Nebraska Wine Overview

Nebraska, of course, is one of the most agriculturally prolific states in America. Miles and miles of wheat, corn, barley, and other crops can be seen as you explore the state. Although grapes have always grown here, it wasn’t until the last 15 years that the Nebraska wine industry really began to take shape.

Like some other high plains states, the fluctuations of Nebraska’s climate somewhat limits the types of grapes that thrive here. Almost all are French Hybrid varieties, designed to withstand very cold winters and other extreme conditions. The eastern edge of the state is hilly terrain, due in part to the Missouri River. The river valley area surrounding Omaha in all directions is Nebraska’s most prolific grape-growing area, though you’ll find vineyards scattered throughout the state.

Typical varieties of grapes grown in Nebraska include, but aren’t limited to, La Crosse, Edelweiss, Seyval and St. Croix. These styles are fairly common in the Midwest, as are Frontenac and Marechal Foch. Further, quite a bit of fruit is grown in Nebraska orchards, so it’s likely you’ll see a fruit wine or two when visiting a winery here.

Nebraska’s wines are starting to register on the radar screen at national wine competitions, reflecting the maturing nature of the state’s wine industry. Nebraska wineries have earned medals at such prestigious competitions as the Finger Lakes International and the Indy International. Expect to see more national recognition for Nebraska wines in the near future.

Growing from just a small handful a few short years ago, Nebraska is now home to 25 wineries. Many are located in the eastern part of the state, within an hour or so from both Lincoln and Omaha, but you’ll find wineries all across Nebraska. In fact, there are a cluster of wineries toward the western boundary of the state that have joined together to form a wine trail. Nebraska’s wine industry resource site, has a map of Nebraska’s wineries and tasting rooms. Other site we recommend is Nebraska Wine Information.

Nebraska Wine Trails

Nebraska now has three wine trails, one each in the eastern, central, and western sections of the state.

If you’re visiting Omaha or Lincoln, the eight wineries of the Southeast Nebraska Wine Trail will be close at hand. Most of the wineries are south by southwest of Omaha, and six of the eight are within a half-hour of Lincoln. One of the wineries is also a microbrewery, Schillingbridge Winery and Microbrewery, located in Pawnee City just minutes north of the Nebraska-Kansas border.

Another winery on the Southeast Nebraska Wine Trail is one of Nebraska’s longest established and best known, James Arthur Vineyards in Raymond, just outside of Lincoln. We visited this winery, and others, on our Nebraska wine journey that took us to Omaha and Lincoln.

Farther west in Nebraska are the wineries of the Heart of Nebraska Wine Trail. The four wineries on this wine trail are located in the Platte River Valley area. If you’re traveling in either direction through Nebraska on Interstate 80, this is an excellent wine trail to visit. Each of the four wineries are just minutes off I-80, which basically tracks the path of the Platte River in this part of Nebraska. This area is also known for growing grapes, the beneficiary of a river valley topography that tends to shelter the vines from harsh weather.

Finally, farther west in Nebraska along the north branch of the Platte River are three of the five wineries on the Historic Trails Wine Trail. This is a long established trail that also includes a Table Mountain Winery, which is located just over the border in Wyoming. See our Wyoming wine page for more details.

The fifth winery on the wine trail is located in far southwest Nebraska in the town of Parks. This is Sage Hill Vineyard and Winery, where you’re just minutes from both Kansas and Colorado. A few miles east of the winery is Benkelman, Nebraska, where you can stop for lunch at one of several friendly local places in town.

Travelogue:Nebraska Wine: Omaha & Lincoln Trails

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