TOAST TO TENNESSEE-MADE WINE & MUSIC AT OLD MILLINGTON WINERY
Following Highway 51 north out of Memphis, Millington hits you like a wall of green. Turn onto Chase Road and the wall turns into a tunnel: a canopy of trees arcing over the narrow road, breaking to reveal the homey storefront of Old Millington Winery.
Owner/winemaker Perry Welch tells me the design was strategic – a “back-up plan” devised by a good friend who reckoned Perry could always “rent the place out” should his winery venture sour.
You can understand this friend’s realism: Perry grew up in a Memphis family of bakers. He prefers beer to wine. And he decided to establish his winery while visiting Napa some years ago, pronouncing mid-trip, “I’m going to go home and plant some vines.”
Twelve years later, with production averaging 30,000 bottles annually (every one of them crafted, bottled, corked and labeled by hand at the winery), Perry hasn’t needed a fall-back. He has made a lot of friends, though. “It’s like Cheers here on Thursdays,” he tells me, but even as we spoke on a drizzly Sunday afternoon, regulars popped in. Perry knew just what to pour them.
During your visit, expect to sample up to four wines for free. Perry and his staff will talk you through the available varieties to inform your selections. When I visited, 11 possibilities ranged from dry to semi-dry to sweet, including Delta Blush (which Perry likens to a White Zinfandel) and Muscadine. I left with two bottles of Big River Red, which promises to be smooth, flavorful and off-dry:
Old Millington Winery is open Weds.-Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sundays, 1-6 p.m. You should go and sample your selections in Perry’s cozy tasting room: cool, dim-lit and earth-toned with a few café tables. Buy a bottle (or several – with prices between $10 and $12, the souvenir potential is intoxicating). Pet Millie and Rose, the lucky dogs who live here and earn their keep by greeting visitors in the parking lot. Sit on a front-porch bench or claim a picnic table and revel in the bucolic: Amid views of Perry’s Chambourcin vines and outbursts from the neighboring rooster, consider that you’re sitting on some of the oldest farmland in Shelby County. Then, make plans to attend one of Old Millington Winery’s fall events:
Winefest, Oct. 14 Celebrate fall with Old Millington Winery’s 12th annual Winefest. Anticipate live music, wine for sale and a log-sawing competition at this family-friendly gathering.
Fall Music Series, through Oct. 28 Sunday afternoons from 3-6 p.m., bring the family, a picnic and blanket for live music on the verdant grounds of the winery. Kids get in free; adults pay $3 ($5 if you’re bringing your own beer, though no liquor or outside wine is allowed. However, I have some very good news for wine-drinkers: Since Old Millington Winery is an agricultural enterprise, you can buy wine by the glass or bottle here on Sundays!). Find the full entertainment line-up here and file this away: The winery’s music series will begin again in March.
Well, gotta go…that Big River Red is calling my name. What’s your favorite made-in-Tennessee wine?