The vintner’s art is one of humanity’s oldest activities. From prehistoric archeological finds to Ancient Egypt and Greece to the Roman Empire, winemaking has been a ubiquitous thread in the human experience. In this week’s installment of Kevin Hits the Road, Carla and I traveled to Northeastern Louisiana to learn about winemaking in the Bayou State. We were to have a superb teacher!
Jeff and Libby Landry have been operating Landry Vineyards in its present location since 2006. The vineyard consists of 50 acres with 16 of them under cultivation. The rolling hills offer a bucolic setting for visiting oenophiles, but more importantly, one with ideal drainage and soil conditions for growing grapes. The Landry family are veteran vintners, having started their winery in 1999 in St. Charles parish. Hurricane Katrina threw a wrench into their operation, leading the Landrys to search for a more inland location. They discovered a former horse farm in West Monroe and brought winemaking to Ouachita parish. The move was to prove fortuitous as the rolling hills provide the right amount of drainage and the weather in northern Louisiana is better for grape growing.
The winery produces over 40,000 gallons of wine every year. Every drop of their wine is handcrafted on site, either from grapes from their vineyards or from grapes brought in from other regions of the country. They use Blanc Do Bois, Lenoir. Norton, Crimson Cabernet and Muscadine varieties in their wines.
While winemaking is their primary emphasis, the vineyard grounds also host six to eight concerts each year, all featuring local musicians and drawing thousands of visitors from throughout Louisiana and neighboring states. They also host a series of smaller “Under the Patio” concerts.
The winery tour is both educational and fun. The Landry family has a passion for what they do and it is evident from the moment a visitor pulls in to the driveway. The tour takes visitors through every step of the winemaking process from 2,000-gallon stainless steel fermenting tanks through barrel aging and bottling. The winery’s red wines are aged in beautiful wooden barrels made from white oak, each holding 60 gallons. The barrels come from France and cost $1,000.00 apiece. Each barrel is used for 5 years before it must be replaced. The bottling machine can handle 1,350 bottles per hour operating at full speed, or about 10,000 bottles in a typical day. Winemaking is a careful orchestration of agriculture, microbiology, industry, and art. The tour then moves on to the fields. Grapes will not appear on the plants for three years, one of many aspects of the vintner’s craft that is an exercise in patience and faith. The grapevines are pruned so they will produce the optimum number of “bunches”. A visitor will experience a wholly different aspect of the growing cycle depending on which time of the year they come.
The vineyard also has “Harvest Host” RV hookups as well as two cabins overlooking the vineyards for overnight stays. The tour concludes at the tasting room in the main building where visitors may sample some of the wines they have seen made. The tasting room also offers their wines and other Louisiana themed items for sale. Landry Vineyards’ wines appear in 650 stores throughout our state.
The Landry Vineyards are located at 5699 New Natchitoches Rd. West Monroe, LA. Their phone is 318-557-9051. Their website is www.landryvineyards.com. The winery is open Mon-Sat 11:00-5:30 for wine tastings. Tours are conducted on Saturdays at 2:00. Please check out the website for the latest information.
Get out there, explore and experience our great Louisiana!