Back a few years ago, I had a work trip that took me to Arkansas. Never missing an opportunity to explore a new area, I set off on my own to explore this beautiful natural state and seek out the best Arkansas wineries. Perhaps the most beautiful part was the drive from Bentonville to Altus, Arkansas – rich green trees surrounded both sides of the road and rolling hills broke up the landscape.
With a rich history of Italian, Swiss, and German immigrants, Arkansas has a long chronicle of winemaking. Today the area mainly focuses on American hybrids and muscadines due to the region’s rather humid climate. For nearly a century, the University of Arkansas has worked hand-in-hand with local wineries to develop new grapes that can withstand Arkansas’ natural problems, such as high humidity.
Today the entire state only has a handful of wineries; 18 Arkansas wineries were registered as of 2019. However, at one point Arkansas had a thriving 160 wineries and produced more wine and grapes than any other state. Prohibition in the United States reduced the wineries to only a few that remain today, and about half of Arkansas’s counties remain dry.
Fast Facts About ARKANSAS WINE
Primary Grapes: Cynthiana (the state’s official grape!), Norton, and other hybrid varieties
Climate: Humid subtropical/continental in highlands
Things to Look for: In 2021 the University of Arkansas developed two new varieties suited specifically for the climate here: Indulgence and Dazzle. I’d love to give these a try!
Unique Fact: Chateau Aux Arc boasts itself as the largest planter of Cynthiana in the world!
Arkansas AVAs: Arkansas Mountain AVA (a large mountain north of the Arkansas River) and Altus AVA (a sub-AVA of the former where the state’s wine industry began in the 1880s)
How many wineries are in Arkansas: Arkansas has 18 wineries registered as of 2019, with 6 located in Altus, Arkansas
Best Altus, Arkansas WINERIES
The small, rural town of Altus plays a distinctive role in preserving Arkansas’s history and culture. Altus continues the heritage of German-Swiss immigrants and the art of winemaking that they brought to the United States. Its downtown area also pays tribute to its coal mining history. There you’ll find local shopping and dining experiences in a charmingly classic, small downtown square setting.
There are six wineries in Altus total, but if you only have time for four (the perfect amount for a day trip!), be sure to check out my favorites along the Altus wine trail.
Chateau Aux Arc is owned & operated by Arkansas’ first and only Woman Winegrower, Audrey House. A true force of nature, Audrey’s achievements are many: she belongs to the Court of Master Sommeliers and boasts the largest planting of Cynthiana in the world. She’s also frequently a powerful voice for the Arkansas wine community during legislative sessions.
Enjoy 100% Arkansas-grown wines as you sip and relax in the sprawling vineyard views.
Wiederkehr has been family-owned and operated since 1880. Consequently, their authentic Swiss Heritage shines through in everything they do. The property boasts vineyard tours, free wine tasting cellar tours, a Wiederkehr Village Wine & Spirits Store, as well as the Wiederkehr Weinkeller Restaurant. This restaurant is housed in an original 1880 hand-dug wine cellar. Plan a stop here for lunch or dinner – it was even featured on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s quite the experience!
Mount Bethel Winery is a family-owned and operated Arkansas winery that has been handed down for generations.
Sip through wine in their quaint tasting room as you chat with a member of the Post family about the history of this incredible place. They offer classic wines such as Merlot, Cabernet, and Chardonnay, as well as native varieties such as Cynthiana (sometimes known as Norton), Muscat, Niagara, Concord, and Muscadine. Additionally, you can sample their delicious fruit wines!
Muscadine wines are a must-try at Post Winery! In case you’re unfamiliar, Muscadines are native to the Southern U.S., and have a distinctive aroma and flavor often described as grapey, cotton-candylike, fruity, or piney. The Post family has been growing grapes in the Altus river valley since the 1870s and has crafted locally-grown Arkansas wines ever since. They’re one of the longest farming Arkansas wineries and vineyards.
Other Arkansas Wineries to Visit
Located in Springdale, a ways away from the other Arkansas wineries on this list, Tontitown is well worth a visit. Here, the art of winemaking has been passed down for generations in the Ranalli family. Enjoy a free wine tasting at Tontitown Winery’s tasting room, also known as the “Taldo House”. Here, wines are made on-site from local Tonitown grapes in a traditional Italian style.
Other Arkansas Wineries Information
Altus Arkansas Wineries List
Is Arkansas Wine Good?
Arkansas has a humid climate, which isn’t ideal for traditional wine-growing grapes. Instead, Arkansas wineries rely on hybrid varieties and muscadine grapes. Hybrid grapes are made by crossing European Vitis vinifera vines with American Vitis labrusca – this allows them to be more resistant to insects, diseases, and temperatures in the region.
Arkansas wines, therefore, are different in style than most wines you’d find at a grocery store or restaurant. They’re good in their own unique way.
I personally enjoy sipping wine from all across the U.S. and exploring the area’s unique terroir and cultural practices through the glass.
Arkansas Wine - Where to Buy?
Arkansas has a long and complicated history with alcohol shipping compliance. Just recently in 2021 the state opened up home deliveries within the state from some retailers.
Unfortunately, for the wineries on this list, you’ll have to go in person to purchase from or call the numbers listed on their site. At the time of this writing (12/2021), none of the wineries have online wine shops.