Cheers! Enjoy Grand Canyon’s Liquid Assets

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Locally sourced beers, wines, and spirits complement a park visit

Posted by: Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel on August 3, 2017

Within a casual drive of Williams are a growing number of wineries and brewpubs, including a winery and two brewpubs in Williams as well as nine breweries in Flagstaff alone.

Savvy travelers know the best way to arrive at Grand Canyon National Park is by taking a train that crosses an awe-inspiring wide and lonesome landscape courtesy of a 60-mile track that connects Williams, Ariz., to Grand Canyon National Park.

It turns out the two destinations share another common connection: locally sourced beers, wines, and spirits. Within a casual drive of Williams are a growing number of wineries and brewpubs, including a winery and two brewpubs in Williams as well as nine breweries in Flagstaff alone. Meanwhile, at the national park, guests quench their thirst with craft beers and locally sourced spirits and wines.

When you add in the popularity of Arizona microbreweries and Arizona wineries, drink connoisseurs have the perfect triple play: a wine/microbrewery tour, a journey on the Grand Canyon Railway, and a visit to one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World, both of which serve unique local drinks.

And it all starts on America’s Mother Road. 

Williams: A Vintage Village

No place is quite like Williams. It’s notable for being home to the best-preserved stretch of Route 66 (yes, that Route 66), which makes it something of a time machine. In this retro-cool community, vintage buildings house a range of bars and neon-lined restaurants — including Spenser’s Pub at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel and the Grand Depot Café. They both serve locally brewed craft beers from Grand Canyon Brewing Company, as well as Arizona wines from Page Springs Cellars in Cornville and Arizona Stronghold Vineyards in Camp Verde.

A few steps away is the historic Williams Depot. More than a century after the first train chuffed in for a drink of water, it’s still bustling and busy welcoming passengers who likewise crave a drink of water… and a little something extra. They’re in the right place.

“There are some really creative wineries, breweries, and distilleries in this region of Arizona,” says Dennis Tacey, assistant food and beverage director of Grand Canyon National Park Lodges. “No matter where you’re staying, stop by Spenser’s Pub or the Grand Depot Café at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel. Try a glass of wine from Page Springs Cellars or Arizona Stronghold — two of our local wineries. If you’d prefer a beer, there are plenty of craft brews made right here in town. I think you’ll be impressed.”

Dinning Area

Quenching Your Thirst

On the train between Williams and Grand Canyon — one of the most enchanting train journeys of all — the elevation rises into a terrain known as the high desert. While watching the scenery roll past, I’ve found this to be the best time to crack open a beer. That’s as easy as ordering a beer from Grand Canyon Brewing Company, whose onboard selections include the golden brown, lightly balanced Bohemian-style American pilsner and the hazy orange Black Iron IPA, both brewed in Williams.

When the train wheezes to a halt at the depot just below the legendary El Tovar hotel, you’re at the Grand Canyon — another opportunity to sample locally made adult beverages. For example, when you sit down for pork chops with apple jalapeño chutney at the signature El Tovar Dining Room or an Arizona-raised ribeye steak at the Arizona Room of the Bright Angel Lodge, you’ll find an extensive list of the state’s finest beers, wines, and spirits.

grapes

That’s the Spirits!

While Grand Canyon’s restaurants feature many farm-to-table dishes, they also offer dozens of vine-to-bottle selections. From the state’s leading vintners and distilleries come drinks to complement every dish, celebrate any occasion, or enjoy for no other reason than you’re visiting one of the most beautiful places on earth.

The epicenter of the wine experience is the dining room at El Tovar where more than 100 varieties have been selected from prominent domestic wineries. For wine connoisseurs, the list is inspired. While the choices may read like a map of the world, Arizona, naturally, plays a featured role: wines from Carlson Creek in Willcox, such as chenin blanc, Rule of Three, and sangiovese, and from Arizona Stronghold Vineyards, such as Tazi (a white blend), Dayden (a dry rosé), and Mangus (a Tuscan blend cabernet sauvignon).

Grand Canyon guests aren’t the only ones impressed by the array of champagnes, chardonnays, pinot noirs, merlots, and zinfandels. Wine Spectator magazine has given the El Tovar wine list its Award of Excellence for four consecutive years. There are reds, whites, and blush wines for as little as $7 for a glass of a non-vintage pinot grigio to $255 for a bottle of cabernet sauvignon.

“Visitors come to Grand Canyon from all around the world,” notes Tacey. “So we want to make a good impression. Part of that is sharing with guests our finest local products, and that includes wines, beers, and spirits.”

Servers and sommeliers may feel a touch of hometown pride when pouring a glass representing the Grand Canyon state. In addition to wines, stop at El Tovar’s restaurant or lounge, the Bright Angel Restaurant, the Arizona Room, the Pizza Pub, or Maswik Food Court and you’ll find many locally sourced beers including Bright Angel IPA from Flagstaff’s Lumberyard Brewing Co. Served at the El Tovar, Bright Angel, and Arizona Room are spirits including Copper City Bourbon from Arizona Distilling Co. in Tempe; Gold Miner Agave Rum from Kingman’s Desert Diamond Distillery, Arizona’s oldest craft distillery; Thumb Butte Premium Vodka and Western Sage Gin from Thumb Butte Distillery in Prescott; and Grand Canyon Vodka crafted by Canyon Diablo Spirits of Flagstaff.

So raise a toast to the excellent Arizona wines, beers, and spirits served at some of our nation’s most iconic attractions. Cheers!

How to Explore

Looking to sample Arizona beer, wine, and spirits? You can stay inside the park with Grand Canyon National Park Lodges or at the AAA Three Diamond Grand Canyon Railway Hotel in Williams, Ariz., and arrive in the park via the historic Grand Canyon Railway, which departs from the depot in Williams. Travel over 120 round-trip miles through beautiful northern Arizona while being entertained by historical cowboy characters and strolling musicians. The modern hotel has a grand lobby, indoor pool and hot tub as well as Spenser’s Pub with its handcrafted 19th-century bar. Packages with train travel and overnight stays in Grand Canyon National Park and Williams are available. For more information and reservations, visit thetrain.com or call 843-8724.

For more travel experiences to Beautiful Places on Earth™ available from Xanterra Parks & Resorts and its affiliated properties, visit xanterra.com/explore.


Written by: Gary McKechnie

The author of the best-selling Great American Motorcycle Tours, Gary McKechnie also wrote National Geographic’s USA 101 and Ten Best of Everything: National Parks. He lectures on American travel and history aboard the ships of the Cunard, Seabourn, and Silversea lines.

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