You don’t have to travel all the way to California or New York for a wine country vacation, because there are Smoky Mountain wineries right here in eastern Tennessee. Visiting the Rocky Top Wine Trail can definitely enhance and add some fun to your romantic getaway.
Like many places around the country, the Gatlinburg-Sevierville-Pigeon Forge area has joined the locally sourced wine making trend. While these wineries produce terrific traditional wines made from grapes, their specialty is producing unique and tasty creations from local fruits such as berries and apples. These wineries cluster around US Highway 66. One of them, Eagle Springs, is just off Interstate 40 and exit 407 in Kodak. Educate yourself on this up-and-coming wine producing area with these five tips. Once you taste the great wines from the Smoky Mountains, they just might become your new favorites.
Here are 5 things you should know about the Rocky Top Wine Trail
1. You can visit five wineries close to each other
In addition to Eagle Springs, four other wineries are located closer to the National Park, all within a 12 mile radius: Hillside, Apple Bar, Mountain Valley and Sugarland Cellars. They have joined forces to create the Rocky Top Wine Trail, where you can download a passport from their website, get it stamped at each location and receive a complimentary wine glass and gift once you’re done with the tour. If you like, you can complete it over a few days, but if you do visit all five in one day, please designate a driver. Alternatively, you can reserve a limo through Limo Tours of the Rocky Top Wine Trail.
2. They produce more than 60 varietals between them
Each of these five wineries specializes in a group of particular varietals, together offering a total of more than five dozen. You will certainly find your favorites such as merlot, chardonnay and shiraz, but certainly try the fruit-based wines as well. In fact, Apple Barn has mostly apple wines combined with other flavors. Also worth tasting is the Smoky Mountain muscadine wine, a Southern favorite. All of the wineries offer free tours and free tastings. Of course, you can purchase bottles of these varietals onsite or on the website.
3. Fall is a great time to visit these Smoky Mountain wineries
With cooler weather coming, visiting the Rocky Top Wine Trail becomes a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. You’ll begin to see the autumn foliage turn to rich Smoky Mountain Fall colors, especially if you arrive in mid to late October. Crowds will flock to view the spectacle, but they won’t be as large as those in the summertime. Also, there’s just something more romantic about tasting wine with your loved one in the slight chill of a fall afternoon.
4. Join the Rocky Top club
The owner of Mountain Valley Winery, Don Collier, started a wine club seven years ago, which now include the other Rocky Top winemakers. You can now have six bottles of their select wines shipped to your home twice a year, in April and October, and choose one of three clubs to join: sweet, dry or mix. There is also the option to receive quarterly case shipments of wine as well.
5. There’s more to these Smoky Mountain wineries than just wine
If you visit any of the Rocky Top wineries in the coming months, they will have a full slate of events to enjoy. For example, Sugarland Cellars will host an upcoming Wine on the Lawn art opening with live music, food and of course wine. Hillside Winery has a Stomp Out Breast Cancer fundraising event in October. Each of the wineries will produce a special “pink” varietal, where a portion of the sales will go for donation.