Arkansas is the oldest and largest grape juice and wine producing state in the southern United States. Altus, Arkansas has been producing wine since the 1800s. Altus' wineries were founded by German-Swiss immigrants who settled in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. When prohibition came around, the wineries were less profitable but grapes were still grown and many varieties were created right here in Arkansas! As a matter of fact, many of the wineries here use grapes that were specially developed by botanists at the University in Little Rock (the Cynthiana variety).
Arkansas Wine Quality:
How do we compare with Napa Valley? Wiederkehr Wine Cellars and the Post Familie Vineyard in Altus are the top producing wineries in the United States. Quality wise, the wines are rival California wines. Cowie Wine Cellars has won many awards for it's wines. There are many unique varieties found in Altus that taste like Arkansas. You can't get that in California!
There are five wineries in Arkansas and they can hold approximately 1,230,000 gallons of wine. Talk about a party! All five allow touring and, best of all, tasting. All are within an hours drive of each other too. So, spend a weekend tasting Arkansas wine!
Contacting and Visiting the Wineries:
- Cowie Wine Cellars:
Cowie Wine Cellars also has an Arkansas wine museum. Located in Paris, AR. Their site has a map and some information about the wines they produce. 479-963-3990.
- Post Familie Winery:
Located in Altus, Post Familie Winery is a fifth-generation family-operated vineyard and winery. They have some great wines made from that most famous Southern grape, the muscadine, as well as some traditional wines. They offer tours of the wine processing plant, tastings and have a great little shop. 479-468-2741
- Wiederkehr Wine Cellars:
Also located in Altus, this is one of the wineries that bottles Cynthiana. They have a wide variety of traditional wines and a few Arkansas specialties. Their shop is huge, with wines, Arkansas jams and jellies and more. Of course, they offer tastings. They have a restaurant on grounds with a German theme. Their grounds are impressive. 479-468-2611
- Chateau Aux Arc:
This twenty acre winery is also located in Altus. It is owned by Audrey House who may have been the world's youngest vineyard owner when she bought it in 1998. The winery currently includes the largest stand of Chardonnay grapes outside of California. They are the largest grower of Cynthiana grapes in the country, as well as being the largest Zinfandel planter in Arkansas. Also,Audrey's 4,800-square-foot tasting room (which she opened two years ago) is the largest among the Altus wineries. This is a can't miss winery. The building is very easy to miss from the road, but worth looking for. They offer a full tasting and their tasting room and grounds remind me of Napa Valley more than any other winery in Arkansas. Easily my fave. 479-468-4400.
- Mount Bethel Winery:
Mount Bethel Winery is located on Mount Bethel Drive just off Highway 64, approximately 1/4 mile East of Altus Arkansas. They have several traditional grape wine varieties, as well as several specialty wines made from Arkansas-grown fruit. 479-468-2444.
In July, there is a big wine celebration in Altus. The wineries have grape stompings, tastings, contests and more. It's lot of fun and most of the events and tastings are free. In 2011, it happens July 30-31.