VIP Winemakers Who Have Sipped, Swirled, Sailed with Us!


Meet Jim Ballard, James Arthur Vineyards

 In 1992, James Arthur Jeffers purchases a few hundred acres of land near Raymond, Nebraska for his family to enjoy. The idea of growing a few grapevines was planted in his head by his son-in-law, Jim Ballard, now JAV’s Winemaker. Soon the first 100 vines were a reality.  As the number of vines grew, so did the idea of turning the family’s hobby into an actual business. After serious consideration and careful planning, James Arthur Vineyards was formally established in 1996, and officially opened the winery doors in September of 1997. Through hard work and tender, loving care, the vineyard has literally grown to the thousands of vines you see today, with a number of the varieties that have been successful in this region. The estate has also grown into the acquisition of new land and the addition of apples, pears and other fruit crops. James Arthur Vineyards is now the largest winery in Nebraska, producing wine from its estate vineyard, as well as contracted growers throughout the state, with its focus always on producing the highest quality Nebraska product.  James Arthur Vineyards has many award winning wines. Jim and his wife Barbara have shared their wines on our Winemaker's Cruise 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2018 cruise.   Visit winery website.


Meet Larry Shuster, Country Pines Vineyard

 Country Pines Vineyard is located in  Nebraska.  Larry Shuster, as a wine grower, has been on many of our Winemaker's     cruises but in 2015 he opened a winery.  We were fortunate enough to be some of  the first to taste the first release of his    Edelweiss wine.  Today,  Country Pines Vineyard has four signature wines.  Larry shared his wine on  Winemaker's     Cruise 2015, 2016 and 2018.


Meet Tony Black - Black's Smuggler Winery

 Tony Black had been a hobbyist winemaker and vintner for over 12 years. Over the years, his wines have     won numerous awards at competitions and state fairs.   As his passion for wine grew, his hobby began  overflowing the family home in Littleton, Colorado. After his retirement from the telecom industry in early 2012,  his family banished him to the Ladron Mountains and he got serious about living as an outlaw. His Black’s  Smuggler brand was started soon after. Like the pirates that came before them, the outlaws of the southwest  have always disregarded tradition. At best, they treated the rules more as “guidelines” than actual rules. Black's  Smuggler wines are no different. Using traditional wine styles as a starting point, they specialize in adapting  those styles and using unconventional grape varieties to meet our New Mexican geography and taste.  The  result of Black's Smuggler Winery is a group of wines that each have a uniquely New Mexican charm without any of the pretension associated with the Old World.   Tony and his wife MaryAnn shared their wine on our Winemaker's Cruise 2017 cruise
Visit winery website 


Meet Jerry Burd, Black Mesa Winery

 Black Mesa Winery began producing wines in 1992 as the result of a long time dream of Dr. Gerhard and Connie Anderson.  In 2000, Jerry and Lynda Burd purchased the winery and have carried on and expanded that dream to produce over 25 wines from grapes grown in northern and southern New Mexico.  All wines produced are from New Mexico grapes.  When asked about the large choice in wines in the Tasting Room, Jerry says, "I can't make up my mind.  I have a palate that enjoys many different wines and styles of wines and so do our customers."  Black Mesa wines have been awarded many medals.  Jerry and his wife Lynda have shared their wines on our  Winemaker's Cruise since the inaugural in 2009,  2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015,  2016, and 2017  cruise.  Visit winery website.   


Meet Jon Chavez - Camino Real Winery

Nestled at the base of Tomé Hill in New Mexico, a winery is surrounded by 2 1/2 acres of picturesque vineyard and 2,100 vines, including 400 traminette, 200 gold muscat, 300 chambourcin and 300 crimson cabernet.  Winemaker for over 10 years and owner of Camino Real Winery in Tomé, Jonathan Chavez, eagerly puts out tables and chairs so that guests can enjoy their wine along with the idyllic scenery, reminiscent of Northern California or Spain, but with Tomé’s landmark hill rising out of the horizon. 

Jon says his favorite wine is the Chambourcin, which along with the Late Harvest Millot are his top selling reds. Both are drier reds, the Chambourcin rich flavored with a full finish and the Millot well-rounded and medium-bodied with a smooth finish.  Jon and wife Dolores will share their wines on our Winemaker's Cruise 2014 and 2015.  Visit winery Facebook page.


