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.
Tom Brown's first wine didn't quite make it into a barrel. Instead, it aged inside a pickle crock in his mother's kitchen, finally flowing forth in the year 1976. Today, Tom heads up a slightly more sophisticated operation as owner of Beans Creek Winery. Sourcing grapes from eight Tennessee counties, Tom and his team of vintners have created 31 wines, including dry reds, sweet and spicy muscats, and three types of sparkling wine. His concoctions have earned 38 medals in the Indy International Wine Competition, where they were also chosen Best of Class three times.
It's not uncommon to see wild turkeys, deer, and foxes right from the back deck of Natchez Hills Bed & Breakfast. The B&B sits in the midst of 175 acres of wilderness dotted with old barns and organic gardens. A number of hiking trails wend throughout the property, too, including one leading to Karen's Falls, one of a few waterfalls nearby.
The B&B's three guest rooms all have nice views of the surrounding wilderness, especially the Coal Miner's cabin, which overlooks the front gardens and koi pond from a private outdoor seating area. In the morning, the innkeepers set out a family-style breakfast in the dining room or on the back deck (weather permitting). There's also coffee, tea, and cocoa available all day long.
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.
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.