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.”

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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.