Date: October 21, 2015 | Story: Tiffany Adams | Photography: Rett Peek | Styling: Mandy Keener |
Welcome the chill of late autumn with close friends, a glass of wine, and one of Arkansas’s most beautiful natural backdrops at Sassafras Springs Vineyard
Nestled in the hills of Northwest Arkansas amongst vibrant autumn foliage and breathtaking scenic views sits Sassafras Springs Vineyard, a fully stocked winery and destination for weddings and celebrations. The vision of Cheryl and Gene Long, the sprawling 15-acre property, which previously served as a horse farm for former Arkansas Razorbacks head football coach Houston Nutt, provides visitors with an escape from everyday life—if only for a few hours. What were once horse stables and a milk barn have been transformed into an event center and winery respectively, all connected by winding, tree-shaded walkways.
“The winery was all my husband Gene’s idea,” says co-owner Cheryl. “I wanted a place to host weddings, and we put them together to make one big event space.” In addition to the winery, the property now boasts two venues, both of which are available for rental: The Chapel Ruins, an architecturally intriguing open-air venue that resembles the remains of an archaic church, offers seating for 400 guests—perfect for a wedding ceremony or a large dinner party, and The Stables, an indoor venue that offers all the amenities of a traditional reception hall with the charm of a farm setting and décor that complements the vineyard’s rustic style.
However, one need not be hosting or attending an event to take advantage of all the property has to offer. The onsite winery is open to the public six days a week. “We have more than 100 wines from all over the world available for tasting, and [we] offer flights so you can find a favorite,” Cheryl notes. Additionally, Sassafras Springs recently bottled their first two varieties of wine: a Washington Syrah and an Arkansas Chambourcin. While the grapes for these two wines did not come from Sassafras, they have started their own vineyard and are working with the University of Arkansas to grow and harvest a hybrid variety of grapes for wine production. “We’re about a year and a half away,” Cheryl says of the projected harvest date for this first planting. The Longs also brought in Stephen Dollar, a former Arkansas Winemaker of the Year, to oversee the vineyard and assist in this new undertaking.
For now, guests can walk into the winery and expect to find an enticing selection of locally produced cheese, meat, and bread from area artisans. You can select a bottle of wine and create a cheeseboard before setting out to explore the property with a picnic of your own, or just kick back with a glass and take in the view from a seat at the winery’s long farmhouse table. On Friday and Saturday nights, they offer live music performed by local musicians who are often from the University of Arkansas or affiliated with the Walton Arts Center. On these nights, guests can also enjoy a full dinner—catered by one of many local restaurants that are on a rotating list—the perfect complement to the pastoral setting.
Open Tuesday – Sunday. Find a full schedule of events on the vineyard’s website. Sassafras Springs Vineyard, Springdale, (479) 419-4999, sassafrasspringsvineyard.com