Know Your Local Wine Shop ~ Arkansas Edition

The Arkansas state flag was designed by Willie Kavanaugh Hocker.

The Arkansas state flag was designed by Willie Kavanaugh Hocker.

I love to visit wineries when I am traveling. But sometimes, you can’t get away when you are away. How do I solve the problem? Check out the local wine shop or liquor store.

But, first a word about Arkansas liquor laws.

Confusing is too simple a word. As is arcane.

First off, you can’t buy wine over the internet and have it shipped to you in Arkansas. Well, technically you probably could but because Arkansas won’t ship its liquor to you the other states won’t allow the reverse. You can go into a winery or store buy your liquor and have it shipped to your residence only. You have to have a special label from the ABC (alcoholic beverage control) agency or the special label from Fed Ex or UPS. But the winery has to pay all the taxes to Arkansas and pay for a permit. So naturally most places won’t do it. oh. And you can only have a single case.

Whew. Complicated. But it gets worse. Like if you live there worse.

Some counties are wet. Some are dry. Some are wet and have dry towns. Some are dry and have wet towns. In wet places you can get beer and wine in a grocery store. And in most wet places you can’t buy on Sunday. Because God.

You will find team spirit everywhere! Photo by Gretchen Neuman for VinoVerve

You will find team spirit everywhere! Photo by Gretchen Neuman for VinoVerve

The best way to figure out what is going on in your area is to drive around on Sunday and find out which stores have full parking lots. That’s how my dad figured it out. Luckily as a retiree, he could pick where they could move. Which is why they don’t live in Conway, Arkansas. They originally were really set on the place. And then they went to dinner at nice steak house and found out that their beverage options were Coca-Cola and sweet tea. Ugh.

So they opted for a place in Benton County.

And while they found a place that is open on Sundays (after 11am of course so the baby Jesus doesn’t weep) that wasn’t the place that they took us to during our inaugural trip to Arkansas. We went to Guess Who?.  An odd name, I agree, but a great shop, super friendly and busy too.

Organized into four sections, the store has a separated entrance for those buying liquor by the case.  And I mean a case of Tito’s Vodka.  I think this spot is mostly for the restaurants or clubs, but the lady running it was super friendly.  The other entrance is for the regular customers.  Broken down into beer, wine and liquor sections.  The beer section includes a cooler with a large section of craft brews.  Much to Kevin’s excitement it also sells Boulevard Brewing Company beers.  Technically not a craft brew anymore after being sold to the folks at Duval, it hasn’t become as accessible as Sam Adams or Budweiser, but we can’t get it at home.  As as extra special plus for Kevin, this store carries the special brews usually only available in the tasting room.  The liquor section is probably the smallest part of the store. Found in front of the registers found by type on short black metal shelves.. Liquors are organized by type.  Pretty standard stuff.

Duck Dynasty wine.  Fake as the Show... which is probably also a product of California...Photo by Gretchen Neuman for VinoVerve.

Duck Dynasty wine. Fake as the Show… which is probably also a product of California…Photo by Gretchen Neuman for VinoVerve.

The last part of the store is the wine section.  This is probably the largest section and is bright and airy with wines organized in wooden cases by location or varietal.  There is a good mixture of options with popular and bulk wines being found in the front.  Guess Who?  Offers a variety of classes for customers, private wine lockers and wine tasting opportunities.  Oh, and a section for local wines of which I took advantage (and will be discussed later).  The one downside?  Finding this obnoxious Duck Dynasty wine. The wines are being produced in California and have no other connection with the family other than the labeling.  The press release from Trinchero Family Wines says that the family “Share(s) the same values,” with the Robertsons. Not all of them I hope.  But as my mother has always said, “If it looks like a duck, talks like a duck and acts like a duck…. Well, it’s a duck.”

Over all, I was impressed with impressed with Guess Who and expect that I will be shopping there  occasionally while visiting the folks.  If you are in the Bentonville area and need some wine, I suggest you visit them too.



Guess Who?
214 SE Walton Blvd.
Bentonville AR, 72712

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

How To Drink Local Wine

My favorite way to discover local wine is through travel. As I drive to conferences or visiting relative, I like to stop by the local winery and taste what they are producing.  I love talking to the wine makers and learning about their story.  Their passion for wine is always infectious.  Currently, I have a problem. Getting away has increasingly become difficult due to family responsibilities (i.e., reining in teens)

My solution? Well the first option is to comb my local wine shops (which may in fact be local grocery stores). Grocery stores? Well, being a foodie type, it makes for easier menu planning.  I have found myself doing this on the road as well.  In part, because I eat better on the road when I am picking fruit and veg instead of eating fast food, but also because in many states, grocery stores have wine (Yes, I know you don’t New York State – get over yourselves on that matter).

