If you trace the history of distilled spirits in America, at some point your path will wind through the hills and hollows of Tennessee. Since the 18the century, folks in the region have produced whiskey, but if you venture to the central part of the state you’ll also find a growing number of wineries as well as distilleries making a wide variety of spirits.
The South Central Tennessee Wine and Spirits Trail celebrates new and well-established wineries and distilleries that range from the hills of Centerville to the historic center of Lynchburg. Along the trail you’ll encounter nine wineries and six distilleries that host tastings and showcase the history and future of distilling and wine making in Tennessee.
To help you make the most of your journey along the Wind and Spirits Trail, we’ve laid out an itinerary that’s split into three areas, going from west to east.
1. Centerville & Hampshire
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Begin your tour in Centerville and take the trail from Grinder’s Switch Winery) to Keg Springs Winery,), and from Amber Falls Winery & Cellars) to Natchez Hills Vineyard. These four stops will give you an introduction to winemaking in Tennessee, and you’ll walk away with a breadth of knowledge about varietals of wine in the state. Grinder's Switch Winery got its start in a hand-built log cabin and has produced wine in that location for more than a decade. Soak up the Southern charm, sip sweet wines, and if you fall in love with the samples, you can purchase bottles to take home.
Another family-owned spot, Keg Springs Winery is tucked away in the mountains of Tennessee, where the scenery is as heavenly as the wine. Ranging from light to full-bodied, and sweet to dry, the wines are sure to suit every palate.
At Amber Falls Winery & Cellars you’ll discover bold, dry reds and novelty fruit wines. With a tasting room located in its cellar, Amber Falls offers an impressive setting to sample fine wines. If you’re feeling adventurous, opt for the Peach WineTeaZer, a blend of their Peach Persuasion wine and black tea.
Round out this part of the tour with a stop at Natchez Hills Winery and Vineyard, where old-world techniques are used to make small-batch wines. While the wine is delicious, it’s the stellar views of the vineyard that make Natchez Hills a favored stop on the trail.
2. Lynnville & Lewisburg
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The second part of the tour centers around Lewisburg, which sits directly south of Nashville. But, rather than beginning your tour in Lewisburg, start this leg in Lynnville and sample small-batch artisan spirits at Tenn South Distillery. Try the Clayton James Tennessee Whiskey, which has a unique sweet maple smokiness, and get samples of the Big Machine Platinum Filtered Premium Vodka and All Mighty 140 Shine.
From Tenn South, make your way to Lexington to begin another trip through wine country. At Lexington Vineyard you can gather around the Oak Tree Tasting Bar for dry and fruit wines that embody the character of Tennessee wine country. And while you’re there, pair your wine with Lexington Vineyard’s delicious food.
After you visit Lexington, head south and drive into Pulaski to enjoy wine and music at Big Creek Winery. As you enjoy their free tastings, you’ll notice that the wines have colorful names, like Moonglow, Dixie Maid and Tomahawk. Be sure to ask the owners to explain the origins of these names, because their answers will reveal entertaining details about surrounding Giles Country and its lively past. Then, pick out your favorite wines so you can take a few home.
At Lewisburg’s Picker's Creek Winery, wine meets music and art on a beautiful Tennessee farm. Find a seat in the tasting room that’s adorned with local art, or pack a picnic to snack on while sipping wines and listening to live music. Wine names such as Harmony, Moondance, Rockabilly Red, and Blackberry Blues will remind you that you’re not far from Music City.
3. Kelso, Fayetteville, Lynchburg & Tullahoma
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Part three features several stops, so gear up. Get your feet wet with handcrafted spirits at Prichard's Distillery in Kelso. (There’s also a second location in Nashville.) The rich Prichard tradition dates back five generations, and their whiskeys and rums have distinct tastes that have garnered awards around the world. When you visit, be sure to tour the distillery and sample some of their classics, like their gold medal Double Barreled Bourbon, New England-style rum, and even their own moonshine, Prichard’s Lincoln County Lightning.
When you leave Prichard’s, drive a little less than 20 minutes southwest to Fayetteville, and spend some time at Southern Pride Distillery, which aims to preserve the old-world nature of distilling moonshine. Owner Randy Trentham and distiller Tim Shavers use family recipes that go back decades, and their first recipe was actually found tucked away in the Bible of Trentham’s great grandmother. In addition to using local recipes, they mill locally grown corn and use water from a natural spring that is on the distillery’s property.
No spirit tour would be complete without the pilgrimage to Lynchburg, the home of Jack Daniel’s, which has been making whiskey since the late 1800s. Because Jack Daniel’s is one of the most popular whiskeys in the world, there’s a good chance you’ve already tried it. But, you should still visit the distillery for a tour and a behind-the-scenes look at a place that has become an American icon. Just a stone’s throw from Jack Daniel’s, you can also explore the many offerings of Lynchburg Winery.
Right next door to the Lynchburg Winery you’ll find the area’s newest distillery, American Craft Distillers of Lynchburg. The owners draw on the tradition of family members who originally produced moonshine in Hawkins County from the 1920s to the 1930s. In addition to shine, they also craft whiskey, vodka, and rum.
While George Dickel is another well-known name in the world of whiskey, you won’t find the company’s distillery location on some maps. But, if you can make your way to Cascade Hollow, the folks who make George Dickel will be happy to have you visit and settle in for a long afternoon. They pride themselves on patience and don't see any reason to be in a rush. After you tour the distillery for an hour and sample a few blends of whiskey, you might never want to leave Cascade Hollow. But, if you make it out, continue your trip north to Beans Creek Winery for a final taste of sweet Tennessee wine.
When you’ve completed the Wine and Spirits Trail, you’ll walk away feeling as if you’ve discovered something truly special and unexpected. While Tennessee is well-known for whiskey, it also boasts a notable number of vineyards with locally grown grapes that produce dry and sweet varietals of wine. At the same time, local distillers have moved beyond their mastery of whiskey making to craft new varieties of small batch spirits, including rum and moonshine. After more than 200 years of producing spirits, South-Central Tennessee still holds some surprises.
Written by Alex Hendrickson for RootsRated Media in partnership with South Central Tennessee.