Sunday, June 13, 2010

I'm back!

Because I'm sure you noticed I was gone (yes, I'm kidding), I'm hereby announcing to the world that I'm back. And I have my kids again. I missed them like crazy, and I need to take a picture of their matching facial bruises. Leaving your kids with their grandparents for four days apparently results in physical trauma. I say this with great sarcasm because M1 dropped a bowling ball and had it bounce back into his cheek and M2 somehow whacked her eye on a bedstead. So the grandparents had nothing to do with it.

Anyway, Oz and I have been married 10 years now. That's just over 1/3 of my entire life. In another 10 years, if we haven't killed each other before then, I'll have been married over half my life. All you math whizzes out there should be able to work out my age (roughly) if you read that carefully enough. Let me know if you work it out. I'm not that motivated.

We never had a honeymoon. When we got married, I had a job - barely - as a small-town lifestyle reporter, and he had no job and no car and - the kicker - no green card. He wasn't here illegally, but there were glitches with his visa that our marriage kind of helped to work out. "Kind of" as in he would have been deported if we hadn't gotten hitched. So we've only ever taken two trips without the kids, and one was our first anniversary, which was before M1 came along.

It was time for another trip, so when Oz mentioned visiting Arkansas wine country (I hear you out there. I do. You're saying, "Arkansas has WINE country??"), I went along with it. Especially after he booked a hotel room with a Jacuzzi.

We took off on Saturday morning with the goal of reaching the Wiederkehr Winery by roughly lunchtime. Wiederkehr is run by a family of Swiss German descent, though with a good Arkansan accent, it's pronounced WEE'-da-ker'. That messes with my head every time I see it.

But I have a German flag tag on the front of my van and a penchant for pronouncing things properly.

It still drives me nuts to say Miam-uh for the town named Miami in Oklahoma.

Wiederkehr is such a cute little place. The girl working there said it's "stuck in a time warp," but I can see why they keep it that way. It does have charm.

This is one of the buildings in front of one of the parking areas. I guess they have a Weinfest every year, so they have ample parking and several bathrooms. After you've been in a car for 2-1/2 hours and drunk orange juice AND coffee on the way, bathrooms are important.

They have tours, so we decided to kick around for a while and wait for the next one, short though it was. I let Oz take this photo of me because my entire outfit was brand-spankin'-new and I had been instructed to make sure a photo was taken of me in a skirt with accessories and a purse. And new shoes.

The thing about shoes... when purchasing flip-flops to be worn on vacation, look for arch support. My calves were killing me by the end of the day.

Live and learn.

This was the gift shop at Wiederkehr. The tasting room is in the back area. Tastings are free, though tip jars are set around. Their Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon tastes like a really, really good steak. And I strongly dislike red wine. But we bought some of that, and I may have to splurge for some filets to go with it. Yum yum yum.

I loved the grape leaves carved into all the railings around the buildings.

A performance room. There was a recorder band practicing while we were there. I suspect they usually practice up the road at St. Mary's Catholic Church, but there was a wedding going on that day (Oz and I found that out when I was going to go take pictures of the church and the happy new couple were walking out. We maaay have left rather than disturb them.), so they moved to Wiederkehr. Cool, huh?

Wiederkehr also has a little restaurant on site. It's located in what was the original wine cellar that was hand-dug in the 1880s and is actually listed on the historical register. Oz nearly cracked his head on a few beams, but the interior is darling.

I also liked the little herb garden growing next to the restaurant. They were growing parsley, sage, rosemary, and ... dill. And basil.

We did hit up the restaurant for lunch. Five-star cuisine it isn't, but it's not bad, either. Their fried potatoes are delicious, and Oz loved the onion soup.

After we left Wiederkehr, we wanted to hit up Mount Bethel Winery. I'd provide a link except I'm experiencing a bit of sour grapes, so to speak, about them. We drove up to the place, which is basically a small store across from a nice-looking house, parked, and walked into the shop. We were greeted by dogs. Two dogs in the store and one dog outside. And that's it. We had seen a woman when we drove up, but she never came in. We wandered around the shop, and I really wanted to taste some of their fruit wines - blackberry, elderberry, etc. - but... you'd have thought the place was abandoned. After wandering around for about 10 minutes (felt like an hour), we left. We saw a man on the way out. He walked into the house and shut the door.

So poo on them!!!

Luckily, the Post Familie Winery was pretty much next door, so we popped in there. It's a busy place, and they had very nice employees. Apparently winery-hopping is a common weekend activity around there, because we saw several folks there who had been at Wiederkehr with us. We came, we tasted, we bought. It was pretty, and the wines were good, but the place didn't strike me as anything spectacular. I would go there again, though, because the people were kind and they had quite few cute goodies in their shop. And cheese lol. If it wouldn't have melted in the car, I'd have bought some of that, too.

Finally, we headed back toward our hotel with a Jacuzzi and passed by what probably should have been the first winery of the day since we passed it on our way to Wiederkehr, but it wound up being the last. I'm very glad because they had the best wine we tasted all day.

Welcome to Chateau Aux Arc (pronounced Chateau Ozark). It's a fairly new winery - their web site tells you more - but they're doing very well for themselves. Word to the wise: It's more of a spot for young folks, as new-age music is piped into the tasting room/gift shop area and we were greeted by a blond man in dreadlocks who was reading philosophy. But he knew his wines, and we had a great tasting. They do charge $5 for their tastings, but you get to keep the glasses (nice advertising) and get to taste every wine you want.

And they have the best wine I've ever had. Oz loved it, too, and for us to love the same wine is almost unheard of. It's called their Altage. I don't see it on their web site - not that I could have it shipped to Oklahoma even if I did. It's a limited-edition wine for them because it's made from some special grapes... I'd share the story, but it's kind of long and this post is going to be long enough as it is. Suffice it to say we bought two bottles.

Beautiful grounds, too.

Since we still had a good chunk of afternoon to kill, Oz decided to take me antique shopping (I am not a person for whom antique is a verb) in Van Buren. It didn't happen, though.

There was a bike rally in town, so most of the shops were shut! There were some awesome bikes, though. I really wanted a certain red one that happened to have an H and a D somewhere in the name. I'm such a freak. :)

I'm glad we stopped in, though. Van Buren is cute. Couldn't stay there, though. Crawford County is dry. So we went back to our hotel in Fort Smith and went to Landry's for dinner. Very much a college joint, what with the blackboard walls and ginormous beer selection, but also very good. I'd happily go back.

All in all it was a great weekend trip, but I'm glad to be home. My garden and chickens were glad to see me, too, and have informed me that I'm stuck at home preserving food and taking care of everyone for the rest of the summer.

I think I can live with that.

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