Every where you look, you can find an abundance of simple, sweet wines in Tennessee. You don’t have to go far to find muscadine, Concord and a host of other sweeties in bottles with homemade labels. In our Southern climate, it’s just easier to grow these sweet, thick-skinned grapes than to cultivate the more temperamental European wine grapes.
However, I think it is critical for our state’s economy and our wine industry that we begin producing the interesting, classical-style dry wines that will not only put us on the wine map, but preserve a distinctive sense of place that only Tennessee can deliver. Right now, there are only a handful of wineries that are getting serious about their dry wines.
I recently had the good fortune to meet Mike Reedy, one of the “New Generation” winemakers specializing in Tennessee dry wines. Reedy Creek Vineyard is nestled high in the mountains just outside Kingsport, Tennessee. The high elevation and ancient slate, shale and limestone soils in this part of the state create a perfect environment for growing quality wine grapes.
I think Mike is making some fantastic wine at Reedy Creek. The collection I tasted tells me that a few Tennessee wines are becoming worthy of a national stage. Reedy Creek’s “Frost” white blend ($23.99) was a Gold Medal Winner in the 2013 Grand Harvest Awards –the first ever all-Tennessee wine to win gold in that prestigious Sonoma competition. Frost is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Albarino, Viognier, Riesling and Chardonnay. This crisp, fruit-forward wine reflects the best attributes of each grape variety in the blend, from the acidity of Sauvignon Blanc, the fruit of Albarino, to the floral “sweetness” of Viognier and Riesling. This is an unusual and really delightful field blend.
Reedy Creek’s Meadow View Meritage ($21.99) is a Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. This Meritage opens with vibrant aromas of raspberry and ripe cherry, and just a hint of clove. It is a nicely integrated wine with oak and toast that frames the fruit nicely and leads to plum, black cherry and cola notes. Soft, mature tannins provide for a graceful, well-balanced finish. I am so pleased to see a wine like this coming out of Tennessee!
Whether they are white, red or rosé, all of Reedy Creek’s wines have a hint of minerality that is a perfect expression of the ground in which they are grown. The small-production wines are crafted in a food-friendly, classical European style –with a distinctive Tennessee twist. Reedy Creek is definitely a winery to watch over the next few years. I look forward to watching them grow.
Tennessee’s wine industry is entering an exciting time in its development. While some wineries such as Arrington are becoming well known for dry wines, a sprinkling of others (like Grinder’s Switch Winery in Centerville) feature very small amounts of dry wines –but you may have to ask for them when you go to their tasting rooms.
If you are a dry wine fan living in Tennessee, don’t despair: you can still “shop local!” You just have to do a little digging. I encourage all of you to seek out and support Tennessee wineries that are making the effort to bring Tennessee to its rightful place in the international wine scene.
Jennifer Wolkonowski is a wine professional specializing in consumer education. A longtime Mt. Juliet resident, she currently owns Vin Fine Wine & Spirits in Lebanon. For more information, you may reach her at 615-784-4111 or firstname.lastname@example.org.