Food & Drink

Cynthiana in the Summer

Pour a glass of a local favorite from Arkansas wine country

He might be a bit biased, but of Arkansas’s Cynthiana wine, winemaker Dennis Wiederkehr says: “You can pair it with fresh air, it’s so good.”

Wiederkehr’s Swiss American family opened Wiederkehr Wine Cellars in 1880 near the little town of Altus, which has since earned a reputation as Arkansas’s viticultural capital. The Cynthiana grape, the state fruit, is a dark purple cluster variety and the oldest native North American grape cultivated today. The resulting wine is “full-bodied with a hint of sweetness, and notes of rich black cherry and toasted almond from the barrel,” Wiederkehr says, “with a color so deep you could use it as ink.”

The family bottles and sell 150 to 300 cases of its reserve from the 2019 harvest starting in early June, when many an Arkansan makes a trip to Altus to stock up (Wiederkehr’s neighbors in the region, Post Winery and Chateau aux Arc Vineyards, also produce the prized juice). The Wiederkehr family’s cellar holds a spot on the National Register of Historic Places and also serves as a restaurant, one with an original stone floor and timber beams. Wiederkehr recommends pairing the robust Cynthiana wine with a Swiss sausage platter or steak—or take him at his word, and enjoy a glass in the sunshine. 

photo: Courtesy of Wiederkehr Family Cellars
Inside the restaurant at Wiederkehr.