By Connie Las Schneider
Wiederkehr Wine Cellars, Inc., which started as a small family winery in 1880, is “still here and we’re not going anywhere,” said new President and Chairman of the Board, Dennis Wiederkehr.
Despite rumors that the winery had closed, they only closed the Vintage 1880 Wine & Gift Shoppe from March 1 to May 10, to allow time for renovations after the leadership of the company passed to Dennis Wiederkehr. Dennis’ uncle, Al Wiederkehr, retired in February 2018 after almost 70 years in the business and sold the majority of his stock to Wiederkehr’s cousins, Michael and Kasey Post.
“The synergy and financial resources of bringing in different talents have allowed us to make many positive changes and we’re working hard to bring the old family business back to what it once was,” said Dennis Wiederkehr.
As the fourth of five generations working in Wiederkehr wine family business, Dennis said the family business has literally been “working from the top down” to reroof and renovate their historic buildings, revamp the tasting room/gift shop, perfect their Weinkeller Restaurant menu and expand their stock of varietal wines to include eight reintroduced European varieties as well as their popular sweet wine varieties.
The remodeled tasting room instantly draws visitors toward the long antique Italian mahogany wine-tasting bar that was partially hidden from full view behind a wall that separated the bar from the retail area. The bar’s back wall features intricate gold overlaid paper-mache scenes of a grape harvest celebration on one side and the winemaking celebration on the other that had been built in Salerno Italy as a wedding present for the original owner in the mid-1800s, said Wiederkehr.
The Weinkeller Restaurant across the street from the tasting room and wine cellar is part of the original 1880 log cabin that is on the National Register of Historic Places. ‘‘We will have to be very careful to maintain the building’s integrity while we are working on it,” Wiederkehr noted.
Guided tours of Wiederkehr Wine Cellars are given every 45 minutes throughout the week. The winery is located in Wiedekehr Village on Hwy 186 just north of Altus in an area officially recognized by the federal government as an “Appellation of Origin” viticulture area, more generally known as Arkansas Wine Country.
On Saturday, September 29, they will celebrate the 55th Annual Wiederkehr Weinfest with plenty of food and beverages, live music from three bands, the traditional State Championship Grape Stomps, log toss, stone toss, trail rides, tram rides, a dog show and fun for the entire family. On October 14th the Weingarten banquet room will also host a dinner Theatre featuring a historical play about early Ft. Smith from a talented local playwright. Follow the Spectator and social media for more information on all these events.
SIDE BAR: (a semi-silly filler I wrote years ago but it’s a good filler)
Wine Tasting Etiquette for Dummies
Wine tasting has a mystique of romance and refinement; the “good life” in a bottle for those who know the etiquette. Despite the hype, wine tasting is simply using your senses.
First, the “nose” of the wine has a distinct odor depending on the variety. If you train your mind to really smell what you are drinking, you can detect literally hundreds of scents. Try swirling your wine glass for 10 seconds to let some of the wine’s alcohol content vaporize and release its aromas. Now stick your nose in the glass and take a good whiff. What do you smell? Does it smell like wild cherry trees in bloom with subtle undertones of ambergris and oranges or perhaps like wood smoke with hint of tobacco juice and sweat? You are encouraged to get creative here because our noses are far more sensitive than our taste buds that usually only detect sweet, sour, salty and bitter.
Next, look at the glass; in tasting terms known as checking for “color and clarity”. What color is it? Besides the obvious red, white or pink (blush), is it maroon, amber, light green or the color of polluted water with sediment in it? Older white wines are said to be “darker” than younger white wines and older red wines have a tint of orange at the edges.
Now tilt the glass and swirl the wine around again to discover its “body”. Sticking out your pinky finger here is optional but recommended for ultimate effect. Does the wine stick to the side of the glass and slowly bleed down into the liquid? The slower and more even the drip, the heavier the body.
Now take a sip. The real high from wine comes from tasting it. The tasting can be as dramatic as a three-act play.
The first act is the “attack” phase or first impression. This is when you taste the alcohol content, acidity, sweetness and bitten tannin level. The second act is the “evolution” phase, or how it actually tastes. The more expressive adjectives used here the better.
The final act is the “finish”. Can you still taste it? Do you want to buy a bottle or a case to take home or do you want to spit it out? Spitting is always fun, too.
The best part of wine tasting? It’s usually free!