Arkansas. Wine.

After years of telling me that they were going to retire to Arkansas, my parents have finally done so.  Kevin and I tried to talk them into moving to Oregon, but they weren’t going for it.

The Arkansas state flag was designed by Willie Kavanaugh Hocker.

The Arkansas state flag was designed by Willie Kavanaugh Hocker.

So, Arkansas it is.  In the middle of the Walmartian capitol.
Luckily, like almost every place in the country, there is wine nearby.  Yup.  wine.  Located in three American Viticultural Areas.  Twenty-four wineries.

California it is not.  But that isn’t a bad thing.  After all, variety is the spice of life.   So what’s the deal with Arkansas wine?
Officially, viticulture began in Arkansas in the 1870s when German and Swiss immigrants settled in Altus, Arkansas.  Unofficially, there was wine in Arkansas before that.  In A Journal of Travels into the Arkansa Territory During the Year 1819 With Occasional Observation on the Manners of the Aborigines by Thomas Nuttall, F.L.S. (I have no idea what F.L.S. means), the author describes the vineyards and wine encountered along the way.  Tales of wine being produced at local taverns like the Hinderliter Grog Shop in Little Rock circa 1827 are likely to be true.  And prior to American settlement? Well, Arkansas was once officially part of France after all.
In addition to the Altus wineries,  Italian immigrants have made their mark in Arkansas’s wine history.  The city of Tontitown was founded by the followers of Father Pietro Bandini in 1898.  The residents, mostly from northern Italy brought their traditions with them including wine making.  Even today, the sign welcoming you to town features grape vines.  Unfortunately, for most American’s the town is more commonly known as the home as the Duggar family.

What kinds of wines are being produced?  Well, a lot of sweet wines.  Muscadine grapes grow naturally in the state and have long been used  to produce.  Muscadine is a type of grape known as Vitis rotundifolia that is native to the United States.  But Muscadine doesn’t have to produce a sweet wine and there are dry options as well.

Map produced by Gretchen Neuman using a USGS basemap.

Map produced by Gretchen Neuman using a USGS basemap.

Other grapes producing wine in Arkansas include Niagara, Concord and Delaware which are park of the Vitis labrusca family.  French-American Hybrids such as Chambourcin and Vidal are common as is Cynthiana, a Norton clone is thought to be created in the Arkansas. There are even folks producing Chardonnay and Merlot… though most of them get that fruit from California.
There are three viticultural areas in the Arkansas.  Altus is located around the German Swiss town of the same  name in the Boston Mountains.  Altus is the only appellation found completely within the state. Altus is also located within the Arkansas Mountain appellation but extends in the area from Fort Smith to Conway (another place my folks thought about moving to… but thought better of as the town is dry).  Ozark Mountain contains the Altus and Arkansas Mountain regions and is crosses into Missouri and Oklahoma as well.
Getting your hands on Arkansas wine is tricky.  The state does not play well with others, i.e. does not allow direct shipping and because of that can’t ship out of state either.  So you kinda have to go there and taste it there.

But since I am about to be spending more time in the Ozarks, I guess I will have time to explore.

Show Me Some Goals….

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

The nice part of goals is missing them sometimes. Yes, it was your editor’s goal to complete podcasts for all four Missouri viticulture areas before leaving for the Show Me State… but that sadly hasn’t happened. Something about teenagers and their crazy schedules screwed that up. Oh, and randomly placed Spring Breaks. Ahhh.  Good times…

So, instead of showing you are about the Ozark Mountain and Ozark Highlands AVAs, I will postpone the publication of these videos so that I can gather some footage of my own…. and instead will talk about where I am planning to go on my Missouri adventures. While I am only going to be in Missouri for a long weekend and most of that time will be spent in St. Louis, I have found that I will be able to visit all four viticultural areas. Yeah!

