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One of several new vineyards in Arkansas, Chateau Aux Arc of Altus (Franklin County) promotes itself as the largest planter of Cynthiana grapes in the world as well as the largest planter of Chardonnay grapes in the United States outside of California.
Chateau Aux Arc is named for the French term meaning “at the bend,” which is generally believed to be the origin of the name “Ozark.” The winery is owned and operated by Audrey House, who started it in 2001 at the age of twenty-five. House was born in Oklahoma in 1976 but lived in Little Rock (Pulaski County) from 1989 to 1994; she graduated from Pulaski Academy. She then studied psychology at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, graduating in 1998. While a college student, House worked at the Greenhouse Nursery in Norman, where she received her only horticultural training.
In February 1998, House purchased twenty acres of land from Al Wiederkehr of Wiederkehr Wine Cellars. The land included ten acres of Arkansas’s oldest Chardonnay vineyard, planted in 1982 but left untended for several years. Living in tents, she and several friends developed the land, at first selling their grapes to other wineries in the Altus area. House purchased another thirty acres of adjacent land in 2000 and opened the winery on July 21, 2001. In addition to the original Chardonnay vines, Chateau Aux Arc also raises Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Muller Thurgau, Schreube, Kerner, Oranmeinsteiner, Vignoles, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Primitivo, and Petit Sirah grapes. The vineyard also produces Cynthiana grapevines that they sell to the public and to wholesalers. Cynthiana, also known as Norton, is a native American grapevine more disease-resistant and adaptable to the climate of the Ozarks than many imported grapevines.
House built a home she called Dragonfly Ranch on the property, but with the help of her father, Byron House—who owns the Heritage Building of North Little Rock (Pulaski County)—she later converted the home into a wine-tasting room with space for a gift-shop. In 2005, Chateau Aux Arc opened a new 5,400-square-foot tasting room featuring stacked-rock columns, a dry moat, stone walkways, and flowerbeds. Although tours of the vineyard are not conducted, much of the property can be viewed from the tasting room.
While developing the vineyards and winery, House sought and received help not only from Wiederkehr but also from the Post Familie vineyards, both of Altus. Thomas Post, a descendant of Jacob Post (the founder of Post Familie) and the operator of their vineyards, not only advised House but also married her in November 2002. They have two children, in addition to six sons and a grandchild from his previous marriage.
Chateau Aux Arc has received numerous awards, including several silver and bronze medals from regional, national, and international competitions. Like other Arkansas wineries, Chateau Aux Arc’s vineyards suffered damage during the first week of April 2007, when four nights of freezing temperatures damaged the vines. The winery survived the disaster and has continued to produce successful vines and wines.
For additional information:Chateau Aux Arc. http://www.chateauauxarc.com (accessed August 4, 2008).
Cole, Nancy. “Vineyards Mending from ’07 freeze.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. April 13, 2008, pp. 1G, 10G.
“Interview with Audrey House of Chateau aux Arc.” LoveToKnow. http://wine.lovetoknow.com/wiki/Interview_with_Audrey_House_of_Chateau_aux_Arc (accessed August 6, 2008).
Schnedler, Jack. “A Sip of a Road Trip: Small-Town Hospitality Highlights Tasteful Tour of Arkansas Wine Country.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. August 11, 2006, pp. 8W–10W.
Robert G. CowieArkansas Historic Wine Museum
Staff of the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture
Last Updated 1/28/2011
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