Lincoln’s Own Wine Story
Located in Raymond just North of Lincoln, James Arthur Vineyard is Nebraska’s largest and oldest vineyard. It sits on 400 acres of prairie grassland and has been family owned and operated for the past 17 years by co-owners Jim and Barb Ballard. A former broadcast journalist and graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Ballard is the winemaker and helps with special events. His wife, Barb, manages day-to-day operations as well as the gift shop. Even their three children, Benjamin, Beau and Edyn pitch in.
The venture began as a hobby 20 years ago. Ballard asked if he could plant some grapevines on his father-in-law’s farm in Raymond with an eye on producing some good homemade wine. “It was just going be for fun,” Ballard says. “At first we didn’t envision a business. It was a hobby that grew and got out of control. By no means was I a wine connoisseur or an expert in growing grapes.”
Ballard produces dry reds, semi-sweet whites, and some limited-production and specialty wines. Edelweiss, Heartland White and Edyn’s Blush are the vineyard’s most popular varietals. The 2012 Vignoles won the Jefferson Cup and a Best of Show at the Colorado State Fair Wine Competition.
“People travel here from all around the world to taste our wine, and we keep in touch.” Ballard says. “Wine is one of those things that people enjoy talking about; it breaks down barriers. We don’t have to agree on everything, but we can agree that drinking wine is a fun relaxing thing that brings people together.”
“Visitors here at the vineyard escape the hubbub of everyday life. You can take in the beautiful Nebraska vistas while listening to live music and enjoying a wonderful bottle of wine with friends and family,” says Ballard. “We’re accomplishing what we were trying to do.”
At the vineyard Ballard’s goal is to produce and serve award-winning Nebraska wine while providing guests with an exceptional experience, combining pleasure and education about wine. Growth of the business has “surpassed my wildest expectations,” says Ballard.
Each year the vineyard welcomes more than 20,000 guests and hosts some 140 events that range from private parties and weddings to an annual Renaissance Festival complete with tournament and knights in full armor. There are “Murder Mystery” dinners where guests compete to solve a crime, and an October Winemaker Harvest Dinner featuring James Arthur Vineyard wines paired with each course of a five-course meal.
Recently, the Ballards acquired the From Nebraska Gift Shop in Lincoln’s Historic Haymarket district. The shop has been in operation for 25 years and continues to be Lincoln’s prime location for Nebraska wine, gourmet food baskets, gifts and souvenirs. The store’s tasting room has been expanded and now features James Arthur Vineyard’s award winning wines. Their charming and convenient tasting room at Eighth and Q Streets serves samples of different varietals along with local cheeses. Stop in to enjoy a taste of James Arthur Vineyards and pick up a wine lover’s basket for a friend, and maybe one for yourself, too.
With the acquisition of the From Nebraska Gift Shop, the winery hopes to continue to share its wines and the Nebraska wine story with visitors to Lincoln’s Haymarket area.
For more information, go to www.jamesarthurvineyards.com.