Located at 3445 S Grapevine Way, Cottonwood, AZ 86326
Open Daily 11a-5p
Today’s adventure takes us to wine country in the northern part of Arizona. Specifically, the town of Cottonwood. It’s about an hour south of Flagstaff and ninety minutes north of Phoenix. Downtown Cottonwood has several winery tasting rooms located down a single strip of road. But on my way out there I drove through a stretch of land with mountains, cacti and little else. I pulled over to pee and check my phone when I quickly realized that I had little-to-no reception in this area. Neither Facebook nor Instagram were loading and I was having trouble delivering the travel pictures that I was trying to send to my ex-girlfriends via text so as to make them jealous of all my awesome adventures and make them realize that I was infinitely more fun than the losers they were dating now. Look at me driving out to wine country, Darlene! Does your shitty boyfriend ever take you on awesome adventures like these?!?
I’ve rarely had this much trouble connecting to my social media accounts on one of my adventures so I made the most logical assumption I could come up with: That all of civilization had collapsed and we had finally reached the Mad Max-style apocalypse that Republicans had been warning us about ever since we started letting the gays make out with each other in public. Clearly the entire state of Arizona – and possibly the world – had officially become a warzone with people splitting off into murdertribes. Our global communication systems had been destroyed, all governments had disintegrated and surely it was kill-or-be-killed out there.
I decided to take full advantage of this new lawless universe in which road rage was used as currency. Luckily I was already driving a car that fit the look. I was in an ’89 Accord that was gray but for some reason had a bumper that was white and held on by a chain. The car would only start if I rolled the passenger window down halfway, I pumped the brake four times, jiggled the steering wheel consistently left and right for at least twenty seconds and then opened the sunroof. The fake bullet hole stickers that were on the car when I bought it for $200 cash from a Mexican guy with a face tattoo made it seem like it had been through some mayhem. Also the trunk would pop open every single time I closed the driver’s side door. I attached some spikes to the white bumper and barreled down the road looking for some shit to raid.
About 15 minutes outside of downtown Cottonwood I came across a sign that pointed me toward a dirt road. I had been marauding for a whole twenty minutes already. I needed a drink.
So I followed the signs up a hill and eventually came to a large vineyard and a lovely home that was surprisingly intact even after the obvious apocalypse that was causing my phone to only have one bar. I tried watching an episode of Veep on my phone’s HBO GO app but nothing would load. This was my world now. A vast, desert wasteland with limited resources and spotty cellular data plans. As everything fell apart around me I realized that there was nothing else I could do but survive. Anyway that I could.
I walked up to the front door of the Alcantara Vineyards house and pulled a sawed-off shotgun out of my desert wasteland suit jacket that had small cast iron skillets taped to the shoulders for protection. I didn’t have any shotgun shells so I planned to use the gun to just scare rival raiders. I kicked in the door and scoped out the scene. The inside was literally just a home that doubled as a tasting room. The charmingly decorated living room area had a few small tables for customers and the kitchen breakfast bar was the actual bar where you would get your wine served to you. I didn’t see any signs of danger so I strolled in confidently. My boots clanged loudly on the floor because I had duct-taped a kitchen knife to the bottom of them. You have to be ready for anything in this post-apocalypse.
I walked up to the friendly server behind the bar.
“I’m amazed this structure has been completely untouched by the roving marauders out in the desert wasteland,” I said, putting away my shotgun. “I mean you no harm. I come only in search of meat and mead. I can offer you recompense in the form of many Sacajawea dollars as I assume the electronic banking systems are no longer functional in this new world and that my debit card is no good to me anymore.
“Well we don’t have mead here,” the lovely server said with a smile. “But we have 10 red wines, 4 whites and a single Moscato. As for the meat, we have a plate with prosciutto, cheese, bread and olives that you can purchase and pair with a wine tasting. Oh and we do take debit cards, yes.”
I was fascinated by how this place was able to maintain its modern amenities such as electricity, electronic cash registers and prosciutto while the world outside burned. It was like a modern-day Bio-Dome starring Stephen Baldwin and Pauly Shore.
Alcantara had two different wine tastings that were described to me like flying coach vs. flying first class. The first tasting was $10 and you could taste five wines of your choice. It came with a stemless glass that you could keep. However, this tasting was like flying coach which meant that about half of the red wines weren’t available for you to taste. If you wanted the first class experience you could pay $15 for a VIP tasting. It was still five wines but every single one of them was on the table and you got to take home a beautiful crystal glass with the Alcantara logo on it. Since there were ten red wines I decided to get both tastings so that I could try all the reds this place had to offer. It was an alluring reminder of the life I left behind before I resigned myself to an existence of drinking gutter water and stabbing dudes in the chest for half a gallon of fuel.
I would split Alcantara’s red wines into two separate categories. The first four are light, both in body and in color and they make great wines for casual sipping at a party with friends. Or rather, what passes for parties in this soul-crushing wasteland. The Pinot Noir has a spicy aroma with an acidic, fruity kick that’s reminiscent of cider. Perfect for a gathering in which you and your cave-dwelling neighbors barter deer heads for bullets or whatever the hell we’re supposed to do now.
The Sangiovese and Mourvedre were also clean and light with nice berry flavors. The other seven reds were slightly bolder, darker and earthier.
As I was about to take a sip of the next wine a group of young, casually dressed people came into the tasting room and ordered a bottle. The women were attractive and wearing nice sundresses while the guys wore shorts and t-shirts that showed off their guns and barbed wire tattoos on their biceps. It seemed like a smart way to intimidate raiders.
