August 18, 2010 Edition

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Wine museum honors Willmuth

Dorothy Zalaker Willmuth was recently presented the 2010 Founders Award by the Arkansas Historic Wine Museum located in Paris, Ark.
Dorothy Zalaker Willmuth of Agawam, Mass., formerly of Walnut Ridge, was recently honored by the Arkansas Historic Wine Museum in Paris, Ark.

Willmuth received the 2010 Founders Award, given each year to a person who promotes the ideas and goals of the museum.

The museum was founded by Robert G. Cowie, an award-winning vintner for many years. He became interested in the history of wine-making in Arkansas and has dedicated much of his time searching for antique equipment and buildings, long deserted for newer methods, fixtures and facilities.

Willmuth's mother, Mary Zalaker, owned and operated a federally-bonded winery, #112, in Walnut Ridge from the early 1930s until the sale of alcohol in Lawrence County was voted out in 1943.

Willmuth's daughter, Mary Willmuth, said her mother was able to help Cowie with his research.

"Cowie and Mom became acquainted several years ago, via The TD actually, when he was running blind ads in search of relics and information on wine-making in Northeast Arkansas," she said.

"She was able over the years to provide him with information from Grandmother's days of making and selling wine and has donated a few items to the museum."

The small building that Zalaker used to make and store her wine was located in Dorothy's backyard on Southwest Second Street and continued to be used as a storage shed by the family for more than 50 years. The 112 license number is still faintly visible on the door.

After Willmuth and Cowie made connections, she found a case of wine bottles, some with the Zalaker label intact and donated them to the wine museum.

Since her move to Agawam, with the agreement of the current properly owners, she donated the little winery itself and it has been moved to the museum in Paris, as well.

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