Wine of the Ozarks
There's a wonderful random serendipity with spur of the moment RV travel planning. In this case I was mapping a return from Florida back to Colorado and was looking for interesting stops to break up the 1,800 mile drive. Our intermediate goal was Bentonville, Arkansas, but knowing that it would be an after-dark arrival, I started searching around on the Allstays app for campgrounds we could arrive at before sunset. After tapping on several alternatives, digging deeper down on their websites, and surveying third party park reviews, I came across a winery with RV hookups.
As we exited off of I-40 and started curving uphill in the southern Ozarks there were signs indicating we were now on the Arkansas Wine Trail driving by several small wineries. About four miles later we topped out on a high vantage point over the Arkansas river valley at Wiederkehr Village (population 46) and turned right into the Wiederkehr winery.
Regionally, as we've toured America we know that the majority of quality wines are in California and Oregon. However, dotted around the country are wine friendly microclimates worked by both long generational and upstart vintners who are actually producing some pretty decent wines.
The Widerkehr family has called this gentle mountaintop home since Johann Andreas arrived in 1880 from Switzerland to plant the first grapes in the vineyard. Today the vineyard and small compound of buildings are now owned and managed by the fifth generation of Widerkerhrs. Beyond their RV hookups we were most interested in the winery's Weinkeller Restaurant.
The Weinkeller sits inside the original hand dug wine cellar with original axe marks still visible on the beams. It's been a year-round restaurant since 1967 and on the National Register of Historic Places.
The waitstaff was uniformly garbed in swiss dirndls and greeted us politely with soft Arkansas accents. The menu is both affordable and wide ranging with European recipes ranging from sausages and fondue, to chicken and steaks. Table bread was fresh baked and all the tasty salad dressings homemade. We were both in a lighter meal mode and ordered two chicken entrees, one roasted the other lightly breaded. Both were nicely prepared and accompanied by swiss potatoes and a mixed vegetable medley.
And of course, all of this was paired with a locally produced Merlot ($4 per glass) which surprised us. No, it's not a world-class vintage, and perhaps just a bit thin on being fruit forward, but it was a eminently drinkable and enjoyable wine. In total the Weinkeller delivered on ambiance, food and wine in a location one never would have imagined.
The real bonus was their level, scenic and quiet RV area with 30 amp and water hookup for $15 for the night. They've got about a dozen hookups and can even accommodate big rigs. All the sites are back-in. And after a lovely meal it's about a 500 foot walk back to your rig. Finally, one tip: don't try to locate the winery with their address on your GPS. We did, and that put us on a dirt road that, after about 100 feet we decided to call the winery for better directions. Simply get off I-40 at Exit 41 and drive south 4.7 miles on Highway 186 right to the winery - you can't miss it.