After marrying into an Italian family, Let's Make Wine owner Cheryl Lisi discovered winemaking and, at the behest of friends, opened her own shop where everyone could participate in the art. Her stock includes a menu of winemaking kits for varietals from around the globe, such as riesling, Chilean malbec, and Lisi's favorite, Italian sangiovese, stomped with Gucci loafers. In addition to wine-crafting opportunities, Lisi hosts wineglass-painting classes and will soon add beer-brewing supplies to the store's inventory.
When visitors walk between the 1853 Greek-revival mansion’s six solid-cut stone pillars, onto the portico, and through the heavy wood door, they might tour the rooms or learn to cook in its original kitchen. Originally founded by John Harding in 1807 for thoroughbred-horse breeding, the rolling grounds of Belle Meade Plantation now welcome seasonal tours and events ranging from book signings to art shows. Knowledgeable guides in period costumes lead tour groups through the building’s parlors and bedrooms and down a long central hallway to ascend the three floors via a circular cherry-wood staircase.
As groups wander the mansion and cross the grounds, guides divulge facts about famous visitors, such as President Cleveland and General Ulysses S. Grant, including the fact that they probably got scared of the dark just like normal people. During special tours, the staff demonstrates Southern cooking techniques and walks visitors through an herb garden or serves them lemonade or hot wassail with desserts. In an on-grounds winery, winemakers hold tastings of red and white varietals made from Tennessee grapes. Visitors can also clink wineglasses over Southern-style cuisine at the Harding House restaurant, located on the plantation grounds.
Bakers mix batter, whip frostings, and top cooling racks with just-baked cupcakes handcrafted from Blue Velvet Cupcakes' signature recipes. More than 30 cupcake flavors fill a glass display case every day, such as maple bacon, sweet Georgia peach, and cherry-vanilla cobbler, crowned with frosting and drizzles of syrup or slices of fruit. Across the blue-walled storefront, stools scoot up to a black and chrome café table. This table takes up residence next to a floor-to-ceiling window, whose sunshine casts a cheery glow and helps incubate cupcakes into full-grown cakes.
At Hana Sushi House, chefs slice fresh salmon, scallops, and other seafood for sashimi and fashion the miniature filets into specialty sushi rolls. They also pan fry udon noodles and sizzle hibachi-style steak, lobster, and other proteins in the kitchen. Patrons can sip pours from the sake bar or relish the sweetness of red-bean ice cream or banana tempura. Complimentary WiFi keeps guests' devices connected throughout their visits.
Visitors pause to admire the vivid colors of original abstract paintings on display. Families sprawl out in the grass while sharing bites of chocolate chicharrones. Burgeoning artists take the stage to sing their hearts out while the crowd listens and sips ales from local breweries such as Jackalope Brewing Company. Who would have thought that this relaxing afternoon is actually doing some hard work? The Made in Nashville event does more than just celebrate local Nashville artisans?it raises money for the Tennessee Literacy Coalition. The coalition provides resources and works with teachers to raise awareness of the state?s adult-literacy needs.
Jill and Spencer Pittman were captivated by the ingenuity of intelligent wine dispensers, eventually building a business around the idea at the corner of East Main Street and 2nd Avenue in downtown Franklin. The concept combines the relaxation of an informal wine tasting with the novelty of having a robot as a dinner guest as patrons serve themselves from the mechanized dispensers while a smart card tab keeps track of purchases. The helpful automatons even display information about selected vintages at the drink stations, allowing guests to learn about their favorite beverages and perfectly pair wines with soups, salads, or tapas plates of cheese, charcuterie, and seared seafood.
In an ironic twist, the wine bar hosts parties in the one-time home of a Prohibition-era bootlegger. The National Register of Historic Places house charms visitors with tucked-away wine rooms decked out with leather furniture and a bar adorned with paintings from local artists. As they unwind with glasses of rotating featured wines such as Cakebread Chardonnay and Opus One red blend and succulent morsels of chocolate desserts or cheese, patrons watch the street scenes and take in the open air from the lavish wraparound porch or sway to the strains of jazz amid the dark woods and overstuffed sofas of the wine rooms.