Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Wine of the Smokies - Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Moonshine isn't the only game in town in East Tennessee. Wine has gained traction west of the Smokies with over a dozen operating east of Knoxville. There's even The Rocky Top Wine Trail to guide you to five of these; although we still prefer the theCompass Winery, Brewery, Distillery Locator Mobile App. During a recent trip I was able to sample wine from three Tennessee wineries and yes, a majority of them are sweet. There's plenty of fruit wines, muscadine wines, hybrids, labrusca, and blends of all kinds. When vinifera did surface, the wine was usually made from left coast grapes -- although there was one wine that included locally grown Viognier. In general, the wines I sampled were well made and included several pleasant surprises.

Three wineries operate in the tourist mecca of Gatlinburg. We visited two starting with Tennessee Homemade Wines. As the name suggests, the family has been making homemade wines for over 100 years and the current batch consists of fruit, muscadine, and the world's most popular white labrusca grape Niagara. This wine wasn't bad, well made, just too much muskiness for my tastes. When in doubt, the Strawberry Stomp is excellent - comes across light and dry - and could pass for a dry rose. Well, maybe not completely - but close enough.

Sugarland Cellars was the second Gatlinburg winery on our agenda and provides a more traditional wine tasting experience with tours of the winery's operation. There's a plethora of unique choices from blended muscadine to fruit wines to sparkling Cayuga-Niagara - the Bliss. For fruit wines there's a sweet Cherry – Kee, but you have to try the Loganberry - a cross between a blackberry and a raspberry. And tasty.  The Century White was my favorite - a blend of local Seyval and Viognier, blended with Washington state Riesling and more Viognier from California.
Townsend is another entry point into the Smokey Mountains - about 20 miles west of Gatlinburg. Cades Cove Cellars is a nice post park excursion since alcoholic beverages are not allowed into the national park. Overall this was my favorite winery stop with all the wines getting positive reviews from our party. For whites, they produce a nice Riesling using Washington State grapes and a Seyval based Nature Excellence Bliss Adams Fall White.  Our companions enjoyed the muscadine based Rustic Cabin Red and we all enjoyed their dessert offerings - particularly the excellent Red Raspberry.

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