AWG Correspondent

Mark and Sonja

Cuthills Vineyards Photos

Cuthills Vineyards Review

Region: Nebraska

Reviewed: June 6, 2014 by Mark and Sonja
Published: October 16, 2014

Ed Swanson, the founder and owner of Cuthills Vineyards located in Pierce, Nebraska, has easily forgotten more about viticulture than the majority of people will ever know. Ed is a pioneer; he planted Cuthills Vineyards in 1985, and opened the doors to his winery in 1994, years prior to any other similar operation in the state. We arrived unannounced for a tasting one morning, and found Ed inside his great barn of a tasting room preparing for another day of working at his winery. He welcomed us in with a smile.

Over the years, we've found no shortage of people who, for one reason or another, buy a bunch of grapes and ferment the juice, put their own label on it and call themselves a winery. Who are we to argue? More impressive, and considerably less common, are those who work the soil themselves, growing some of their own grapes and in so doing gaining an appreciation and a knowledge that far exceeds that of those who don't. Yet rarer still are those with the knowledge and the skills to breed grape varieties, to create hybrids that will not only grow when and where they are needed, but will also produce excellent fruit for making wine. Ed, the "Wine Pioneer of Pierce," is one such man. A longtime friend of the legendary Elmer Swenson, Ed breeds grapes that not only withstand Nebraska's harsh and erratic climate, but also produce some phenomenal wines.

Among his greatest accomplishments is a Tempranillo hybrid Ed has named "Temparia." The wine is rich and full-bodied with tannins rarely found in wines produced on the Great Plains and a terroir – a taste of Nebraska's unique soil and climate, that's unique and enjoyable. This wine, along with Lot #1 Field Blend, a blend of hybrid and vinifera grapes, are exceptionally good. We're lovers of Napa's big bold reds, and we enjoyed Ed's product a great deal. Best of all, this wine can only be found right here in Nebraska, making it a special treat for the venturesome traveler.

In addition to the grapes that Ed Swanson has bred for his own purposes, Cuthills also produces a collection of wines made from traditional Great Plains varietals, including LaCrosse, St. Pepin, Frontenac, Brianna, and the increasingly popular Petite Amie. We especially enjoyed the Poet's White and Poet's Red, two semi-dry blends that represent the best of what Nebraska has to offer in wine. The tasting was free, and we tried as many different wines as were available (all in the interest of writing a thorough review, of course). Regardless of the varietal, and regardless of the vintage, every wine we tasted was well-crafted, enjoyable, and very reasonably priced by the bottle or by the glass.

We spent a few hours tasting wine at Cuthills, talking to Ed, learning about his life's work. After a while, when it wasn't busy, he even took us out into the vineyard and showed us around. Ed's must be the only vineyard in Nebraska that exhibits thirty-year-old, gnarled vines. When we left, we'd enjoyed the experience so much that we purchased several bottles of excellent wine – Ed even humored us and signed a couple of them. All in all, it was a fantastic day.

What Ed Swanson and Cuthills has to offer is far more than most wineries could ever hope to share. It isn't just the wonderful wines Ed is making, but Ed himself that makes the place special. If you make the mistake of hurrying through, you'll miss out on the wisdom and experience of the man who is responsible for the birth of the wine industry in Nebraska, a man whose talent and advice is still widely sought after today by his peers in the industry. While his hybrids continue to revolutionize the growing industry, Ed remains willing to walk the vines with visitors, and to educate others about the craft that he has mastered. Ed's isn't the fanciest tasting room, nor is it the easiest to access from I-80, but it is the place where we've learned the most in all our travels, as well as the place where we've tasted some of the very best of wines. If you're looking for a genuine Nebraska wine experience, Nebraska's first winery is where we'd send you.

Address & Contact Information: 54663 853 Rd. Pierce, Nebraska 68767. Telephone: 402-329-6774, email:, website: Tasting Hours: Feb-Apr: Fri-Sun 1:00-5:00; May-Dec: Wed-Sat 11:00-6:00, Sun 1:00-6:00.

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