“Ew,” said one of the girls when she looked at me. “Why the hell are you wearing a baseball catcher’s mask in here, dude?”
“It was the only face protection I could find,” I told her.
“Okay…so do you play baseball?”
“No, this belonged to my ex-girlfriend Darlene. She was quite athletic. She often mocked me for being fat and having the lung capacity of a newborn baby. She was fond of saying that if by some miracle I survived the coming apocalypse that I would end up being traded back and forth for cigarettes. But I will show her! I will survive out here without her. I already killed a rattlesnake with my bare hands and will save it for dinner.”
“Yeah, I can see that. You’re wearing the snake right now like a necktie. And you have a pocket square that matches the snake’s color somehow.”
“Well just because an apocalypse happened doesn’t mean you can’t still look stylish.”
The girls and guys they were with slowly backed away from me without another word and went to the back patio.
I continued my tasting.
Alcantara’s Merlot was made entirely with grapes grown onsite at the vineyards. A couple of the white wines were made with grapes from vineyards in Wilcox and a few reds were made using grapes from California as well. The Merlot had a strong vanilla aroma that definitely made it stand out.
The Grand Rogue also had a slight hints of vanilla but was very earthy with strong tannins. That and the Petite Sirah were my favorites. The latter was very bold and peppery, also with lingering tannins and a nice dark fruit kick. Both these wines were sand and desert and fuel in wine form, the gritty flavors of our bold new Mad Max world that brought danger around every corner.
I also decided to try the Moscato because life was now quickly becoming shorter with each passing hour and I didn’t know when my marauding would take me to another vineyard. The Moscato was made entirely with fruit from Lodi, California and had a cool flavor that was different from the admittedly few other Moscatos I had tried. It had strong citrus and melon tastes and was definitely worth a try for any white wine fans.
I was about to finish my tasting when I heard a bang and a scream coming from the entrance to the Alcantara house. I pulled out my sawed-off and ran to the front. I found myself face-to-face with a young, thin guy wearing a flannel shirt with football pads over it. His dark skinny jeans were spray-painted with green spots and I think he maybe tried to make them into camouflage pants? He was pointing his own sawed-off shotgun right at me. The other customers took cover. The young guy and I stood with our guns aimed at each other’s chests for a beat before I decided to break the silence.
“This wine territory is under my protection, raider. Lower your weapon or you will force my hand.”
The young guy looked panicked. His shotgun hand was clearly shaking and his wide-eyed stare was of a desperate, dangerous man. The kind that was all too common out in the wasteland.
“I’m here for the wireless resources!” he said. “It’s madness out there. The world is falling apart. I’ve been trying to use my phone to pull up vegan recipes on Pinterest for the past fifteen minutes but I get nothing. IT LOADS NOTHING! Hand over this place’s Wi-fi password!” A single tear rolled down his cheek and soaked into his handlebar moustache.
“I know. Trust me, I know exactly what you are going through. I attempted to post a picture of this place on Instagram with the Lo-Fi filter but it just would not upload. Hell, it even crashes every time I pick the filter.”
“It always crashes when you pick Lo-Fi! Why does it always crash when you pick Lo-Fi?!?” The young guy was openly weeping now. The terror of the outside world had broken him. And I can’t say I blame him. You can’t have everything you know stripped of you so suddenly by an apocalyptic event without it leaving a permanent scar. It’s a scar I’ve carried myself ever since I drove into Cottonwood an hour ago.
In fact…I realized that this skinny young guy wasn’t much different from me. I decided to take a gamble.
“I know your shotgun is without ammo, young man,” I told him. I waved my own empty sawed-off around to intimidate people and figured he would try the same thing. “Lower your weapon or I will show you just how much ammo is in mine.”
We stood silently for what felt like an eternity. You could hear a goddamn pin drop. The young guy’s hand shook but he still held the shotgun up…
He ran. Before I knew it he bolted out the front door and hid among the vines. I gave chase but couldn’t see him. I scanned a few rows and slowly walked into the vineyard, crouched down low so I wouldn’t give myself away.
The young guy jumped out from behind me and wrapped his arm around my neck. I hadn’t seen him coming. He was surprisingly strong for such a skinny guy. I couldn’t get his arm off my airway and I felt it getting harder and harder for me to breathe. For a brief second I thought this was it. The wasteland would claim me as it did my phone’s Yelp app.
Just before I blacked out I put my leg up on one of the poles holding up the vines and used the leverage to throw my entire body back as hard as I could. I used my fatness to land on top of the skinny kid. We hit the ground hard and I could practically hear the wind being knocked out of him. I reached for the sawed-off and bashed him in the face with the butt of the shotgun. He was breathing but unconscious.
I threw him over my shoulder and carried him to my car. I pulled out the chain that held on my bumper and used it to tie the skinny guy up. I tossed him in the trunk and drove away from Alcantara Vineyards. I felt a sense of loss as I saw the tasting room house fading in the rearview mirror. I wish I could’ve stayed longer but I knew that my path was back on the road. The best way to survive in this new, lawless, wild Southwest was to always keep moving, even in the face of a single cell phone bar.
I drove out into the sunset and took one more look at my phone. I screeched to a halt on the side of the road. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
Two bars. My phone had two whole bars. I felt something swell up in my chest.
Is this what hope felt like?