The potluck last night marked the official opening of the Ozark Ridge Runner’s October Wine Tour and Tasting rally, but today, we actually did the tours and tasting.
We queued up for a 9:30 AM departure from the campground, driving east on US Highway 64 to Altus. Our first stop was at Post Familie Winery, Arkansas’ largest exporter of wine. The winery is small, and harvesting and processing of grapes had just ended a couple of weeks ago. We broke into two groups, with one group touring and the other tasting, and then reversed the order. We were told that August is the busiest month of their year, though they bottle year round. Some of the grapes are imported from other vineyards, though most are from their own vineyards with several different varieties of grapes and muscadines. Because of the drought, this year’s grapes were fewer, but much sweeter to the winemaker’s delight. The tour guide was quite knowledgeable about all the processes, and told us just enough, but not too much to be boring.
Following our group’s tour, we did the requisite wine tasting. Perhaps Jim and Joan, our rally masters shown here at the tasting bar, sampled too many glasses! I found the traditional wines, like Chardonnay and Merlot, to be a bit on the strong side, with some aftertaste. The sweet, fruity wines—in which Post specializes—were much better, though not one I prefer drinking.
Our next stop was the Mount Bethel Winery, owned and operated by another member of the Post family. Though much smaller, they had similar wines, and again the traditional wines were a bit on the strong side with the sweet, fruity wines having a better taste.
Kay and I opted to depart from the group and ate lunch at Wiederkehrs Weinkeller Restaurant. The Weinkeller Restaurant serves excellent Swiss and other European specialties in charming, candlelit surroundings. The original wine cellar, hand-dug by Johann Andreas Wiederkehr in 1880, was converted to house the Weinkeller in 1967. The restaurant is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and for years has been voted "Most Romantic" and "Best Ethnic" by the readers of Arkansas Times magazine. Finally, I got some good German food—bratwurst and knockwurst sausages with sauerkraut and German fried potatoes—and it was great! Kay had an excellent Rueben.
After lunch, we drove back to the top of the mountain to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church (St. Mary’s Catholic Church), which is on the National Register of Historic Places. St. Mary’s Catholic Church was built in 1902 and is known for its beautiful paintings, ornate gold leaf walls, and Roman architecture.
Despite last night’s long sleep (10-1/2 hours for me), I took a one hour nap this afternoon.
We drove down to the picnic shelter for happy hour only to discover it had been canceled due to cold weather. We used the extra daylight to drive to the ridge overlooking the Arkansas River and the lock, dam, and campground.
After exchanging text messages and phone calls, and not wanting to miss saying goodbye to them, Jim and Cheryl invited us to their motorhome for a light dinner and great conversation. We have really enjoyed getting to know them, and relish our time together. We’ll see them again in Texas in early 2013.
Again, we closed the day with recorded television absent commercials—the best kind.