James Arthur Vineyard

MURDER MYSTERY: Jeff Korbelik, winery manager, will soon prepare for the upcoming murder mystery event at James Arthur Vineyards in Raymond.  (Staff Photo by Chris Legband)

RAYMOND – More than 20 years ago, James Arthur Vineyards (JAV) opened their doors. What began as a hobby has turned into a thriving business and destination favorite where thousands of visitors from across the country and continent have flocked to.

On March 13, visitors will come for an unusual event where guests can pretend to be Sherlock Holmes and attempt to solve a “who dunnit” while enjoying fine wine and dining.

Fifty visitors will arrive at the vineyard for an evening of wine and crime where the guests play the suspects in a mysterious crime, taking directions from the host and working together to uncover clues and solve the mystery as part of a team.

According to co-owner Jim Ballard, this is not the first time they’ve had a murder mystery themed party at the vineyard.

“We’ve been doing murder mysteries since we’ve been open,” he said. “It’s something different and fun. This is one of the most popular events.”

According to Ballard, future events include Yoga in the Vines, Star and Wines (Branched Oak Observatory) and the Summer Music Series.

Established in 1996, JAV sits in the country just north of Lincoln, near Raymond.

Owned by James Arthur Jetters and Jim and Barb Ballard, JAV is Nebraska’s largest winery and is surrounded by nearly 20 acres of grapes.

“We’ve been doing this for a long time,” Ballard said. “We are the oldest running vineyard in Nebraska. We get to meet so many people, 22,000 visitors each year.”

Ballard said it is fun to hear people’s stories and to tell them the winery’s story.

“There are still people that are amazed that we make wine in Nebraska,” he said.

And beyond the bottled wine, Ballard said there are a couple of new products, including hard ciders and canned wine.

“We are building the hard cider program and there are apple trees on site,” he said. “We are also canning wine. On the west coast it is a big deal. We only do three different varieties; it’s a big convenience for people who love wine.”

What Ballard loves about the business is offering an entire experience, not just a product.

“Wine is something that brings people together,” he said. “Wine should be part of an everyday healthy lifestyle. We all have different tastes and that doesn’t make either one of us right or wrong. That’s the beautiful thing about wine.”

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