A Day in the Life of Jerome

A central Arizona mining town with a population of 458 people, charming Jerome is perched on the dramatic Black Hills giving residents and visitors a spectacular view of the Verde Valley and the red cliffs of Oak Creek Canyon. And, there is no better way to relish this view than by touring art galleries, shopping for kitschy gifts, and tasting Arizona wine in Jerome’s historic buildings perched on the hillside.

Jerome was founded in the late 19thcentury to mine gold, silver, and one of the world’s largest copper deposits ever uncovered. The tiny town exploded and was soon the fourth largest city in the Arizona territory, eventually growing into a population of 15,000. But, the run of copper, as well as gold and silver, dwindled to a halt, and by 1953 the mines officially closed. Jerome’s bustling population shrunk to fewer than 100 people and the copper companies began tearing down its historic buildings.

Thanks to the diligent work of the Jerome Historical Society and the massive hearts of the town’s many supporters, this once crumbling frontier community is thriving again – with proponents on both sides of this equation. Visitors can enjoy a vacation rental and a walk about town while residents stagger around visitors’ cars parked in every possible nook and cranny just to reach their own driveways.

Nonetheless, the charms of this place in history are well worth exploring. After spending the night (park nice for the residents, please!), start your morning with a delicious espresso and breakfast at The Flatiron, a tiny coffee shop perched at the head of a narrow wedge separating two one-way streets. You might try a plump quesadilla made with scrambled eggs, black beans, cotija and provolone cheese, spicy Hatch chiles, and topped with sour cream.

Next wander around the corner to Cabal Cellars, a cellar-like tasting room on the lower road. Pretty funky name, right? Well, it’s a darned funky winery, too. Cabal Cellars is a collaboration between winemaker Jason Domanico and the employees of his Passion Cellars and Salvatore Vineyards. As the employees describe Cabal on social media, it is the “contrived schemes of a group of persons secretly united in a plot.” The funky labels in this funky winery display long forgotten characters and historical conspiracies. Using unusual blends, like Chardonnay and Riesling, this winery features a range of completely unique wines.

There are five wines in a tasting, but many more on the wine menu. Ah, what to skip over? I wouldn’t skip over a single wine because each is absolutely delicious. But, no matter what you do, be sure to taste Conspiracy. This mouth-watering blend of Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Tinta Cão, a Portuguese varietal, would taste delicious with a grilled New York strip steak slathered with mushrooms that are sautéed with white wine, butter, herbs, and shallots.

And, if you buy two bottles of wine from Cabal Cellars, your tasting is free (insert smiley face here!).

Next, walk outside to a crumbling flight of stairs that takes you to an upper road featuring more shops, restaurants, and wineries. Start with Jason Domanico’s fine winemaking touch at Passion Cellars and Salvatore Vineyards, two wineries in a shared tasting room that sits above Jerome’s police station. Featuring a completely different atmosphere than Cabal Cellars, this bright sunny tasting room is filled with comfortable couches, colorful art, and more luscious wines. And, oh my, more decisions! Hopefully you have brought a plethora of friends with you, because this tasting room features not one, but two wine lists.

Passion Cellars is an award-winning list of Arizona table wines, while Salvatore Vineyards takes the best of Arizona’s grapes each year to make age-worthy, limited-edition wines in the name of the Jason Domanico’s grandfather, Salvatore Ligammari, a winemaker from Italy. The only way to taste them all – and still be able to continue your walk around town – is to share your tasting with your friends. Don’t miss Passion Cellars affordable wines, such as Malvasia Bianca, but be sure to also enjoy Salvatore Vineyards’ fine wines, such as the mouth-watering Sangiovese.

While at Cabal Cellars or at Passion Cellars/Salvatore Vineyards, it’s possible that you run into Cody Burkett, also known as the Arizona Wine Monk. A regular feature at both tasting rooms, Burkett posts a blogabout Arizona wine, as well as two delightful podcasts: a podcast about Arizona wine and a podcast about wines from all over the U.S.

We’ve tasted and talked about quite a bit of wine already, so maybe it’s time for lunch? You could head back to The Flatiron and enjoy its weekly menu of Mexican street-style tacos with options for all diet preferences. If you’re really lucky, The Flatiron will be out of sunflower seeds and your already delicious Flat House Side Salad, replete with Italian olives, will be topped instead with salty pistachios (yummy!).

But if the tiny Flatiron is already packed with lunch guests, you could explore Jerome’s colorful past at the Haunted Hamburger, located in a reportedly haunted building with a stunning view of the Verde Valley below. Enjoy a plethora of hamburgers, including, what else, the Haunted Burger which is topped with bacon, cheddar cheese, swiss cheese, mushrooms, green chilies, grilled onions, and guacamole. Close your lunch with a delicious slice of dark chocolate cake topped with dark chocolate icing and a dollop of whipped cream.

