The Upper Cumberland boasts beautiful mountain scenery, rolling fields dotted with livestock and bustling shopping centers. But the wineries of the area are making a splash with tourists and building a reputation for the area's unique and flavorful wine creations.
The Upper Cumberland Tourism Association launched the Upper Cumberland Wine Trail earlier this year, inviting both visitors and residents to get out and explore the Upper Cumberland and visit six wineries in the region.
Two of those stops bring tour participants to Crossville to visit Chestnut Hill Winery and Stonehaus Winery.
"If you visit all the wineries, at your last winery, you get a couple of the special Upper Cumberland Wine Tour glasses, and we do something special for those finishing up their tour here," said Rob Ramsey, owner and distribution sales manager. "It's a fun way to see the area."
The wine trail was one of the official routes for the Hog Rally held this past year in Cookeville, bringing hundreds through the area, and the promotion is helping people find good wine close to home.
Winemaking in Tennessee
In the 1800s, grape-growing and wine making provided a valuable cash crop for the state and put land to use that was unsuitable for other agricultural uses. That ended with Prohibition in 1919. Though the constitutional amendment that prohibited the manufacture, transport and sale of alcoholic beverages throughout the U.S. was repealed in 1933, wine production remained crippled in the state for much of the 20th century. In 1977, the grape and wine law was passed, removing wineries from local option legislation and reducing the cost of licensing to $50. Wine produced was taxed at five cents per gallon, and no winery could sell more than 20 percent of the wine it produced annually through retail sales.
Highland Manor Winery in Jamestown became the state's first licensed winery in 1980. The state has since reviewed its regulation of the industry and increasing the amount of wine that could be produced and loosening requirements that a certain percentage of grapes used in production be grown in Tennessee.
That's been good news for Cumberland County wineries, Stonehaus Winery, which opened in 1991, and Chestnut Hill Winery, which opened in 1998.
"There have been times we could have purchased better grapes at a cheaper cost by going out of state," said Darrin Stryker, who opened Chestnut Hill Winery in 2007 with his family.
Rob Ramsey, owner of Stonehaus Winery, agreed, adding while much of the grapes used at Stonehaus are grown in Tennessee, the supply was quickly exhausted and there were grape varieties that just were not suited to the Tennessee climate.