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Arkansas Wine Country

May 7th, 2008-- by Jim Hofman

Over 135 years ago, many German-Swiss immigrants traveled well into the south central United States to stake their claim. And back in the 1870’s, the beautiful Ozark Mountain area of northwestern Arkansas seemed an appropriate place to begin. Rolling mountains, while not quite the height or splendor of the Swiss Alps, offered a reminder of home.

And so, a large German-Swiss settlement blossomed in the west/northwest area of Arkansas, “The Natural State”. Now, almost a century and a half later, this European influence is still felt in a unique area of the state, roughly between Little Rock in the state’s center and Fort Smith, at its’ western boundary. Not far off of Interstate I-40, about 50 minutes east of Fort Smith, you’ll find Arkansas Wine Country.

Traveling west/northwest out of Little Rock (actually, North Little Rock) on Interstate 40, it’s about 140 miles to the heart of Arkansas wine country. As you travel outside of Little Rock, you’ll notice the topography changing … lush valleys and rolling mountains … a perfect subclimate for grape growing and wine making. Approximately two hours outside of Little Rock on Interstate 40, look for exit 41, Arkansas Route 186. Go south about five miles on 186 and you’ll enter the charming and historic town of Altus, heart of Arkansas wine country and home to four of the area’s wineries. Let’s take a closer look.

Chateau Aux Arc Vineyards and Winery: Directly on Rt. 186, actually just two miles off I-40 and before you reach the town of Altus,is Chateau Aux Arc, the world’s largest propagator of Cynthiana grapes. Be sure to check out their gorgeous tasting room, situated on top of St. Mary’s mountain. Enjoy the view of the Arkansas River Valley while you taste the fruit of Chateau Aux Arc’s labor. We particularly enjoyed the 2005 Altage, a medium bodied Chardonnay/German blend, with hints of pear and a fruity finish.

Mount Bethel Winery: Three generations of the Post family have proudly guided the Mount Bethel Winery, www.mountbethel.com . Just 1/4 mile east of the town of Altus, Mount Bethel Winery offers a full selection of reds, whites, and fruit wines. Since Arkansas is a renowned fruit producer, we decided to try the Elderberry and Blackberry wines, both produced from fruit grown and hand picked by the Post family. Both were sweet, tangy, and quite enjoyable.

Post Familie Vineyards and Winery: On to downtown Altus, where one block north on Rt. 186 stands the Post Familie Vineyards and Winery, www.postfamilie.com . They say the scenery in this area is just as beautiful as Napa Valley and we wouldn’t disagree! Post Familie is known for their muscadine wines (a southern specialty), as well as a very nice Pinot Grigio.

Wiederkehr Wine Cellars: A pioneer in the U.S. wine industry (Wiederkehr is Bonded Winery #8), Wiederkehr Wine Cellars is an introduction to the Swiss winemaking heritage. Housed in an Alpine lodge, Wiederkehr offers 45 minute winery and cellar tours for a behind-the-scenes glimpse into winemaking. We enjoyed a German-Swiss lunch in their onsite restaurant, the Weinkeller Restaurant.

Cowie Wine Cellars and Museum: Our last stop takes us to the smallest winery in Arkansas, Cowie Wine Cellars and Museum, www.cowiewinecellars.com . Located three miles west of Paris, Arkansas on scenic Rt. 22, Cowie Wine Cellars is a must stop, not just to taste and buy their wines, but also to see their museum, dedicated to the art of Arkansas winemaking and Arkansas wineries.

Nearby Lodging: Altus, the center of the area, is a small town of less than 1000 people and the only lodging in town is the St. Mary’s Mountain Country Inn B&B. Nearby Ozark, Arkansas is only five miles away and at 3,500 inhabitants has a broader selection including a Days Inn and the Oxford Inn motel. For more choice stay an hour away in Fort Smith or two hours away in Little Rock.

Would you like to learn more about unique U.S. wine travel destinations? For further information on this and other U.S. wine trails, visit www.winetrailsusa.com. Photo courtesy of the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism.

Tags: Jim Hofman · United States - Other

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Sue Courtney // Jun 10, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    Wow, that is one amazing photo!

  • 2 TNWT // Jan 19, 2011 at 5:18 am

    Visited all the mentioned wineries and was most impressed with the wines from Mount Bethel Winery. The best of Arkansas’ Cynthiana [Norton] and other fruit and grape surprises.

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