I have picked up great wines in Virginia, Indiana Illinois and Nebraska at grocers or their closely associated liquor stores.

Some standouts? Bloom, a small chain that I found while visiting my 104 year old grandmother and other relatives in Virginia Beach. They have a nice wine section that has got one of the nicest selections of local wines that I have ever seen.

My nationwide? Whole Foods is a great choice. With its dedication to fresh and local ingredients, it makes sense that they would feature local wine. Given their national reach? Local wines extend to regional options extending my non-travelling reach. Lately, I have found Firelands Gewurztraminer from Isle St. George, near Sandusky, OH and from Illinois, Prairie State Winery, Lynfred and Glunz Family all in my local WF.

Surprisingly, in Chicago, I have found that smaller, ethnic groceries are full of local options as well. Maybe this is because they are being supplied by alternative distributors. I am not going to argue the point so long as I can find new and original options. In my neighborhood, I am recommending Foremost liquors which vary from neighborhood to neighborhood as to their options.

I have also found increasing local options at my neighborhood Jewel where the wines of Indiana’s Oliver Winery  and Michigan’s Tabor Hill have found themselves on the shelves.

These are very pleasant surprise for a local wine lover.

My new way to get local wine? If I can’t get to the wine? I am having it brought to me.

While not all smaller wineries can and do ship, we should take advantage of those that do. How to chose?  I am using results for wine competitions.  An imperfect system to be sure, but one that is making it easier for a lover of local wine to extend their selections.

What are your favorite regional American wines?  Let us know and maybe I will be checking them out soon!


Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor
October 10, 2011

Canei Go Home Again?

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

While most kids in high school were trying to get someone to buy them beer, I was that weird kid drinking wine.

The wine I was drinking was about the same level of quality as their beer, but I didn’t care. I was drinking real wine. From Italy. It was imported. And it was advertised on the radio. In the Buffalo area, where I grew up the ads were voiced by Danny Neaverth a long-time Buffalo radio god.

The ads?

Canei?* Yes, You Can!

*(pronounced like Can I)

Oh it was Klassy! It even had a screw top making it super convenient for the teenaged Gretchen.

I drank this wine as I moved into my college years (where it was actually not entirely too awful with the Thai food we ordered from Tipsuda (sadly, long gone!)

Why mention this?

Well, yesterday, while on a quest for a new hydrometer (people keep breaking them which I find annoying) and the liquor store that I visited to replace the broken equipment, there it was.  A bottle of Canei.  I haven’t seen a bottle of it in years.  It was calling me.  Like a siren’s song.

So we bought a bottle and brought it home and poured it while eating a Giordano’s Pizza (another 1985 pairing).

And like the siren’s song, the Canei dashed me on the rocks.

OMG.  It sucked.  SUCKED.No I Can't (stomach it anymore)
What was teenaged me thinking?  I don’t know.  I was 19.  I didn’t know any better and it was my introduction to buying wine.

Clearly, my taste buds have moved on.  And we ditched the Canei and opened a dry rosé instead.

So Canei go home again?  No, I can’t.

And I am guessing that the Ruinite and ice won’t be nice.

Sometimes I Cheat…

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

I don’t always go visit wineries… Sometimes I pick up wine at the liquor store, like I would if I were at home. That way, I can bring home more wine.

5 TrailSuch was the case with this wine that Kevin suggested that we open this bottle last night. It is from 5 Trails Winery in Nebraska, which I did not visit. I went to Feather River and tried to go to South Fork Winery instead. And to me, this is a shame as this was a GREAT wine. It tasted of pears and citrus and was full and fruity.

It is produced from the Frontenac Gris grape which came from one cane of Frontenac grapes grown at the University of Minnesota. This one cane produced gray fruit instead of black and is the source of all the existing stock of the Gris varietal. I had to look this up as I had never heard of it before.

I was once asked if I could claim that I wine from Southern Illinois (or any of the other places that I look for local wines) was as good as a wine produced in Italy or France. At the time, I argued that it was irrelevant because they were different wines and were meant to be so… This wine, however, I will put up against a Moscato anytime. It was excellent.

And this is what I love about VinoVerve and local wine.