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Wine returns to Little Italy 

With An Enchanting Evening.

ENCHANTING: The winery yurt, overseen by Wendy Quaid, and the view from the deck.
  • ENCHANTING: The winery yurt, overseen by Wendy Quaid, and the view from the deck.

During Prohibition, if you wanted a bottle of wine (or perhaps some hooch), Little Italy in western Pulaski County was the place to go. The tradition continues: If you want a bottle of wine on a dry Arkansas Sunday, you can get one at An Enchanting Evening Winery. Only now it is legal, thanks to the small farm permit held by Roger and Wendy Quaid for their winery on state Highway 300.

The Quaids moved from downtown Little Rock to their 25 wooded and hilly acres in Little Italy in 2002. They planted an acre of grapes — Traminette, Chamborcin, Vidal and Noiret — there in 2010. But the couple, who besides having fulltime jobs in town also host weddings on the property, quickly learned that unlike the Italian Americans who settled this area in the early 20th century, "we aren't farmers." They still make wine, with juice from grapes crushed by Doug Hausler of Keels Creek Winery outside of Eureka Springs and a pinot supplier in Oregon. They offer eight wines — dry, semi-sweet and sweet and a fortified dessert wine.

"The winery just kind of ... seemed like a natural fit" with the property, Wendy Quaid said. She was sitting on a large deck overlooking the river valley, with a spectacular view of Pinnacle Mountain and surrounding hills, cooled by a gentle breeze through tall pines. The deck is just off a large yurt where the winery offers wine tastings from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

And how is the wine? "It's great!" Wendy Quaid said. "Most people enjoy it. It doesn't taste like Arkansas wine because we don't use any muscadine in any of our wine." Quoting longtime Arkansas winemaker Paul Post, she said, "A little bit of muscadine makes the whole thing muscadine."

Since getting all their permits — federal and state Alcohol Beverage Control in 2013 and state Health Department in 2014 — the Quaids have bottled 840 gallons of wine (one gallon makes five bottles), she estimates. The whites they age only about six months — "until they taste good" — and the reds a couple of years. They have chosen to only sell in Arkansas, which exempts them from a requirement to put the exact alcohol content on the bottles (it varies from 12 to 13 percent) and having to make labels indicating the varietal and year. The bottles have two labels — one with the name of the winery and the required warning about alcohol (the kind of wine is on a tag around the neck of the bottle) and one that is a decorative square for a customized label for weddings and such.

The winery is 30 minutes out of town (at least), along a curvy two-lane road (with Wye on the west and Roland on the east). Does it get many visitors? And if they imbibe too generously, can they sleep on the floor? "We do have a futon," Quaid said, gesturing to a gathering place in the yurt, but only kidding. They don't get many visitors really, she said, though those who do come always return. Instead, the extended family, who lives nearby, and friends come by a lot. "Friends will come and bring a pizza," Wendy Quaid said, and they'll enjoy the deck. Sometimes they have bottling parties.

People who do want to drop by are welcome to bring their own nosh and sit at the tables on the deck and enjoy the unspoiled view. Quaid — who said she's the entrepreneur in the family — said one day the couple might want to operate an Italian restaurant on the property, and if they add places to stay, they're thinking treehouses.

There is a cabin for rent on the property, one whose view includes not just Pinnacle but Lake Maumelle. It is a honeymoon cabin — occupancy limited to two — complete with hot tub and chocolate fondue, and Quaid said the same couple has rented it for Valentine's Day seven years running. It's just a few hundred feet from the Quaids' home. On terraces down the hill the Quaids host around 70 weddings a year.

The winery's offerings include a sweet red, Savant; a sweet Riesling; a semi-sweet Traminette; a semi-sweet rose blend; a semi-sweet Chambourcin (Quaid's favorite); a Pinot Gris and a Pinot Noir, and a fortified dessert wine. Bottles range from $12 to $18 (or $24 for the fortified wine) and wine by the glass ranges from $4 to $8. Call 501-330-2182 for more information.

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