Winery owners Randy, Kelly, and Nate Meyer are so passionate about winemaking that they've designed their entire vineyard to symbolize it—each phase of the buildings' architecture reflects a different step in the winemaking process. A planter crafted from locally harvested limestone marks the entrance to the winery and supports arbors symbolizing trellised grape bushes in the vineyards. The arbors extend through the earth-toned Chancellor Hall, where a towering cathedral ceiling laced with heavy beams can shelter more than 200 guests at once. Inside, light streams in through towering windows overlooking the vineyard, as well as through heavy double doors leading out to a patio and courtyard, where the same arbor continues to form a roof and shield wines from straw-wielding helicopter pilots. Outside, 16 acres of vineyards house rows of Midwest varietals such as Vignoles, St. Vincent, Frontenac, and Catawba. Staffers pluck vines entwined on trellised rows and carry their bushels into a processing building, where they unload pounds of fruit into imported presses and custom-made fermentation tanks. These grapes age into wines in a room designed in the shape of a barrel, which represents the winemaking and fermentation process as well as the winemakers' fear of being trapped inside a barrel. The Meyers also use the wines in these barrels to reflect their love for the region; they've named many of the dry and semidry wines for weather phenomena associated with Tornado Alley.
Ten different types of grapes sprawl across 12 acres that sit along banks of Spring Creek, soaking up the ample Nebraskan sunlight. Mac's Creek Winery & Vineyards—a joint venture of the McFarland family, whose roots run deep in central Nebraska—handpick these grapes to produce a collection of red and white artisanal wines, including their award-winning 2009 Mac's Lantern.
Guests can savor the cherry flavor of the Frontenac grapes found in the above-mentioned Mac's Lantern or sip on other varieties—such as the light-bodied 2010 Spring Mist—in the spacious tasting room or on the sun-drenched lawn. On weekends, they can enjoy a prairie bistro lunch from 12-4p.m., and on Friday evenings from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., they can toast to live entertainment or dramatic readings of the wine list.
Angie Lewis never considered herself an artist. When she first began dabbling with paint, she found herself overwhelmed by choices. After fretting over what paintbrush to use and what brand of paint to buy, she eventually gave up and stuffed her art supplies—and her creativity—in the back of her closet.
They remained there until one day, while visiting friends in Denver, Angie attended an "entertainment-style" art class. It had music, wine, and a casual "it's OK to mess up" vibe, and Angie knew she just had to bring the concept home with her to Nebraska. And thus The Corky Canvas was born, a place where friends and artists of all skill levels gather with paintbrushes in one hand, and wine glasses in the other. At two Corky Canvas locations, Angie and her team of instructors lead groups through nightly featured painting, private parties, team buildings, and more. Painters are always welcome to change the colors of their class's suggested design, or to even paint something new entirely, following the whims of their creative spirits.
Abendmusik brings carefully curated musical programs to the elegant confines of the First-Plymouth Church, constructed to echo the styles of early basilica churches and the architectural traditions of Nebraska. A 16-sided carillon tower rises 171 feet above the prairie, welcoming visitors with the chiming of its 48 bells and the soft glow of its custom brick face. Installed in 1998, the monumental Lied Chancel organ's 6,000 pipes can resound with contrapuntal opulence or delicately accompany quiet choral pieces, muffling sounds with finely calibrated expression boxes and the shushing of specially appointed librarians.
Perhaps one of the best words to sum up winemaker Orville A. Gertsch's method is patience. In 1996, he decided to turn his winemaking hobby into a profession, and planted his first vines the following year. And yet it wasn't until the 2001 harvest that Orville was ready to push his wine into full retail production. That same year, he registered his operation's name: Prime Country Winery.
Though he handed the managerial reins to his son Fred in 2002, Orville still draws from more than 30 years of experience to produce a range of handmade red, white, and blush wines. He and his staff use only the grapes they harvest on their own Denton vineyard, a decision central to their mission and to ensuring none of the grapes are actually tiny spy cameras. They pick all of their plantings by hand, and rack—rather than filter and pump—the must, a labor-intensive process that Orville finds infinitely more rewarding. Using these old-fashioned, chemical-free processing techniques in tandem with modern steel equipment, Prime Country Winery fills its tasting room with craft wines ranging from dry to sweet.
Surrounded by 400 acres of rippling hills and more than 12,000 grapevines just north of Lincoln, James Arthur Vineyard proves that award-winning wine doesn't just come from the West Coast or a billionaire's bathroom-sink faucet?it can hail from the Midwest, too.
In a cozy tasting room complete with crackling fireplaces and gourmet snacks, visitors can sample the finest. Proprietor Jim Ballard's personal favorite is the 2012 Vignoles, whose delicate m?lange of apricot and peach notes won the Jefferson Cup that year, along with a Best of Show at the Colorado State Fair Wine Competition. The winery's ros?s?particularly the 2011 Horizon and the 2011 White St. Croix?have made similar splashes at competitions throughout the U.S. The 2010 Game Bird Red stands out from the dry reds with its subtle, nose-tickling burst of strawberry, and James Arthur Vineyard occasionally unveils a limited-edition specialty such as its brandy-fortified Tropasti dessert wine.