WIEDERKEHR VILLAGE - Like Rodney Dangerfield, Arkansas wines get no respect - or very little - compared to the vaunted vintages of, say, California’s Napa and Sonoma valleys or France’s Bordeaux and Burgundy regions.
But that stereotype, which ignores 21st-century improvements in the quality of some Natural State wines, won’t dampen Saturday’s gemutlichkeit (a German jawbreaker denoting “cozy good cheer”). That’s the occasion for the 50th annual Weinfest at Wiederkehr Wine Cellars in the hills above Altus, 100 miles northwest of Little Rock.
Speaking of stereotypes, the festival will trot out lederhosen, dirndls and other Alpine garb. A polka band will provide the oompah-pah to spur a conga-line procession through Wiederkehr’s venerable cellars. Bratwursts, sauerkraut and other rib-sticking fare will be consumed by the 3,000 to 4,000 expected visitors.
Wine-tasting tours at Wiederkehr’s will be free on Saturday. There’ll be rides on motorized trams and horse-drawn carriages through the vineyards to an observation tower overlooking the Arkansas River Valley.
A grape-stomping contest is the most colorful (especially for the bare feet of those involved) among the potpourri of scheduled competitions. Others include stone tossing, log tossing,a dog show, and car shows for Mercedes and Porsche owners.
On the uphill approach to Wiederkehr’s, it’s well worth a stop at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. Built in 1902 in Roman basilical style and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the church is gorgeously decorated with paintings and gold-leaf work.
Wiederkehr’s is the most prominent of the several wineries in Franklin County, a heritage stemming from the arrival in 1880 of Swiss German immigrant Johann Andreas Wiederkehr and his family.
The wine cellar that he dug into a hillside 13 decades ago now houses the Weinkeller Restaurant. Its mainly central European fare runs from schnitzels to fondues, with apple strudel and Black Forest cherry cake among dessert favorites. No reservations will be taken Saturday, when the dining cellar will be jam-packed with festival goers.
Still a family business, Wiederkehr’s managed to survive Prohibition in the 1920s by gaining legal permission to make sacramental wines for religious services. Its Di Tanta Maria sweet dessert wine has won awards in national and international competitions.
Avid winery-hoppers can touch bases Saturday at other wineries in and around Altus. These include Post Familie Winery, Mount Bethel Wines,Chateau Aux Arc and Cowie Wine Cellars. It’s easy to drink responsibly in these parts, because the tastings generally involve no more than a thimble’s worth of each wine.
Admission to the Weinfest grounds and guided tours at Wiederkehr Village are free on Saturday, with festival proceedings starting at 9 a.m.; there are charges for food and some activities. For more information, call (800) 622-9463 WINE or visit wiederkehrwines.com.
Weekend, Pages 36 on 10/10/2013
Print Headline: Wiederkehr’s 50th Weinfest grape-stomping good time