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Discover Mid-America September 2004
aux Arc's 25-year-old chardonnay vines, a month after bud-break
in spring 2004. (photo by Craig Harrington)
Despite the economic uncertainties
in todays post 9-11 era, at least one industry in the Heartland
has experienced growth. With the arrival of some creative, hardworking
and optimistic entrepreneurs, winemaking in Mid-America has received a
The following wineries from five states are examples of
industry newcomers with a seemingly bright future. Although several trace
their beginnings back several years, all have opened their doors since
2000. The cross-section ranges from wineries just out of the hobby stage
to major corporate enterprises.
Chateau aux Arc Vineyards and Winery
Opened in 2001, Chateaux Aux Arc Vineyards and Winery in Altus, AR, calls
itself the worlds largest planter of Cynthiana grapes, the largest
U.S. Chardonnay vineyard outside of California, and the largest Zinfandel
planter in Arkansas. It is the most recent addition to a wine district
that now numbers five wineries, some dating back more than a century.
The roots of the winery go back to 1998 when Audrey House bought ten acres
of vineyard in Arkansas after doing extensive research in Californias
wine country. Houses winemaking began at the age of 13 when she
produced her first batch of wine from water, sugar, bakers yeast
and Welchs grape juice concentrate.
Not long after graduating from college, House spent weekends tent camping
in her newly purchased vineyard while making her winery plans.
Within a year after its opening in 2001, Chateaux Aux Arc produced 3,000
gallons of wine. The next year, with its plantable vineyard expanded to
40 acres, House began working on a five-year plan to increase wine production
Today, the winery produces ten acres of Chardonnay grapes, along with
five acres of Cynthiana, with more on the way. Other varieties include
Kerner, Muller Thurgan, Schreube, Orianiensteiner, Vignoles, Caberrnet,
Primitivo, Zinfandel, and Vidal.
Chateau Aux Arc, which takes its name from the original French derivation
of Ozarks, is more than just a winery. Audrey House is making
her experience in developing a successful winery available to others through
Located in Polk County in the Ouachita Mountains of western Arkansas,
Altus (population 817) calls itself the Wine Capital of Arkansas.
The majority of Arkansas wine industry is located here, including
four other wineries: Wiederkehr Wine Cellars, Mount Bethel Winery, Post
Familie Vineyards & Winery and Cowie Wine Cellars in nearby Paris.
Antiquers and crafters will find plenty of shops for browsing in an area
surrounded by mountain scenery. History buffs will enjoy visiting the
Altus Heritage House Museum and Wiederkehr Wine Cellars. Overnight accommodations
in the area include St. Marys Mountain Country Inn and St. Marys
Mountain Guest House, plus three other facilities in nearby Ozark.
The annual Altus Wine Festival, held the last weekend in July (Friday
and Saturday), features wine and juice tastings, grape stomps, contests,
games, handmade crafts and great food. The 5th annual Bargains Galore
on 64 yard sales was held Aug. 12-14. Upcoming Altus events include
the Labor Day Picnic Sept. 6, Second Saturday Flea Market Sept. 11 (and
Nov. 13), and the annual Altus Autumn Fest Oct. 9.
The Chateau Aux Arc tasting room is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through
Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Reservations are requested for groups.
For more information about the winery call 800-558-WINE, or visit www.chateauauxarc.com.
White Owl Winery
FLAT ROCK, IL
Although White Owl Winery opened in 2000, the idea began in 1992 when
Brian Neighbors gave his father, Ken, a home winemaking kit as a gift.
After a few months, father and son decided to try their hand at making
fruit wine. By 1998, they had received more than 50 international awards.
That year, Brian and his wife, Joy, moved from Cincinnati to Flat Rock,
IL, and in November 2000, they helped Brians parents open White
Owl Winery. Over the next three years, the fledgling winery won more than
100 awards and medals for its wine.
The vintners concentrate on fruit wines, with Blueberry Sweet, Cherry
Pie, Spiced Pear, Cranberry Delight and Persimmon among the favorites.
Traditional grape wines such as Merlot, Chardonnay, Vidal, Traminette
and Chenin Blanc are produced. Fruit and grape blends are Surplus Blush,
Snowy White Chard-N-Apricot and Red Ripple. Sparkling wines
include Holiday Sparkle, Cherry Sparkle, Strawberry Sparkle and Cranberry
One of the winerys most popular non-grape wines is Old Blue,
a port style wine made from elderberries and blueberries. Rated Highly
Recommended by the Beverage Testing Institute, Old Blue
uses wild elderberries picked in fields adjacent to the winery, and blueberries
from a grower about three miles down the road.
Special events and Dinner Theatres have become a tradition at White Owl
Winery. W.O.W. Murder Mystery Dinners are held one Saturday evening each
month. Celtic music can be heard at the winery on the second Sunday of
each month in the VINO Dining Room.
Flat Rock, a village in Crawford County about eight miles west of the
Wabash River, is located on Hwy. 11 just off Hwy. 1 and about 36 miles
south of I-70. The area is rural with wayside picnic areas and a nature
preserve located nearby. Vincennes, IN, is the nearest city with more
than 18,000 population, located about 25 miles to the southeast. History
buffs can visit the George Rogers Clark Historical Park and many historic
homes in Vincennes.