As you can see, I have gotten lucky that all of these appellations are located at least in part near St. Louis. So naturally, given that I have no obligations to teens and/or volleyball (like last year or next week) I get to explore Missouri.

The conference location is the starting or ending point of the trip. At least from a planning perspective this is the raison d’être for my get away. Kevin is watching the teens, which earns him my pity as it is their spring break. He initially wished to join me along this journey but thought better of it as it is likely teens would have sucked all the joy out of me for this adventure, and I thank him profusely.

Why Ste. Genevieve? Simply, it is the oldest town in the state. Founded by the French along the Mississippi River before even the French and Indian Wars, the town has a collection of Creole-French buildings that were common among French settlers or habitants…  Obscure?  Perhaps.  But I love that kind of stuff.  Plus there are wineries there too which are located within the Ozark Mountain AVA. This AVA is the biggest in Missouri (especially since it extends into Arkansas and even Oklahoma) and the Ozark Highlands and Hermann appellations are located within its boundaries.

My next must see stop is the town of Kaskaskia, Illinois.  Crossing back over the Mississippi, you say?  Hardly.  Kaskaskia, also a French settlement, was located east of the Mississippi but as the river has changed course, so has the location of the town and it is currently located just a couple of miles south of Ste. Genevieve.  Actually, most of the original town has been lost to flooding and hardly anyone lives there anymore (the 2000 census indicated a population of 9).  The appeal of Kaskaskia is twofold.  It is the original capital of the state (or maybe territory) of Illinois.  Also?  It has a bell that was a given to the local parish church by Louis XV (Yes.  Louis XIV is dead, to answer my husband’s snappy response whenever hear hears the name of a monarch with a number attached to his name.. Thanks so much, dudes from Monty Python).

The next goals of the trip are to visit all three appellations that I haven’t been to before.  This means, stopping at wineries in Ozark Mountain (done… with stops in Ste. Genevieve), Ozark Highlands  (done with stops in and around Leasburg or Steelville, MO) and in Hermann.

As if this isn’t a busy enough weekend, I will then be attending the conference in St. Louis.  Whew.  I am going to be tired come Monday.  But I will have lots to talk about when I get back!

Hope you have as much fun this weekend!




Next stop

Better Know the Hermann AVA

Hermann AVA

Hermann AVA Map by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

On my quest to be prepared for the conference I am moving on from the Augusta AVA on to Hermann. The town of Hermann was founded by the German Settlement Society of Philadelphia in the 1830’s after they sent school teacher George Bayer to purchase land where they could establish a German utopia. Bayer selected the area that is now known as Hermann because it reminded him of his childhood home in Germany. Unfortunately the land was not ideal for traditional farming or industry, but was perfect for viticulture. Lucky for us!

Check out the new Hermann AVA page!



All Souls Day…

As the perfect accompaniment to All Saints Day, today is All Souls Day. This is the day when you are supposed to remember the souls of the faithful departed… Who are the faithful departed? Well, that is kind of a gray area. In Mexico, all the dead are the faithful… which is why they celebrate El Dia de los Muertos or the Day of the Dead.

To cover my bets, I am assuming that the deceased religious are the faithful departed… and my favorite group of religious are the Trappists. Technically, they are Strictly Observant Cistercians which is an order of monks and nuns that follow the rules of Bernard de Clairvaux. This order believes in work to support themselves, as opposed to older orders or monks and nuns that relied on dowries to support them. Because of this, these orders were more open to all who had a calling. Not just those men and women who’s parents could afford to buy them into an order. The works done by Trappists are varied. They keep bees, run forgeries, brew beer, run presses, make music cds and books, run fromageries, provide electricity to nearby communities, make bread (which I ate as a child)… and make wine and distill liquors.

So to celebrate the souls of the faithful departed, I am creating a list of Trappist wineries or at least the places where you can buy their products…

The Ark of the Rebellerie
Distillerie Manguin
Monastère de Solan
Mosteiro de Oseira
Abbaye de Latroun
Notre Dame des Neiges
New Clairvaux
The Theophile Boutique

Agape – benefitting the Monasteries

I know that most American’s view Trappists as producing beer and making bread, but their dedication to viticulture has endured for centuries… Lets celebrate their accomplishments!

