There was a time when the thought of Nebraska-grown wines would bring a round of laughter – this was once called “The Great American Desert,” after all. But in recent years, Nebraska wines have proven to be utterly delicious and beloved by wine lovers and experts alike. Not surprisingly, lots of vineyards and wineries have popped up across the state – though they are mostly concentrated in eastern Nebraska. Stop in at one (or a few!) of these wineries this weekend to taste some of the best that Nebraska has to offer.
17 Ranch Winery, Lewellen
This ranch winery and vineyard features a wide variety of Nebraskan wines as well as mead made from local honey. The facility also features a gift shop with Nebraskan products.
Cellar 426, Ashland
Cellar 426's impressive building sits at the top of a hill with a stunning 360 degree view of the surroundings. A cozy tasting room, gorgeous outdoor seating area, and tons of music events make Cellar 426 the place to be for a delicious wine tasting. They also feature a variety of food plates to pair perfectly with your wine.
Cuthills Winery, Pierce
Cuthill's Winery claims the title of Nebraska's First Winery. Their beautiful facility, a restored 1920s barn, is surrounded by seven acres of vineyards growing hundreds of grape varieties. The grounds are available to rent for special events.
Deer Springs Winery, Lincoln
The beautiful Deer Springs Winery was built on owner Jim Partington's family homestead property. The tasting room is the remodeled 1876 homestead farmhouse. The entire family is involved in the operation of the winery and vineyard, and their pride in their craft shows. The winery hosts tastings as well as some awesome musical events.
James Arthur Vineyards, Locations in Lincoln and Raymond
James Arthur Vineyards, the largest winery in the state, creates local wines from its own huge vineyard as well as 20 other contracted Nebraska growers. Their Raymond tasting room features an observation deck to view the grounds, and paths through the vineyards if you choose to walk among the grapevines. The Lincoln tasting room is located in the Haymarket District inside the From Nebraska Gift Shop.
Mac's Creek Winery & Vineyards, Lexington
Mac's Creek has always taken great care to produce the best local wines possible from the grape varieties that grow best in the unique Nebraska climate. The lush grounds are open year-round for tastings as well as meals at the Prairie Bistro. Live music is a regular event there, along with other fun activities that pair perfectly with wine.
Miletta Vista Winery, St. Paul
Miletta Vista overlooks the lovely North Loup River and has been serving up local wines and fresh food since 2007. Although a fire destroyed their facility in June 2012, the owners rebuilt a bigger and better winery and reopened less than a year later. The building includes two fireplaces and a covered patio so you can sit and enjoy the view while you sip on a glass or two.
Niobrara Valley Vineyards, Nenzel
This Sandhills winery was once a cattle ranch; the owners began growing grapes in 2002 and found that the semi-arid climate was the perfect environment for growing flavorful grapes. A tasting of five wines is only $5, or for $10 you can have a five-wine tasting and keep your glass afterward.
Sage Hill Vineyard and Winery, Parks
The small Sage Hill is known as a "Mini micro boutique winery," but don't let their size fool you. The family-operated business spans 16 acres in Dundy County and produces ten varieties of wines. The serene, inviting surroundings are perfect for an afternoon tasting - or stay for the weekend in the romantic Winemaker's Loft.
Silver Hills Vineyards & Winery, Tekamah
Silver Hills hosts a number of fun events throughout the year, all of them featuring a wide variety of purely Nebraskan wines and amazing wood fired pizzas.
Slattery Vintage Estates & Tasting Room, Nehawka
This small vineyard offers 55 Nebraska wines and 14 non-Nebraskan wines along with craft beers from (mostly) local breweries. The seriously beautiful vineyard, tasting room, and outdoor amphitheater are all available for special event rental.
Soaring Wings Vineyard & Brewing, Springfield
This vineyard, growing grapes since 2001, offers more than 20 types of wine and nine types of beers. The scenic facility is available for full or partial rental for your wedding reception, fundraising event, or other special get-together.
Whiskey Creek Run, Brownville
Whiskey Run was built on the site of one of Nebraska's very first breweries. Open since 2002, nearly all of Whiskey Run's grapes are grown at the nearby Heskett Family Farm. The winery offers tastings on-site, but they also offer samples at several other eastern Nebraska locations.
Windcrest Winery, Raymond
The first grapevine at this vineyard was planted in 1998, and for ten years they sold their fruit to a nearby winery. But in 2008, Windcrest began making their own delicious reds, whites, and fruit wines. In addition to tasting and buying wines on-site, you can also book space for a special event at their facility
WunderRosa Winery, Roca
Operating since 2009, WunderRosa serves up a wide variety of wines made with Nebraska-grown grapes. Their large tasting room offers excellent views and the perfect place for a party or other gathering.
What do you have to say, Nebraska? Where is your favorite place to walk among the grapevines, sample some wines, and think about living The Good Life?