For more information about White Owl Winery call 618-928-2898 or visit
Dozier Vineyard and Winery
Like many vintners Bruce Dozier began making wine as a hobby. In 1989,
Dozier discovered the wine he made in his basement was getting compliments
from people outside his family. Bruce and his wife, Nina, seeking to start
a business of their own, selected property for a winery. In 1998, they
bought 48 acres of land and planted a 4-acre vineyard the following spring.
A dilapidated Santa Fe depot building was on the property, and the Doziers
would later renovate it for use as the winerys main building. Surrounding
the winery are woods with footpaths and picnic areas.
Local residents claim to have seen the ghost of a young woman who waited
at the depot with a preacher to marry her betrothed. He was on his way
to war. The train failed to stop, carrying her fiancée to the battle
and an early death. The heartbroken woman searched the town for him. After
her death, according to local eyewitnesses, her spirit continued the search.
Over the years, eyewitnesses claim to have seen the apparition, still
dressed in wedding finery.
Some of our neighbors have reported a lot of strange sightings,
Bruce Dozier said.
A local reporter, preparing a feature story on the winery, recently took
numerous photographs on the winery grounds, continuing until nightfall.
Later, when he examined his photos, an unexplained whitish, transparent
blob appeared on several of them. Did he catch the spirit?
There are more stories on the winerys website, so you can decide
Ellinwood, with 2,164 population, is located ten miles east of Great
Bend, KS, on Hwy. 56. Nearby attractions include the Barton County Historical
Society Museum and Village in Great Bend.
Dozier Vineyard and Winery produces fine wines, including semi-sweet and
semi-dry reds and whites, and an apple wine. Hours are 1 to 6 p.m., Monday
through Sunday. Appointments are available from 6-8 p.m. For more information,
call 620-564-0195 or visit www.dozier-winery.com.
Crown Valley Winery
STE. GENEVIEVE, MO
Opened in the spring of 2003, Crown Valley Winery in Ste. Genevieve,
MO, features a 44,000 square-foot building which houses the winery, a
tour and tasting center, a deli and retail boutique. The winery and its
expansive vineyards are located on a farm owned by Joe H. Scott, Sr.,
who remembered the boyhood summers he had spent on his grandfathers
farm. In 1984, he purchased land in the area and established a farm of
Scott planted his first Chardonel grapes on the farm in 1998, and followed
up the following year with another field. As the grapes matured, Scott
developed his ideas for a winery. He visited many wineries throughout
the world in 2000. In 2001, he began building Crown Valley Winery, which
opened in the spring of 2003.
Today the winery has more than 195 acres of vineyards on a 600-acre site.
California-style wines are featured, including Pinot Noir and Cabernet
Sauvignon. Seven varieties of grapes are grown on the estate, and include
Chambourcin, Chardonel, Traminette, Vignoles, Concord, Frontenac and Norton.
The winery claims to have the largest planting of Norton grapes in the
United States. Christopher Ruess, director of marketing at the winery,
said that one unique feature is the fact that the winery is surrounded
by more than 8,000 acres of farmland and ranch being developed by Scott.
Our weekend vineyard tours are like safaris and visitors are delighted
to see long-horn cattle, bison, elk and llamas in addition to the vines.
Although the scale of development of Crown Valley Winery is larger and
more expansive than most, Ruess stressed that not all of the winerys
assets are in buildings and fixtures, but in dedicated people.
Our winemaker, Philippe Daguisy, is really a spectacular person,
and makes the winery special, Ruess said. He sets a standard
equal to the best wineries of California.
A native of Reims, France, Daguisy earned a degree in enology and viticulture
and worked throughout the major winemaking regions of France before continuing
his career at Crown Valley Winery. He heads a cellar staff,
supervising the many processes that result in award-winning wines. The
wine is aged in French and American oak barrels on the premises.
Ste. Genevieve, located about 60 miles south of St. Louis on Hwy. 61,
was settled by the French in the late 1700s. The oldest French-Colonial
village in the U.S., the town contains many restored homes. The oldest
is the Bolduc House, built in 1770 by Louis Boduc, a Canadian merchant,
miner and planter. Many antique shops, bed & breakfasts, restaurants
and other attractions make Ste. Genevieve an important visitor destination.
Wines from Crown Valley Winery can be sampled Sept. 10-12 at the Saint
Louis Art Fair in Clayton, MO. Throughout September, musical groups will
entertain at the winery from 2 to 6 p.m. during the three-day Labor Day
weekend and on Saturdays and Sundays.
Crown Valley Winery is open 7 days a week. April through October hours
are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday
through Sunday. November through March hours are Monday through Sunday,
11-5. Guided tours are $8 to $12 per person; wine tastings are $5.
Other festivals and wine events are scheduled throughout the year and
are listed on the winerys website. For more information about Crown
Valley Winery, call 573-756-9463 or visit www.crownvalleywinery.com.
