One of my favorite things about this column is the feedback and questions I get from readers. Topics range from which wines to serve at dinner to gift buying recommendations. But over the past year the questions asked by many are “Is this wine available locally?” or “My local wine shop did not have the wine you wrote about, so where do I go to find it?”
The answer to local availability is easy: Yes. I only write about wines that can be found in Arkansas.
But considering the vast amount of wines available in the state, it’s not reasonable to expect to find every wine at every retail store. ‘Available locally’ is not ‘every store’.
There are more than 1,000 wine brands available for retailers to order from distributors. This 1,000 or so is the number of brands, so when you add all the grape varieties, different bottle sizes and the reserve bottles, the number is much higher. Factor in all those variables and there are easily more than 10,000 different bottles available.
Retail stores, depending on size, may stock as many as 2,000 to 4,000 bottles or as few as a few hundred. The bottles may range from everyday drinking wines to prized vintage wines, rare wines and hard-to-find wines.
My best advice: Call ahead.
Wines can be ordered if they’re not in stock, and calling ahead will save you a trip and give your retailer time to order the wine if it’s not in stock.
Fine-wine stores are always interested in accommodating your needs. Whether you are looking for one bottle or a case, the best retailers will be willing assist in finding your request.
I am asked frequently about homegrown Arkansas wines — my opinion on quality, future of the industry and do I buy them?
Recently I was invited to do a quick three- or four-second window on an Arkansas promotion for AETN about the Arkansas Wine Trail. It gave me a chance to re-examine the growth and opportunity we have in our own backyard.
Many Arkansas wineries are not only producing indigenous grapes but also sourcing from grape-growing regions around the United States. I personally enjoy the wines from indigenous grapes that are homegrown and unique to our state. The Cynthiana, Muscat, Norton and delicate fruit wines are worth the exploration and enjoyment.
Exploring those unique wines is as easy as exploring The Arkansas Wine Trail.
The Arkansas Wine Trail extends from Eureka Springs to Altus and Paris to Hot Springs. There are many opportunities to explore not only the wineries along the trail, but also the state’s spectacular scenic vistas and towns. You could make a weekend getaway at almost any location along the way.
Also worth noting is the Arkansas Wine Country 100 Bike Tour (this year’s event took place in March). The annual event offers 17-, 35-, 80- or 100-mile routes. You can pick your pace and route. The tours begin and end at the Post Familie Winery in Altus. One of the benefits of this perspective of seeing our wine regions is the opportunity to bike through a scenic and outdoor experience along the Arkansas River Valley. The various routes pass through Altus, Ozark, Paris, Subiaco, Scranton, Hartman and Coal Hill.
Just as we are experiencing an explosion of craft beer in Arkansas, I think we will continue to see new and up-and-coming wineries on the Arkansas Wine Trail.
My answer to the questions about Arkansas wines: Yes. Arkansas produces a variety of fine, quality wines, there’s lots of exciting growth happening, and I do buy and drink Arkansas wine.