Country roads, take us home

There I was, listening to a three-man band of seasoned musicians play rock 'n' roll oldies on a small stage in a covered pavilion, when Savannah started tugging on her leash.

We were at River Bottom Winery in Roland on a sunny Sunday afternoon, appreciating the classic rock cover songs of Grand Trio, which is normally comprised of guitarists Paul Tull and Don Tucker, with drummer Bernie Quell. Tull was out of town on vacation, so Hot Springs singer-songwriter Chad Garrett sat in. They seemed to mesh well, though sometimes the lyrics eluded them. Philip and I enjoyed the performance while sipping a Guinness X-Stout and Lost 40 Love Honey Bock, respectively.

Savannah had been sitting quietly (for her) until she noticed something mesmerizing. Although she weighs a mere 10 pounds, she's strong, and was insistent on getting within stroking distance of a guy a few tables away.

He saved her the trouble by walking over and bending down, allowing her to joyfully leap at his face, wiggling all the while.

"Dogs always react like this to me," he said. "I'm a contractor, and I'll go into people's houses who tell me their dog is going to bark and lunge at me. I tell them it won't happen, and it doesn't."

A pleasant conversation ensued between us, the dog magnet--who reminisced about a memorable blue heeler he'd once owned--and his wife. They moved to the Maumelle area from Colorado about a year ago to stay close to grandkids and are starting to get into the rhythm of the area. (It can take a while; when I moved here decades ago, I used to call my mother every evening and wonder what I was doing here. It took about a year to figure it out. And I remain.)

Cheerful encounters like this--between humans as well as those involving canines, such as the conversation I had with owner Bobby Bradford about his beloved chocolate Labrador who made it to the age of 16, a lot of years for a big dog--aren't unusual at River Bottom Winery. Its agreeable atmosphere encourages such interactions. Despite it being a 30-minute drive from our house, it's my favorite way to call off the rat race and relax on a weekend.

The winery is part of BoBrook Farms, a family-owned spread of 235 acres near Pinnacle Mountain that specializes in wines made from grapes and other fruits.

Local musicians entertain from 3-5 p.m. on weekends, and wines such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Malbec, Merlot and sweet fruity selections are available for $7 per glass (a tasting of five wines is complimentary).

They also sell jams, handmade soaps, T-shirts, cute embroidered and woven handbags, and beers ($4, including Shiner Bock, Blue Moon, and Corona). Meat and cheese trays and chips/crackers/dips are on the menu, and there's the unusual option that visitors are welcome to bring their own food.

It's charming to see that tabs are kept by handing a number to the customer as the server writes down what's been ordered on an index card, with settling up taking place upon the customer's departure. And leashed dogs are welcome; a large golden retriever exchanged sniffs with Savannah after she'd concluded her visit with the dog magnet.

Other events include door-sign-making classes, hay rides, murder mystery dinners, and there's a wedding venue.

Bobby and Karen Bradford started BoBrook Farms in 1994. They live on the property, as do their son Bo and his family and daughter Brook and her family. Which explains the name.

"Our winery was established in 2014," Bobby told the Democrat-Gazette in 2020. "We struggled starting, but this is snowballing. People enjoy the wine, but more than that, they enjoy coming out to the farm and getting a breath of fresh air."

The serene atmosphere, as well as the farm's success, probably has a lot to do with why the Bradfords were the 2020 Pulaski County Farm Family of the year. And why we--and our dogs--enjoy weekend afternoons in the company of like-minded others there.

Karen Martin is senior editor of Perspective.

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