Meet John McLoughlin - Cellar 433 AZ Wine

 Built on the side of Cleopatra Hill between Prescott and Sedona in the historic town of Jerome, featuring over 30 uniquely handcrafted, individually distinct, wines.  John McLoughlin's philosophy is very spartenistic; create wines that are enjoyable for the novice and the connoisseur alike. Unlike most winemakers, John learned the art of wine making by training as an apprentice under master winemakers throughout the United States and Europe.  John works the vines, which are located in Southern Arizona, himself, (he has the farmer's tan to prove it). Grapes are grown in their own vineyard in Willcox amid the Willcox Wine Country.  John shared their wines on our Wine Makers Cruise 2012.  Visit winery website 


Meet Paul Hahn, Makinaw Valley

 The vineyard and winery are a true family affair. The vineyard and winery were started by Paul and his three children, Alexander, Nicole and Eric who are the namesakes for three of the winery's blended wines - Alexander's Conquest, Nicole's Blush and Eric's Red. The year 2006 saw the Hahn family grow larger with Paul's marriage to Diane in November. Diane and her three children Cole, Carly and Cody enjoy helping in the family business and Paul is happy to see his workforce doubled without adding any new payroll expenses. 

Before the opening of the tasting room in May of 2003, the vineyard was awarded "Vineyard of the Year" by the Illinois Grape Grower's and Vintner's Association. 

Most recently, winemaker Paul Hahn was awarded "Illinois Winemaker of the Year" by the Illinois Grape Grower's and Vintner's Association.   Paul and his wife Diane shared their wines on our Wine Makers Cruise 2012.  Visit winery website.   


Meet Jim Shaw, Soaring Wings Vineyard

 Operations in the Vineyard began in March of 2002 with winery operations commencing in August of 2003. Jim is presently the head winemaker and also oversees the vineyard, construction, and business plans. Jim was a pilot for many years with both the Air Force and later Delta Airlines, although his winemaking career actually began when he was 13 with a batch of mulberry wine he shared clandestinely with some neighborhood friends! 

His mother soon cured him of this endeavor when she found five gallons of apple wine fermenting away in his closet! A long-time home winemaker and beer brewer he started exploring the winery idea in the winter of 2000/2001. The name Soaring Wings was a natural outgrowth of Jim's flying background.  Jim and wife Sharon shared their wines on our inaugural Wine Makers Cruise 2009.  Visit winery website

Honorable mentions ~ We raise our glass to them.

Caprock Winery


 The award-winning CapRock Winery is located on the Texas High Plains, the state’s premier grape growing area. Once owned by Catherine Bodenstedt and is one of the largest wineries in Texas to be owned by a woman, with one of the the most beautiful and modern facilities in the area.  Michael Vorauer represented CapRock Winery and shared some of their of wines with us on our Wine Makers Cruise 2010 and 2011. Winery has changed ownership since. Visit winery website.  

Vino de Corazon, Erica Hart


 Centered in the heart of the Southwest,  New Mexico is drenched in History, Art and Culture. Vino Del Corazon “Wine from the Heart” owner, Erica has a rich passion for great wine.  Perseverance, hardwork and the support of family & friends created a dream Tasting Room, where everyone could experience wine in a beautiful & relaxing atmosphere in Santa Fe New Mexico.  Erica shared their wines on our Wine Makers Cruise 2011 and 2013  cruise
The winery has since closed.    

Michael Loykasek, Gunfighter Wines


 Named 2007 Winemaker of the Year by the Sonoma County Harvest Fairwinemaker Michael Loykasek had been blazing new trails throughout California for the past two decades.

Fresh out of U.C. Davis with a degree in Enology in 1983, Mike spent 5 years developing his winemaking style in Paso Robles

Afterf 13 years making wine for good friends in Dry Creek Valley, Mike decided it was time to saddle up and blaze his own trail, so to speak.  Mike shared his Gunfighter Wines with us on our 2013 cruise.   Michael has since left us for heaven's vineyard. We will always remember him as a friend.