@story Tonya McCoy
Wine country? In Arkansas? Believe it! In fact, Arkansans have been making wine longer than Californians. Drive the curvy roads through the Ozarks on a warm afternoon. If you know where to look, you just might catch a glimpse of the Arkansas state grape Cynthiana, as it winds its way up wooden stalks.
Grab a basket, some wineglasses, some cheese, and let’s hit the road for a wine tour.
Cowie Wine Cellars
Signature Wine: Robert’s Port - $18
Summer Pick: Trish’s Passion - $10
101 North Carbon City Road, Paris
479.963.3990 or cowiewinecellars.com
Robert Cowie began making wine from elderberries when he was just fifteen. Still working his winery at the age of seventy, he has no plans to retire. Stop in this sleepy little town of Paris to taste his wine and you’ll see why he’s been in business so long.
This expert wine maker can tell you a thing or two about wine, but don’t ask how he makes his own. He guards his secrets; they’re his life’s work. “Some I’ll tell you and some I won’t. Once someone asked, ‘What’s this made out of?’ and I answered, ‘Grapes.’ I may take my recipe for Robert’s Port to the grave.”
Robert’s Port is the Cowie signature wine, having won twenty-four gold medals. It’s aged for six years and goes perfectly with a little dark chocolate. Robert recommends Trish’s Passion for summer. It’s a light Niagara reminiscent of eating fresh grapes off the vine.
Signature Wine: Chambourcin - $18
Summer Pick: Vivant - $15
3185 East Van Buren, Eureka Springs
479-253-9463 or keelscreek.com
Keels Creek Winery in Eureka Springs is the marriage of chemistry and art. Dr. Doug Hausler once worked as a chemical analyst for Philips Petroleum. His wife Edwige Denyszyn is an artist who grew up in France. The two work together to blend some fantastic tastes in their boutique winery.
They create unique tastes from blends of Chambourcin and Cynthiana to Cab Franc and Red Zin.
Step into one of their tasting rooms and enjoy a sip while sitting at tables fashioned from wine drums.
Their signature wine is their Chambourcin, which has won several medals. This heavy-bodied spicy wine has hints of blackberry, and goes fantastic with lamb. Their summer selection is the lively Vivant, which is dry, cool and refreshing - perfect on a hot summer’s day.
Wiederkehr Wine Cellars and Vineyard
Signature Wine: Muscato Di Santa Maria - $10
Summer Pick: Sangria - $6
3324 Swiss Family Drive, Wiederkehr Village
479.468.WINE or wiederkehrwines.com
Discover the Swiss winemaking heritage of Wiederkehr Wine Cellars. Atop St. Mary's Mountain, the Wiederkehr family carries on a tradition that began when Johann Andreas Wiederkehr emigrated from Switzerland to Altus. In 1880 Johann made his home in these Ozark Mountains. The family has been making wines for over a century.
While you’re there, check out the Wiederkehr Weinkeller Restaurant, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
A signature favorite is their award winning Muscato Di Santa Maria. It’s a pale gold, and has a soft, sweet quality that pairs well with desserts. For the summer, the winery recommends their Sangria, a premium red wine blended with the natural flavors of oranges, lemons, and limes.
Post Familie Vineyards and Winery
Signature Wine: Prophesy - $18
Summer Pick: Vignoles - $8
1700 St. Mary’s Mountain Road, Altus
479.468.2741 or postfamilie.com
Since 1880, five generations of Posts have cultivated grapes to make Post Familie wines in Altus. The founder was Jacob Post, a German horticulturist who arrived in America in 1872. The winery has numerous national and international awards for taste. Plus, it’s Arkansas’ largest grower and buyer of grapes.
The Posts have been known throughout the years for their Muscadine wines. But now they have a new favorite called Prophesy. In 2007, decades of viniculture led to Prophesy, a new grape created by the Post family by crossing a European Cabernet with an American Munson. This deep to red table wine has a hint of boysenberry, a velvety finish and is especially tasty with robust cheeses. One of their summer favorites is their Vignoles, which has apple and pear flavors.
Mount Bethel Winery
Signature Wine: Merlot - $11
Summer Pick: Vignoles - $10
5014 Mount Bethel Road, Altus
479.468.2444 or mountbethel.com
Mount Bethel Winery located in the foothills of Altus also is a family tradition. Not to be confused with Post Familie Winery, this winery is also owned and operated by a Post family member. This branch of the family is also proud of their wine-making heritage and has been open since 1956. Family members work together to make classic wines like Merlot and Chardonnay, as well as varieties native to Arkansas like Cynthiana and Muscat.
Their signature wine is a rich, ruby Merlot. It has a distinctive berry flavor which pairs well with beef or cheese. Their top wine for summer is their light, semi-sweet Vignoles.
Chateau Aux Arc
Signature Wine: 2009 Altus Chardonnay - $10
Summer Pick: Altus Altag - $16
8045 Highway 186, Champagne Drive, Altus
479.468.4400 or chateauauxarc.com
Audrey House is a newcomer who’s already impressing critics. She opened Chateau Aux Arc (pronounced Ozark) with ten acres of Chardonnay, a little over a decade ago. At thirty-four, she is the youngest winery owner, and only female winemaker in the state. Audrey has the largest crop of Cynthiana grapes in the U.S., and she played a large role in getting the Cynthiana grape recognized as the Arkansas State Grape.
Audrey’s signature is the 2009 Altus Chardonnay. The taste is light and crisp with a hint of lemon. The summer pick is Altus Altag a sweet, fruity wine.
Raimondo Family Winery and Tasting Room
Signature Wine: Passione Red - $17
Summer Pick: 2009 White Bordello - $16
149 County Road 820, Gamaliel
870.467.5115 or raimondowinery.com
An Italian family recently made their home in Arkansas. The Raimondo heritage traces back to Sicily, but they’ve been making Italian wines in California for decades. Then six years ago, part of the family picked up and moved here to Arkansas. They use grapes from California to make Italian varieties of wines like Zinfandels and Viognier at winery in Gamaliel, near Mountain Home.
Their summer pick is the 2009 White Bordello. Their signature is Passione Red, a blend of Syrah and Zinfadel.
Signature Wine: Italian Red – $9
Summer Wine: Pink Catawba – $10
335 North Barrington Road, Springdale
Our last winery is in Tontitown, where the Grape Fest has been held for over a century. Italian families began emigrating to Tontitown in the 1890s. One of these families, the Renallis, has been making wines for decades. Last October, Chris Renalli and his daughter Heather Peachee decided to share their tradition by opening the Tontitown Winery.
Heather says, “I have enjoyed working alongside my daddy since I was a little girl making small batches of ‘homebrew’ wine in our basement. We always shared a dream that we would open a winery some day. Well, our day has come!”
Their signature wine is their Italian Red, which is a semi-dry wine with fruit flavors. Their summer pick is Pink Catawba, a semi-sweet wine with floral tones and fruit flavors.