If you enjoy a flavorful wine with your meal or dessert put this tour on your list of things to do. There are many wineries in the state but one small group is conveniently located close together. The west central region of Arkansas is quite scenic and touring the wineries and historical sites in the area makes a wonderful weekend getaway for two.
The Post Familie Vineyard located at 1700 St. Maryís Mountain Road in Altus is a vineyard founded in the year 1880 by Mrs. Joseph Post. The family was part of a group of German and Swiss immigrants that moved to the states during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 escaping the religious persecution of the 1870 Germany that drove many Catholics out of Europe and into the United States. Their ancestors taught them the time honored tradition of growing grapes and fermenting them into wine for their personal use. This knowledge was passed down through generations of vintners allowing us to enjoy the wines they offer today. Most noted for their Chardonnay and Muscadine wine but also offering Red, White, Blush/Rose and Port/Dessert wines to taste and to purchase. Juices, jellies and wine related accessories are available at the Post Familie Vineyard gift shop.
The Mount Bethel Winery located at 5014 Mount Bethel Drive in Altus. The current owner is a fourth generation descendent of the original founder Mrs. Joseph Post - Michael Post. They offer Red, White, Fruit, Muscadine and Port Wines. It was the original location of the Post Familie Vineyard but they moved after acquiring the Altus Cooperative Winery.
There are several grapes that are native to the Americas; they include Cynthiana also known as Norton, Muscat, Niagara, Concord and Muscadine. Most of the vineyards have one or more of these native varieties but the Wiederkehrs Wine Cellars soon found that the climate in Arkansas was hospitable to the European varieties they grew back home as well.
The Wiederkehr Wine Cellars located at 3324 Swiss Family Drive in Wiederkehr Village is also near Altus. The founder was Johann Wiederkehr but his grandson, Al Wiederdehr runs the vineyard today. They claim to be the oldest and largest winery in Mid-America. The winery had humble beginnings back in 1880 when the Wiederkehrs immigrated to Altus about the same time as the Post family. They began lovingly planting and tending grape vines as they had done in the old country. As they carried on the vintnerís skills of generations past they produced quality wines. The wines they offer today include White, Rose/Blush, and Red, Dessert, Sparkling and Alcohol-Free. You are invited to tour the cellar and taste the wine for free allowing you to determine the ones that best suit your taste.
Wiederkehr Village RV Park offers reasonable rates and is only four miles off I-40 making it convenient to get to. Rental of the Weingarten Hall is available for reunions, family get together or weddings featuring a full stage, a full bar and meals catered by the Weinkeller Restaurant which boasts Swiss and Continental cuisine. The wine cellar, RV Park and the restaurant are all part of the Wiederkehr Village and Wine Cellars property.
The St. Maryís Catholic Church also known as Our Lady of Perpetual Help is located next door to the Wiederdehr Wine Cellars. As one of the painted churches of Arkansas itís an historical landmark and it is quite beautiful to behold. The painted churches are generally found within German and Swiss immigrant settlements of the late 1800ís in the US. The immigrants could speak little English and centered their communities on the church and their beliefs. They took comfort from their God in a strange land and tended to settle into clusters close to each other. Altus, Arkansas was home to one of these clusters of immigrant vintners. I felt compelled to include the church in this tour because two of the four wineries had churches either next door or on the winery property itself. It was clearly as much a part their cultural existence as the wine making right down to the blessing of the new wine.
The Cowie Wine Cellars and Vineyards are located at 101 North Carbon City Road in Paris, Arkansas. This collection of enterprises started in 1967 and consists of a Bed & Breakfast, Wine Making Museum and a private Chapel with a bell tower with a collection of 60 church bells. The church is named after the Catholic Church and school that stood on the site for over 100 years, St. Ann, Mother of the Virgin Mary. They offer Full bodied class wines, dry dinner wines, sweeter sipping wines and authentic fruit wines, communal wine and grape juice. Wine making supplies are available and the talented vintners boast taking 150 awards for their wine making abilities. The Museum explains the process from the wine press to the bottling and marketing steps of wine making. They exhibit antique and modern wine making equipment.
They sponsor three special events at the winery every year. The International Amateur Wine Competition is held on the last Saturday of April. The Arkansas Wine Heritage Day is celebrated the first Saturday of May. The Annual Wine Fest & Championship Grape Stomp after the grape harvest in Mid-September. The blessing of the new wine and live band sets the mood for stomping those grapes and makes for a great family day. It would be a wonderful time to visit and join in the wine making process.
For those of you who donít enjoy wine the juice they extract tastes great, the scenery is beautiful, the museum and historical church is well worth the trip. Most of the wineries have similar wines since they all tend to grow the native grape varieties. I think it is all about taste and some wines were better than others.