Bob Curttright knew that wine tasted better when it's enjoyed in a scenic setting. That's why he set out on a search for the perfect setting before opening his winery, Whiskey Run Creek. He found the setting he dreamed of in a century-old barn owned by Julius Bergmann and moved the historic structure?which was built from oak and walnut beams without a single nail?more than 18 miles to a creekside property.
Now owned by Ron and Sherry Heskett, they fill visitors' glasses with wine made from Nebraska-grown ingredients. In addition to varietals, such as Chambourcin and Edelweiss, their winery produces seasonal fruit wines made with apples and cherries from local farms. Guests can relax with their wine on an expansive deck or explore renovated brick caves built in 1866.
In the light cast by 10 big-screen televisions, diners tuck into hand-cut steaks, hearty sandwiches, and cold brews at Jasper's Bar and Grill, where Huskers fans often gather en masse during football season. In between bites of sweet-potato fries and boneless wings, the well-fed spectators sip on domestic beers or snap toes in time with the karaoke and live music events that abound on weekends.
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.
After an injury forced him to retire prematurely from the Lincoln Police Department in 2006, Brian Podwinski set out to find a new passion. He began brewing his own beer at home, and before long, became hooked. Brian's knack for creating homemade suds caught the attention of friend and law-enforcement confidant Jason Goodwin, and together—and perhaps following a few too many of Brian's brews—the pair decided they wanted to open a brewery.
Named in honor of those who protect and serve every day, Blue Blood Brewing Company officially opened in December 2011. There, Brian, Jason, and others concoct handcrafted ales inspired by special people or places. Currently, the brewery produces a classic series and seasonal selections, all of which use the finest ingredients available and hops grown right in Nebraska.
The winner of Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence for three years running, Carmela's Bistro & Wine Bar unites its distinctive pours with a rotating menu of seasonally-inspired cuisine. Current and past favorites have included duck-stuffed quail with duck fat roasted fingerling potatoes and fig and prosciutto pizza with goat cheese, truffle oil, and parmesan cream sauce. These rich bites pair with the renowned wine list pairing as well as with craft brews and cocktails. On Sundays, brunch takes the stages with crab cake benedicts, bread pudding french toast, and other filling entrees.