From Chattanooga, it doesn’t take much of a drive to enjoy a sip (or a flight) of locally made wine. Whether you prefer something sweet, dry, sparkling, or slushie-style, these four family-owned wineries have got you covered.
Relying on the ancient techniques of letting gravity and siphons move the wine from the fermentation vessel to the finished bottle, the Bordogna Family at Lookout Winery produces a product that’s closer to the way wine was intended. Chuck Bordogna says it’s the way the Romans and Greeks preferred it centuries ago. “When you microfilter, you’re actually straining micro particles out of the wine. By racking, there’s minute segments of sediment that are still floating in the wine, and by doing that, it gives you a better mouth feel,” he says. “It might not look as crystal clear, but it just tastes like a heavier wine.” At Lookout Winery, The No. 1 seller is the Italian Trio, a red blend of Cabernet, Zinfandel, and Merlot. In fact, customers come in to ask for it specifically. The Phillipo Pino Grigio has notes of banana and apricot and pairs well with salmon. The New Bier Wine is made with German-style grapes and crafted to taste a bit like beer, pairing perfectly with the wood-fired pizzas on site. The pizza at Lookout Winery is just as noteworthy as the wine, if not moreso, because the ingredients are sourced so well. The flour is imported from Tuscany, the Bufalo Mozzarella is from Napoli, and the San Marzano plum tomatoes are from the base of Mt. Vesuvius. Located just 20 miles west of downtown Chattanooga off I-24, the winery also offers beautiful views of the Tennessee River, plus views of mountain tops located in three neighboring states.
What to Do Nearby:
Hike to Foster Falls in the Foster Falls Recreation Area within South Cumberland State Park.
When Dr. Maurice Rawlings, Sr. bought 55 acres in northwest Georgia in 1982, he didn’t realize that a land survey would reveal it wasn’t suitable for any crop besides grapes. He’d need to let go of his original plans and plant a vineyard. Rawlings, it’s been said, was actually thrilled. Specializing in sweet southern wines, the offerings at Georgia Winery include Cranberry Blush, a combination of muscadine and cranberry; Chattanooga Blush, a combination of three grape varieties; Tail Gate Red, a blend of Concord and DeChaunac grapes; and Niagra, which is similar to Moscoto. Semi-sweet and dry wines include Rhett, which is a semi-sweet white, as well as a Chardonnay, a Reisling, a Homestead Red, and a Merlot. Inside the winery, the Gathering Lounge and gift shop have a modern farm flare, with silver spiral pendant lights and stamped tin tiles mounted from the ceiling. It’s spacious, and you get the feeling you’re invited to stay a while and take your time with a charcuterie plate or artisanal cheese. Guests are welcome to five free samples, and children are welcome.
What to Do Nearby:
Take Reeds Bridge Road west to the 6th Cavalry Museum in Fort Oglethorpe on select days April through September for a re-creation of 19th century baseball between teams in the Tennessee Association of Vintage Baseball league. Sports meets living history as the rules, equipment, uniforms, and culture mimic the way the game was played in the 1860s.
The sweet wines tend to be visitor favorites at Ocoee Winery, 40 miles east of downtown Chattanooga and 30 miles east of East Brainerd. The White Muscadine is made from Native American muscadine grapes and has won awards including a Bronze at the South Regional Wine Competition. The Blackberry wine works well for dessert. Owner Steve Hunt is a fan of his drier options: Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay. Hunt purchases the fruit for the wine making process both locally and across the United States, from farms as far as Michigan and New York. All steps of the process–from pressing the grapes to fermentation to straining–are completed on site on the 64 corridor heading to the Ocoee River. The tasting room at Ocoee Winery is small but homey. There’s wood paneling on the tasting bar, antlers and taxidermied animals hanging from the walls, some Hunt hunted himself, others that were given to him as a gift. The winery gift shop, Martha’s Cupboard, offers novelty wine glasses, stoppers, and other wine-themed items.
What to Do Nearby:
Continue on U.S. Hwy 64 toward the Ocoee River Gorge to Sugarloaf Mountain Park for a picnic and a chance to get your toes wet, or to Parksville Beach, a popular spot for swimming.
Beans Creek Winery
Tom Brown’s first batch of wine was the result of his parents’ vines being a bit too heavy in 1976. He’d just gotten back from a fishing trip with friends, and they didn’t want to leave the excess to the birds, so he got to work in his mother’s kitchen. Wine making remained a hobby until he found the support of the Tennessee Viticulture and Oenological Society. The result: his wine started winning regional, national, and international awards including Mid-American Wine Competition and Wines of the South. Beans Creek Winery opened just off Exit 11 on I-24 heading from Chattanooga to Nashville, and the business became a family affair. While Brown passed away in 2016, his wife, three children, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, and five grandchildren carry on his dream. Son Josh says grapes used in Beans Creek wine are primarily grown in Tennessee, specifically Warren County, Coffee, County, McMinn County, Overton County, and Bedford County. The Beans Creek Winery sparking wines are bottle fermented, which is the traditional French style. The signature wine on site is Apropos, a port-style that is fortified with brandy and is 18.9 percent alcohol. A little sweeter than a dry red, it pairs well with dessert. If the weather is nice, a typical visit to Beans Creek includes time spent outdoors. “Some bring a picnic, buy a bottle of wine, go out back and sit and enjoy. On the weekends during the warmer months, we do wine slushies. We also have a small selection of local craft beers and ciders.” In the gift shop, Beans Creek sells cheese from Sweet Water Valley Farm as well as whiskey cake, whiskey balls, and whiskey praline pecans made with Jack Daniel’s Whiskey by the Lynchburg Cake and Candy Co. The outdoor music series on site runs from June to October.
What to Do Nearby:
Visit Common John Brewing Co., then go birding at Old Stone Fort State Archaelogical Park. According to Tennessee State Parks, spring and fall is a great time to catch migrations, and in the summer, you may catch a glimpse of a red-eyed vireo or northern parula.