Growing grapes for wine in Tennessee

JACKSON, Tenn. — Kendall Allard just inherited her mom’s vineyard in East Tennessee.

“It’s gorgeous,” Allard said about the vineyard. “It’s nestled between the mountains in East Tennessee, and I grew up there. It’s like paradise to me because of them.”

She came to a grape growing workshop in Jackson ready to soak up all the knowledge.

“I need to learn the grape varieties to use. I want to know which varieties the local vineyards there need,” Allard said.

Wine in Tennessee dates back to 1874 when the Agriculture Commissioner dedicated an entire chapter to cultivating grapes in his book, ‘Introduction to Resources in Tennessee.’
Then, in 1919, Tennessee ratified the 18th amendment, prohibiting the sale of alcohol.
It wasn’t until 1980 Tennessee had its first commercial production of wine at Highland Manor Winery.

One of the topics discussed at Friday’s workshop is how to grow the grapes, like on trellises. But, officials say this growing grapes isn’t something you can just do in a couple of months. It can take five or six years before you get a good crop.

“Establishing a vineyard is a 15, 20, 30 year investment,” Jared Bruhin, Marketing Specialist at U.T. Center for Profitable Agriculture, said.  “We want to make sure they develop marketing plans and business plans that are associated with such a long-term investment.”

Bruhin says these workshops come at a perfect time as wineries are asking for more Tennessee-grown grapes to use in production.
And, Kendall Allard is ready to help supply them.

“We’re about to retire and I can’t sit around twiddling my thumbs.  I grew up on a farm so it’s kinda going back to my roots.”

For more information on growing grapes in Tennessee, visit the Center for Profitable Agriculture’s website.

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