Tennessee Wineries & Wine Trails
With varied terrain across the state, Tennessee offers an excellent climate for grape growing. Winters are relatively mild, and while summers can get hot and humid, elevations in the east central and eastern part of the state mitigate the heat somewhat. Grape growing has always occured here in Tennessee, but it has really taken off in the past ten years. Over 30 varieties of grapes are grown in vineyards across the state.
In addition to the southern staple grape, Muscadine, Tennessee growers enjoy success with a number of native American, traditional and hybrid grapes, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, and even Malbec. According to the Tennessee Farm Wine Growers Alliance, there are almost three dozen wineries in Tennessee.
Many of Tennessee’s wineries are located in the east and central portions of the state, where elevations are higher and grape growing more productive. Both Nashville and Knoxville are great starting points to explore Tennessee wine or embark on a wine trail. A journey through the state on Interstate 40 will bring you within a relatively short drive from many of the wineries.
Tennessee Wine Trails
The Tennessee Wine site offers one of the most detailed and comprehensive state wine brochures we’ve seen. It has directions to each of the wineries, and there’s a summary of the wines offered at each. You can download the Guide to Tennessee Wineries or ask for the brochure at any Tennessee Welcome Center.
Rocky Top Wine Trail
Tennessee has jumped into agri-tourism with full force, and it has three designated wine trails. The first is the Rocky Top Wine Trail. It’s located in the Smoky Mountain area of eastern Tennessee, east of Knoxville and near Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and the North Carolina border. This is a relatively small wine trail consisting of four Tennessee wineries in the heart of this popular vacation destination. The wineries are all within a short drive from one another, so you can easily visit this wine trail in one day At the wineries, expect to see a range of fruit wines, as well as a few traditional styles, including a Cabernet Sauvignon crafted from Tennessee grapes. On the trail is Hillside Winery, Apple Barn Winery, Mountain Valley Winery and Sugarland Cellars, conveniently located at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in downtown Gatlinburg. They feature a dry red Burgundy style wine and several sweeter wines from Muscadine and Concord grapes.
A fifth winery is not officially a part of the Rocky Top Wine Trail, but it’s listed on the wine trail website. It’s Eagle Springs Winery.
Natchez Trace Wine Trail
The second Tennessee wine trail is in the central part of the state. It’s the Natchez Trace Wine Trail, located south by southeast of Nashville near the town of Columbia, Tennessee. Natchez Trace refers to a passage route from this area to the port city of Natchez, Mississippi.
There are four wineries on the Natchez Trace Wine Trail. The first, Belle Meade Plantation Winery, is located in Nashville on an old southern plantation where you can spend the night. The other three wineries are about 40-45 minutes southeast of Nashville near the towns of Centerville and Hampshire. This trail is an ideal day-trip from Nashville, and you can stop to visit the historic town of Franklin on the way back. Franklin is 15 miles south of Nashville and was the site of a prominent Civil War battle. Today, the town is a specialty shopping destination with an appealing town square.
Upper Cumberland Wine Trail
Tennessee’s third wine trail is in the east-central part of the state. It’s the Upper Cumberland Wine Trail, and the wineries are located about an hour west of Knoxville and about the same distance east of Nashville. Six wineries are located on this trail, which surrounds one of Tennessee’s prime grape-growing areas. The elevation is about 2,000 feet here, and the area is known as the Cumberland Plateau. Expect to see all types of wines along this wine trail, from fruit wines to Seyval Blancs to Chambourcin and Norton.