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Mount Bethel Winery in Altus (Franklin County) is the third oldest winery in the state and is a part of the tradition of Arkansas winemaking established by Swiss Catholic immigrants who settled in the western part of the state in the late eighteenth century. Like other wineries in Arkansas, it remains a family-owned and -operated enterprise and has won many awards for its product.
Mount Bethel Winery, named after the old church and school district located there, was founded on August 8, 1956, by Eugene Post, who had earned a degree in chemistry from the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and so entered the wine business with a good knowledge of fermentation and the aging of wine. Eugene Post branched out on his own shortly after his brother, Jacob Post, purchased the Altus Cooperative Winery and started up what is now the Post Familie Winery. Eugene and his wife Peggy, along with their eight children, worked hard building up the winery, and their children often returned throughout the year to aid in the winemaking.
The site of the winery is the original Post family home, where Anna Post made and sold wine in the 1880s. The hand-dug cellar under the home is still used by the family for personal storage. The current retail shop, in which wines and other merchandise are sold, is a part of first building constructed there for winemaking, with walls made of hand-cut stones from the same quarry that provided the stones for St. Mary’s Catholic Church on top of St. Mary’s Mountain. The winery houses large wooden storage tanks made of California redwood, which have been used in the winemaking process for over seventy-five years. Eugene Post purchased these tanks from another winemaker in the state when he started the winery. Though Mount Bethel now uses stainless steel tanks for secondary fermentation, some of the wines are transferred into wooden barrels, made of both American and European oak, for aging.
Many styles of wine are produced by Mount Bethel, running the gamut from dry native wines to the sweet wines of the family vineyard to fruit wines—both regional and national competitions have awarded medals to wines from Mount Bethel. Of note is the winery’s elderberry wine; Mount Bethel is the only winery in the state to make use of this native, wild berry.
For additional information:Arkansas Historic Wine Museum. Paris, Arkansas.
Mount Bethel Winery. http://www.mountbethel.com/ (accessed February 28, 2006).
Robert G. CowieArkansas Historic Wine Museum
Last Updated 9/24/2010
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