Next, walk off that filling lunch and head down to Vino Zona, a unique tasting room that features several Arizona wines and meads, including some that you might not be able to taste anyplace else. Using her magically musical voice, owner Ginger Mackenzie tells stories about Arizona wine and mead while you taste from whichever bottles strike your fancy in a sun-filled room with cozy chairs and lovely art.

Never worry that tiny Vino Zona will ever get too busy; Mackenzie shuts the door when the tasting room is full so that you can enjoy your tasting. Try a mead from Superstition Meadery or wine from Cellar 433, which also hosts its own tasting room just down the block. (Sidenote: don’t you just adore Mackenzie’s website URL, vinozona.love?)

Finally, head back to the upper road where you can close your day with a tasting at Caduceus Cellars. Owner and winemaker Maynard James Keenan, who is also vocalist for Tool, a Grammy Award-winning progressive metal band, moved to Jerome in 1995 to escape Los Angeles craziness. While sitting on his porch contemplating a specatacular view, it occurred to him that his land on the side of the Black Hills was much like the land of his forefathers in Italy – where grapes grow. He dug a few holes, planted a few grapes, and, as they say, the rest is history.

Caduceus Cellars along with its companion, Merkin Vineyards, now produces some of Arizona’s finest wines. With a constantly changing tasting menu, I can’t guarantee what bottles you’ll find when you visit. But I know that you will find it impossible to resist joining the Caduceus Cellars wine club which delivers unique wines that are unavailable anyplace else in the world.

Hopefully you’ve left some room for dinner, because we’ll close here with an irresistible choice: The Asylum Restaurant, a fine dining establishment located in the historic United Verde Hospital, which was converted into the Jerome Grand Hotel in 1994.

Here, you can enjoy classics like lobster or filet mignon, or unexpected dishes like prickly pear barbecued pork tenderloin. This delightful restaurant hosts an absolutely enormous wine list with wines from all over the world, including Arizona.

Start your meal with New Zealand calamari and Austrian Grüner Vetliner. Next, try butternut squash soup with Arizona Stronghold Nachise, a bright Rhône-style blend made from grapes harvested at Bonita Springs Vineyard, north of Willcox, Ariz. Finally, just go for it with delicious entrées for you and your plethora of friends and serve a luscious bottle of Dalla Valle Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, Calif.

Time to navigate your way back to your hotel room or your vacation rental for a good night’s rest. Just remember, be nice to the neighbors. It’s possible their families have lived in Jerome since before Arizona joined the U.S. way back in 1912.

Photo: Cody Chasen Burkett contemplating wine inside Cabal Cellars (Elizabeth Krecker). 

A Day’s Guide to Jerome

Asylum Restaurant
200 Hill St.
Jerome, AZ 86331
Phone: (928) 639-3197
Website

Cabal Cellars
417 Hull Ave.
Jerome, AZ 86331
Phone: (928) 634-9576
Facebook

Caduceus Cellars
158 Main St.
Jerome, AZ 86331
Phone: (928) 639-WINE(9463)
Website

Cellar 433
240 Hull Ave.
Jerome, AZ 86331
Phone: (928) 634-7033
Website

Jerome Grand Hotel
200 Hill St.
Jerome, AZ 86331
Phone: (888) 817-6788
Website

Passion Cellars/Salvatore Vineyards
301 Main St.
Jerome, AZ 86331
Phone: (928) 649-9800
Website

The Flatiron
416 Main St.
Jerome, AZ 86331
Phone: (928) 634-2733
Website

The Haunted Hamburger
410 Clark St.
Jerome, AZ 86331
Phone: (928) 634-0554
Website

Vino Zona
527 Main St.
Jerome, AZ 86331
Phone: (928) 284-8053
Website

Additional References

Arizona Stronghold. (2018).

Bieniek, P. (2014, December 29). Jerome: A City Suspended in Time. Arizona: The Grand Canyon State.

Jerome Historical Society. (2018).

Make America Grape Again Podcast. (2018). Retrieved from https://makeamericagrapeagainpodcast.com

Masley, E. (2012, February 6). Rocker, winemaker Maynard James Keenan sets Arizona roots. The Arizona Republic.

Merkin Vineyards & Osteria. (2018). Retrieved from http://merkinvineyardsosteria.com

Podcast Archives – The Wine Monk: Arizona Wine Blog. (2018).

The Wine Monk: Arizona Wine Blog. (2018).

Town of Jerome Arizona. (2018).

Trimble, M. (2018, April 30). The Riches of Cleopatra Hill. True West.

 

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