Glints of sunshine and rich West Tennessee soil nurture more than Crown Winery's lush vines; solar energy powers the vintners' Tuscan-style villa and headquarters, which is built into a hillside to reap the earth's natural cooling capabilities. Principal co-owners Peter and Rita Howard—a descendant of father of meteorology Sir Luke Howard, and a member of the National Baton Twirling Association Hall of Fame, respectively—bottle a dozen wines every year. Whites, such as the citrusy cayuga, may evoke memories of summertime fruit salads and fragrant floral bouquets sprouted from Chia Pet experiments. The winery's roster of reds includes the medium-bodied chambourcin, served at room temperature to liberate its berry-laced tang, and the royal red, a savory mishmash of norton grapes and estate-grown noiret. Winery tours invite guests to gambol along the vines and learn about the winemaking process. The idyllic 50-acre setting is also a popular spot for weddings, particularly in the Queen's Pavilion, with oak beams and sweeping vineyard views, orchestrated by Crown Winery's designated wedding coordinator.
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.
StarView Vineyards is home to both native and French-American hybrid grapes that flourish on the vine during breezy, sunny summers. Seven varieties emerge from those vines, resulting in 12 signature wines, from the semi-dry, citrusy vignoles to the Red Star, a semi-sweet chambourcin. Stop by the tasting room to sip samples of these blends?along with wine slushies and sangrias?or head to the cafe to snack on grilled chicken sandwiches and pasta salad.
Grinder's Switch Winery sits atop a 110-acre estate flourishing with vineyards that produce a variety of palate-pleasing wines. Inside a hand-built log cabin set against a backdrop of efflorescent countryside, Grinder's tasting room welcomes sophisticated sippers to sample such wizened grape juices as the 2009 Pearl—a sweet wine derived from niagara grapes ($10.93)—and the Blondy ($12.75), which boasts aromatic scents of apricot and peach. Swirling fragrances of golden apple tickle the noses of Honeysuckle Rose ($13.67) drinkers, while the lightly-oaked 2009 chardonnay ($13.67) proffers a finish as crisp as dollar bills made out of Granny Smith apples.
Coat the stomach lining with the soup of the day ($6.50), served with freshly baked bread, and introduce the soup to a deli sandwich served on your choice of bread. Grainy greats, including wheat berry, sourdough, rye, sub roll, and croissant, serve as a meat-docking station for honey ham ($8.75), roast turkey ($9.00), or roast beef ($9.25). You can also opt for a grilled panini with your choice of pasta salad, potato salad, fresh-fruit bowl, or chips. The reuben, stacked heavy with corned beef, swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and thousand-island dressing ($9.25) appeases meat lovers. Or think outside the breadbox with nostalgic eats that still don't beg utensil usage. Try chicken fingers ($9.75), veggie-packed quesadillas ($9.75), or a bevy of burgers, each served with fries. View the complete lineup here.
Century Farm orchestrates a bright spectrum of dry wines, semisweet wines, and fruit wines in a charming country shop surrounded by acres of shady arbors and southern grape vines. Only 4.5 years old, the blossoming winery proved its mettle at the 2011 Wines of the South Competition by collecting three awards—the Best of Tennessee Fruit–William O. Beach Award for its 2009 vintage traminette; a silver medal for its 2009 Norton; and a bronze for its 2009 red muscadine. While guests peruse bottles, a complimentary tasting introduces palates to the subtle notes and intricacies of varieties such as the dry, oaked 2010 Norton ($12.95) or the semisweet 2008 traminette ($12), with fruity layers and a spicy finish. Century Farm also hosts musical performances on select Saturdays from late April to September, during which visitors may enjoy wine tastings, picnics, and slow dances with graceful vines.