille
In 1998, the country’s “longest running single-screen theater” succumbed to a fire and finally closed its doors. Several years later, the old Rialto Theater building, originally built in 1923, was renovated and in late 2005, The Tavern Grille opened. The old theater is now home to one of Old Town Cottonwood’s most popular eating establishments. Stop by for happy hour any time between 3-7pm daily for $4 cocktails from their Classic Cocktails menu, $3 local draft beer, house wine or well drinks, and $5 appetizers like their Beef Street Tacos, loaded potato skins or BBQ Beef Sliders. The everyday menu is packed and covers everything from appetizers to lavosh-style pizzas to salads, burgers, sandwiches and even hearty entrees and pastas. Looking for something seasonal? Check out their weekly specials for the Grille’s featured drink, appetizer, salad, and meals.
914 N. Main Street, Cottonwood, AZ 86326, 928-634-6669, TheTavernGrille.com
Grapes Restaurant & Bar
Also located on the scenic and historic 89A that traverses switchback through the town of Jerome, Grapes Restaurant & Bar offers lunch and dinner daily to locals and tourists alike. Like all Haunted Group restaurants, the Grapes menu is extensive and features both locally-inspired fare and wine and beer made in Arizona as well as hand-crafted cocktails. Monday through Friday the restaurant menu includes an array of weeknight food and drink specials served 5pm to close. The regular menu features bar favorites like the crispy pub wing (baked, not fried) as well as wine bar choices such as the meat and cheese board and a list of tasty bruschetta. Also on the menu, are soups, salads, sandwiches, pizza, pasta and entrees served with pasta.
925 N. Main Street, Jerome, AZ 86331, 928-639-8477, GrapesJerome.com
Pizzeria Bocce Patio Bar
This indoor-outdoor patio bar is located on Main Street as it heads north out of Old Town Cottonwood. Inspired by Chef Michelle Jurisin’s East Coast upbringing and her Italian roots, the restaurant showcases a decidedly Italian menu in a laid-back Arizona setting. Large picture windows, an indoor-outdoor bar, and patio seating make for the perfect environment for a little culinary adventure. The menu is packed with appetizers like Italian meat stuffed bread, Arizona favorites with an Italian twist, like the Guaca Bocce, an Italian-style guacamole served with pizza chips instead of tortilla chips, entrée-style salads, paninis and Naples-style pizza. The bar offers a full menu of drinks from local draft beers and Arizona wines to Italian-inspired cocktails. Add the smell of roasted garlic and the scent of the wood-burning oven and it’s a truly unique dining experience.
1060 N. Main Street, Cottonwood, AZ 86236, 928-202-3597, BocceCottonwood.com
Crema Craft Kitchen + Bar
Step up to the little window at Crema Craft Kitchen and Bar on Main Street in Old Town Cottonwood for a hot coffee, latte or a house-made pastry. Step inside for a sit-down breakfast, lunch or dinner. Crema offers both indoor tables and outdoor seating in the narrow courtyard nestled between the restaurant and its neighbor to the right. Both spaces are two of the many historic buildings along Main Street; they are connected by old tunnels once used for bootlegging. Today, the brightly-painted restaurant and outdoor courtyard offer tables for two or more to enjoy the eclectic menu of house-made entrees, including southwest-inspired breakfast options like the chilequiles (a mix of eggs, braised pork, black beans, green chiles and other delicious ingredients), traditional eggs benedicts dishes, pancakes, waffles and crepes, and salads and sandwiches. Also on the menu: local draft beers, craft cocktails and Arizona wines. While the restaurant closes at 2pm, the walk-up window remains open until 3pm, in case you need a late-afternoon caffeine boost.
917 N. Main Street, Cottonwood, AZ 86326, 928-649-5785, CremaCottonwood.com