Bring on the Hobos!

Well, well, well…. speak of the devil. No sooner do I get done posting about the soon to be coming hobo wine, but my kit arrive via UPS! I guess that is one time the saying, “You are doing a great job, Brownie” really applies!

I guess the experimentation begins this weekend!

In the meantime, I snapped a picture of the unpacked equipment…

Next up glancing through reading First Steps in Winemaking, by C.J.J. Berry. Lots of unusual recipes in here that I might have to check out… perhaps not the pea pod wine though. And NO, I am not making that up.

The Economy and Hobo Wine

It is an unfortunate fact of life these days that the price of everything we hold dear is increasing.

And this includes wine. sniff.sniff..

And unlike Rory, who works around wine all day and has been known to have access to free wine, Kevin and I, generally have to pay for ours.

Which led me to a thought… a proverb, I believe…

Give a man a fish and he eats for a day… Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime…..

And that is the solution of sorts.

See, when the revolution comes, as a friend of mine says, and you can’t lay your hands on a nice chardonnay, what will you do? Hopefully, I will be able to make my own…

Because I have decided to take my knowledge of winemaking to a more practical level. No, I will not be crushing the grapes myself.. not at this point anyway, but will start with a kit.

I am fully prepared for it to reek.

It will be the satisfaction that I did it myself that will enable me to drink it. Kevin has already started to refer to it as hobo wine and that is ok. So long as the hobos don’t mind wine made with Chilean Chardonnay.

(and my profound apologies to the Hobo Wine Company. I am sure that their wine rocks… as much as I am sure that they will understand my use of the word Hobo to describe my soon to be created vintage er, product.

Are All Grapes Equal?

I guess that depends on who you ask.

The most common grape types come from the genus of vitis vinifera. These are the grapes that are native to Europe, Southwestern Asia and North Africa. These grapes have spread throughout the world beginning in the 2nd century BC when their cultivation was introduced into China (although local wild grapes were used before that).

Because of their close association with wine making over the last, oh, 7,000 years or so, many believe they are the only grapes that should be used when making wine. Initially, cultivation of the vinifera varieties occurred only on the west coast beginning in New Mexico and then migrating up the coast. However, hybrids of the vinifera and local vitis species have been producing wine as well.

Can good wine be produced from these native species? Well, we are beginning to find out now.

The vitis labrusca, or fox grape, more commonly known as the Catawba, Concord, Niagara and Delaware and used in wines in the Niagara Escarpment and elsewhere. Generally known for producing sweet wines, some vinters are beginning to experiment with producing drier wines from these grapes. Freedom Run has specifically produced a dry Niagara wine that is aged in oak (Manor Manning Reserve).

Vitis riparia or the Frost grape has been used to make many of the hybrids of vinifera species that are common throughout most of the nation. The Baco Noir, Marchel Foch and Frontenac are all varietals that have mixed with v. raparia.

Vitis rotundifloria…. the Muscadine grape. This grape was different than the other vitis forms in that its fruit grows in clusters instead of clumps. These grapes were the first native grapes to be used to produce wine. Their earliest know cultivation for this purpose was in St. Augustine, Florida during the 16th century. These wines are typically seen as sweet, dessert wines but this is due to added sugar during the winemaking process. Additionally, these grapes are noted for their resistence to many of the worst grape pests. Lastly, the muscadine grape is noted for having more than eight times the anti-oxidants of other grape varieties. The wines from these grapes are produced throughout the Southern United States.

Do these grapes rate compared to the vitis vinifera? Well those grapes have been in cultivation and in production for wine a long time. But these grapes are being used more intensively now. Will they catch up to their old world cousins? Time will tell?