50 in 50 #4: Arkansas — Chateau Aux Arc

By Lenn Thompson

Chateau Aux ArcAs part of 50 wines from 50 states, we’ve toasted New England, sipped merlot in OK, and enjoyed the intensity of AZ red wine. This week, we’re headin’ to the deep south — Arkansas. More specifically, the next stop on our virtual tasting tour is Chateau Aux Arc in Altus, AR.

Chateau Aux Arc, founded in 1998 when Audrey House bought ten acres in Altus, is named using the original French spelling of “Ozark.” Audry has been making wine since the age of 13 when her grandmother taught her how to ferment a mixture that included water, sugar, baker’s yeast and Welch’s grape juice concentrate.

After graduating from college, Audrey bought her ten acres and spent her weekends camped out for six months in a tent in her fields while she worked to bring her dreams to fruition.

Chateau Aux Arc opened its winery and started selling wine in 2001. Audrey focuses on and Chardonnay and Cynthiana, but also grow Kerner, Muller Thurgau, Schreube, Oraniensteiner, Cabernet, Primitivo, Zinfandel, Vidal and more.

Earlier this week, I got to taste four of Audrey’s white wines, with decidely mixed results….

I started with their 2003 Dragonfly Ranch Chardonnay ($14), a white done 100% in stainless steel. I tend to like stainless-fermented chardonnay, so I was hopeful. The nose, while lightly floral and offering some apple and citrus aromas, also had an off-putting plastic/rubber character that I definitely didn’t care for. I opened another bottle of the same wine and it was still there. Maybe that comes from the synthetic corks they use for all their wines? The palate was light and crisp with some apple-citrus flavors, but a disappointing finish.

Next was the 2002 Reserve Altage ($14), named for the town of Altus. The nose is intensely fruity and almost sweet — ripe pear, honeydew and slightly foxy/grapey. The bottle (and their website) give no clue into what grapes go into this wine, but my guess is Muller blended with some native/hybrid varieties (some Vignoles perhaps). A faint scent of burnt rubber was, again, a turnoff.

On the palate, it’s lightly sweet and very fruity balanced by nice acidity. This is a chill-and-swill summer wine. Nothing more. Nothing less.

The third wine in the tasting turned me off just by looking at the label, which reads 2005 Chablis ($11). I’m far from a wine snob, but I am not big on calling wines chablis, burgundy, port, etc. outside of their native lands. But I digress. The color of this wine surprised me. I’ve seen plenty of straw-colored wines in my day, but this one was more khaki than straw. Interesting to be sure.

The nose reminded me of hay and perfume and the same character carried through to the palate, where it was joined by tart green apples. While crisp, the flavors are really overwhelmingly floral and out of balance.

My favorite wine of the lot was a semi-dry wine that tastes like it’s all hybrids/natives — Chateau Aux Arc 2004 St. Mary’s Mountain White ($9). The nose is instensely grapey (foxy as they say) and juicy with just subtle floral hints. Very fruity and grapey on the palate, it’s certainly sweet, but not at all heavy on the palate.

Unlike a lot of wine geeks, I have no problems with foxy wines. They are what they are…and if they are true to the variety and style, I can appreciate them.

Obviously, these wines didn’t blow me away…and I wish I could get my hands on some of their red wines. There’s got to be a Bill Clinton joke to be made here, but I’ll refrain. This is a family-oriented blog after all. Or is it?

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Reader Comments

Lenn, glad to see that you loaded up on some Arkie wine. You’re a much more sophisticated wine drinker than I am; the cork taste is not apparent to me. You definitely would not have liked the freebie bottle I offered to send you though. (I reviewed the non reserve Altage on my site today, coincidentally, which lists the grape blend.)

If bold reds are your ideal, you must find and taste the Chateau Aux Arc Zin. It has small amount of Petite Sirah and others blended in for a Rhone type Zin taste. My current #1 lust!

I didn’t detect the rubber flavor in the Dragonfly Ranch Chardonnay which I thought was the best I had ever tasted.