The Munchie Report: On a Mission for Maynard Wine – Jerome, AZ
Four of my all-time favorite things are weed, wine, music, and food! These were are all gloriously melded together on our vacation to Merkin Vineyards, Caduceus Cellars, and Merkin Osteria in Jerome/Cottonwood, Arizona.
Each of these establishments are owned by Maynard James Keenan. He is the frontman of the bands TOOL, A Perfect Circle, and Puscifer. We have been huge fans for decades. Now he makes wine and food? Shooooot. Best trip ever. :D
Image from: https://merkinvineyardsosteria.com/#caduceus
At the time of this trip, my spouse was getting Wine and Spirit Education Trust Level 2 Certified. We were tasting a million wines. You know, for research. We drank cheap grocery store wines all the way up to some of the highest-rated wines in the world. Naturally, when we found out about Caduceus Cellars, we bought that shit. It was surprisingly amazing. Way better than we expected. We even joined the Velvet Slippers Wine Club to get more. The membership comes with the epic bonuses of an MJK autographed poster and a fabulous Caduceus corkscrew.
We were inspired to take a 14-day wine/food/reefer road trip across the country that we’ve lovingly named, “Fear and Loathing in the Verde Valley”. The whole trip was epic but I’ll keep to the point, or at least try. Zzzttt. After 3 long days of travel and dabbling at dispensaries in Colorado, we parked our RV at a beautiful campground in Cottonwood, AZ. As soon as that sucker was plugged in and hotboxed proper, we headed to Merkin Osteria for dinner.
We sat at the bar and ordered a wine tasting. The bartender was totally awesome. He knew what he was talking about when it came to the product and the area. As I explained in my last blog, different wine grapes grow better in different places. It was cool learning a bit more about what they were harvesting in Arizona.
We enjoyed some fabulous, newly released rosé and ordered dinner. I was all about the gnocchi and my partner in crime ordered the Merkin mac and cheese. The menu at Merkin is pretty limited but that’s what quality places do. Everything is farm to table and executed to perfection. The gnocchi is made with sage, prosciutto, and a parmesan cream sauce. It was literally crack. The gnocchi was light, pillowy, and well made. The cream sauce was thick, creamy and well seasoned.
Prosciutto is always just delicious. These are classic flavor combinations here so there isn’t much innovation on this dish but it was done fantastically right and I ate it again the next night.
The mac and cheese on the other hand……totally weird. Red wine and prickly pear infused pasta. It had a light red wine color and the flavor was just as different. Slightly fruity but not off-putting as it was a savory dish. The cream sauce again was great. The earthy beet dust set the whole dish off. All of the flavors come together in a fantastic mosh pit of interesting and tasty goodness. We capped the night with some Gorilla Glue #1 and passed out. We couldn’t wait to head to the Caduceus Tasting room and Puscifer store the next morning in Jerome.
Before we left that night, the bartender warned us to get to Jerome before 10:30 am because parking is limited. I was glad we took his advice. The road to town hugs the side of a mountain and provides a crazy view of the valley below. The tiny city (with a population of 400ish people) is a high elevation staircase of houses and business. It’s really neat and super trippy. Due to the lay of the land, there really isn’t much public parking.
After finding a spot for the car, we hit the pre-rolled white widow spliff and headed down to the tasting room. A lot of winemakers have a couple of different lines of wine. The more select wine, in this case, the Caduceus, is usually aged longer, is a limited production, or it’s highly rated. The Merkin is still great wine at a more approachable price.
During our tasting, we learned more about the Arizona terroir. Terroir is the term often used to describe the flavor the environment gives the wine. They use a few varietals native to the Mediterranean and the “old world” flavor was very similar to Italian wines.
We purchased their new dessert wine and a Merkin hoodie and headed to the Puscifer store. They were having a cool sale on all merchandise. You reach in a bucket and grab a ticket that is good for anything from a discount to free stuff. My favorite person happened to draw 50% off our next purchase. We now own every Maynard-fronted-band album on vinyl that they had. Winning!
All of that smoking and shopping made us hungry so we turned to Google. We made a “pit stop” at the car and also dropped our collection off before walking to Vaqueros Grill and Cantina. It looked neat. I loved the decorations. Looking at cool stuff while sipping a great margarita is a good way to keep me calm when I’m hangry. LMAO. The place was packed and that’s always a good sign. The waitress was awesome. The food was phenomenal. I mean, just look at this fajita!!!! It’s beautiful.
The manfriend got the molé and it’s equally as beautiful. They say you eat with your eyes first. This place nails presentation.
I promise you it tasted as good as it looked. It was rich and fresh. The meat was tender and the molé sauce was everything it should be. We will definitely be back to this joint for some fire Mexican food.
Along our trip, we also stopped at the Grand Canyon, lots of Arizona and New Mexico wineries, and Roswell New Mexico. We ate some great food at the Pecos Flavors Winery and Bistro. Best spot to eat in alien country! Thank you to MJK for making great wine and great food. We are looking forward to the new TOOL album dropping soon. I cannot wait to make the trip to Arizona again and I sure hope this article inspires some of you to check out Jerome!
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