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 in the Ozark Mountain region. We decided to make a trip down there to checkout the local wines.
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.
Mount Bethel Winery:
Three generations of the Post family have proudly guided this beautiful historic winery. 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. Mount Bethel is also renowned for their port wine, Big Daddy Port.
Post Familie Vineyards and Winery:
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 wine making. We enjoyed a German-Swiss lunch in their onsite restaurant, the Weinkeller Restaurant. As for wine, try Wiederkehr's deliciously dry Johannisberg Riesling or their unique, crisp Verdelet, a white wine made from a French developed grape variety.
Cowie Wine Cellars and Museum:
The Wine Museum traces Arkansas wine history through the last 130 years. Be sure to see the original wine press and other historic wine making artifacts. Interestingly, this is the only museum in the United States dedicated solely to the wine history of one state. A new branch of the museum was recently opened in Hot Springs, a popular tourist stop further south in the state.