Stone Bluff Cellars Winery and Inn
and the Stone Bluff Cellars Winery festival parrot. (photo by Bob
In 1994, Bob and Sandy McBratney purchased a farm near Haskell, OK. While
Sandy refurbished the old farmhouse, Bob commuted to his ophthalmology
practice in Tulsa.
Long interested in grapes and wine, Bob began weekend studies at the T.V.
Munson Viticulture and Ecology Center in Denison, TX. Armed with new knowledge
and help from son Brendan, a recent graduate of Oklahoma State University,
Bob planted the first phase of the vineyard in 1997. More vineyard acreage
was added the next year.
The winery and inn officially opened Sept. 30, 2000. Nearly 2000 guests
attended the grand opening. Over the next three years, a series of harvests
produced Cynthiana and Vignoles, the winerys table wines, and Royale,
the dessert wine. These wines, fermented in stainless steel tanks and
American Oak barrels, continue to be the winerys specialties. However,
other varieties have been added, including St. Vincent, Chambourcin, Baco
Noir and Malvasia Bianca.
Bob McBratney, who retired early from his ophthalmology career, said he
and his wife had looked for something on a small acreage that would be
self-supporting, and the winery/bed & breakfast seemed perfect.
Our property is located on a knoll, and you get a 25-mile view thats
really beautiful, he said. And were blessed with sandy-loam
soil thats perfect for growing grapes.
The soil conditions allow for good drainage. Grapes dont like
wet feet, McBratney added.
He credits others for much of the winerys success. He said his primary
mentor has been Dr. Keith Striegler, a professor at Southwest Missouri
State University in Mountain Grove, MO, who has advised him throughout
the development of the vineyard and the winemaking process.
The vineyard at Stone Bluff Cellars includes a two-acre plot of Chardonel
grapes that was planted last year. McBratney said the winery supplements
their grapes with those of neighboring growers, concentrating on award-winning
premium wines. So far, his wines have received 30 medals at national and
A unique event that will introduce Stone Bluff Cellars wine to many visitors
is coming this fall. The fifth annual Wine Festival will be held Saturday,
Sept. 25, at the winery. Guests will have the opportunity to sample wine,
enjoy live music, take a ride in a hot air balloon and enter a drawing
for a free nights stay at the Inn.
Haskell is located on Hwy. 64, 20 miles southeast of Tulsa and about halfway
between Tulsa and Muskogee. Water recreation and river scenery is nearby
on the Arkansas River. The Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee is
a destination for Native American history buffs.
For more information about Stone Bluff Cellars Winery, call 918-482-5655
or visit www.stonebluffcellars.com.
Tidal School Winery
After two years of renovations, the Tidal School Winery opened April
22, 2004 in the Tidal School building, located two miles south of Drumright,
OK. Built in the 1920s, the building was used to serve the educational
needs of John D. Rockefellers oil company. It is on the National
Register of Historic Places.
The renovated building houses modern wine production equipment. An oak
barrel room includes a tasting room and a small meeting area. According
to its developers, the entire operation promises to be the largest wine
producing facility in Oklahoma.
Wines offered include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Oklahoma Sweet, Chardonnay,
White Zinfandel and White Pinot Noir.
|The lower level
of Tidal School Vineyard's historic building now houses Oklahoma's
only fully automated wine bottling line, over 7,000 gallons of fermentation
and aging tanks, as well as presses, crushers/destemmers and other
equipment for Oklahoma's largest winery. (photo by Brenda Schroeder)
Gary Schroeder, president and CEO of Tidal School Winery, said that a
vineyard was completed last spring, incorporating the best of European
design. More than 800 Cabernet Franc vines were planted, according
to Roger Wilson, winemaker.
Schroeder said that he was very pleased with the turnout of more than
2,000 wine-lovers at the winerys Grand Opening, May 21. It
was the culmination of two years of renovating, he said, and
we were proud to show the public what wed done.
Schroeder said that only a little less than half of the winerys
four acres are devoted to vineyard. Most of our grapes come from
other vineyards in the local area, he added
The winerys vineyard and a 45-foot gazebo will be the centerpiece
for four acres of landscaped gardens, picnic areas and lawns. Free tours
are offered from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to
8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday.
The winery offers a Bistro Lunch that includes gourmet food
tasting, an etched wine glass, wine tasting, and a guided tour of the
winery, vineyard, and art gallery and heritage area. Total cost is $10.95.
Reservations are required, call 866-258-1903.
Drumright, a town of 2,905, is located on Hwy. 33 about 30 miles west
of Tulsa and about eight miles east of Cushing. Turner Turnpike, with
access to Oklahoma City and other Oklahoma destinations, is 20 miles to
the south via Hwy. 99. Cushing is the site of the Cimarron Valley Railroad
Museum. For more information about Tidal School Winery, call 918-258-3536
or go to www.tidalschool.com.
For more information on wineries in Mid-America visit
Discover Mid-America's Wineries in the Heartland.
Discover Mid-America founder and Senior Contributing Editor Ken Weyand
files regular reports on notable Midwest destinations. He can be reached
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