The Grapes of Arkansas: the best wineries are not all in California

Winemaking in Arkansas dates back to the 1870s when the first French Catholic settlers made their way to Altus, Arkansas. Upon arriving in the state of Arkansas German and Swiss settlers quickly found the climate favorable to growing grapes. Many families have remained in Arkansas and have become sixth and seventh generation winemakers. The four oldest wineries in the state (Cowie, Mount Bethel, Post and Wiederkehr) are all located in the original town of Altus. With over 1200 wineries in California today, many assume that “the Golden State” has always been the “wine capital” of the United States. You might be surprised to learn that at one point, Arkansas had nearly 200 wineries and actually produced more wine and grapes than any other state. Prohibition changed the landscape of the wine business in Arkansas, but nearly 20 wineries still remain open today. While you may not think of Arkansas as “wine country,” you can find grapes growing throughout the Arkansas Wine Trail that produce Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Vidal blanc and more. A tour in the wine country is just footsteps away from those in “the Natural State.”

Arkansas’ Wine Trail Could be the Adventure You’ve Been Waiting For

Just off two of the major highways in Arkansas you can find 7 wineries in almost a straight line of each other, this is known as “the Arkansas Wine Trail.” Starting out here at home in Northwest Arkansas are the first two stops on “the Trail.” While many will tell you the tales of the Tontitown Grape Festival and the famed Italian restaurants like Mary Maestri’s, Venetian Inn, Mama Z’s, and Guido’s Pizza; Italian food isn’t the only thing Tontitown does well. Like Altus, Tontitown is made up of several Italian families who immigrated to Arkansas back in the late 1800s. With their cooking acumen also came the love of growing grapes and making wine to share with friends and families. A Ranalli Family tradition, the Tontitown Winery proudly carries on their great grandfather’s legacy. With free wine tastings 7 days a week, your adventure awaits.

Just a few miles down the road in Springdale, Arkansas, you will find the Sassafras Springs Vineyard and Winery. Opening in 2014 on 15 beautiful acres of Northwest Arkansas land, Sassafras was a lifelong dream of owners Gene and Cheryl Long. Today, they now have over 60 acres of natural springs and rolling hills that have welcomed over 3000 visitors. Consistently recognized as a leading event venue, Sassafras Springs also continually brings home international and regional awards for their wine. Perhaps you are looking for the perfect venue for your wedding or party, look no further than one of Arkansas’ own award-winning wineries.

Straight down I-49S, after taking a left in Alma on to I-40W, you will arrive in Altus, Arkansas. Altus is the home of Post Winery, Wiederkehr Wine Cellars, Dionysus Wine & Brew and Chateau Aux Arc. Perhaps taking a day trip to the Trellis Room at Post Winery where you can enjoy seasonal, scratch cooking in Arkansas’ oldest winery might suit your fancy. Or perhaps it’s the draw of the best muscadine wine in the world. Like Post Winery, you cannot go wrong with Wiederkehr Wine Cellars where the Swiss wine making heritage is on full display at Mid-America’s oldest and largest winery. Bringing the Swiss Alpine style to the Arkansas River Valley, your next getaway could be on top of Saint Mary’s Mountain in Arkansas. Just down the road you will find Dionysus Wine & Brew where you can experience the rustic yurt lodging and visit the tasting room during your stay. Rounding out the wineries in Altus, just off Highway 186 is the full-service winery, Chateau Aux Arc. Perhaps your next trip will include a stop at this incredible wine tasting paradise. The Cynthiana grape grown at Chateau Aux Arc, by Arkansas’s only female winegrower, was named the state grape in 2009.

About 30 miles down the Mount Magazine Scenic Byway, in Paris, Arkansas, you will find the Cowie Wine Cellars. Not only will you find a charming, family-run winery, you will also find the only wine museum in the United States. Maybe the wine will draw you in, the scenic drive, or the history, but don’t forget the Arkansas Amateur Wine Competition that happens in Paris annually. Rounding out the Arkansas Wine Trail, we end up about 2 hours south of Cowie Wine Cellars at An Enchanted Evening Winery. With the natural backdrop of Pinnacle Mountain and Lake Maumelle, 20 miles outside of Little Rock you will find the winery, wedding venue and luxury cabin. Perhaps it’s the complimentary chocolate fondue by the fireplace, or the breathtaking panoramic views; but your time in Roland, Arkansas, will not disappoint.

All the Adventure Awaits, Right Here at Home

While there are obviously many wonderful wineries to visit in California and various other places around the United States, here in Arkansas we pride ourselves on being locally-owned and homegrown. You don’t have to mortgage the house to take a trip out west when we have so many wonderful vineyards right here in our backyard.

Interested in taking a trip to the vineyards? Let’s work together and create your dream experience. Contact us today and let us create your custom winery experience right here in Arkansas.