Wine on the West Side 2011

       A few months ago I heard chatter of my hometown planning (finally!) an event in honor of my favorite sweet (or dry) red (or white, or rosé) spirited nectar. As a wine enthusiast, I had been looking forward to this festival since I heard first utterance of it. Yesterday was the day—I attended Cookeville, Tennessee’s very first WINE FESTIVAL, Wine on the West Side! I hope it remains an annual event! I’d just like to tell a bit about my festival experience…

       So the festival featured 15 Tennessee wineries showcasing their best vintages, varietals, and blends. We (the festival attendees) received a commemorative wine glass upon entering the gate, and this served as our tasting vessel throughout the afternoon. Each winery was set up in a tent lining Broad Street, and attendees were free to present their glass and sample (multiple times, if you were so bold) each wine offered by the vintners. Yes, it was a veritable free-for-all for all us Cookeville winos! (And I mean that in the most positive of ways!)

       When Dad, Mollie, and I first arrived, we strolled first to Hillside Winery’s tent, where everything was semi-sweet. We tasted a few, kept strolling, and found that Tennessee has a lot of very sweet wines to offer, in true Southern style. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good sweet wine for dessert or as an apéritif, but I can’t sip and sip on them without getting a sour stomach. We strolled some more, sipping the sweet and fruity, even came upon a Rhubarb wine from Mountain Valley Winery that had a very appealing and complex sweet-tart flavor, and an intriguing wine from Amber Falls Winery called Cajunfest, sweet on the front, but super spicy as it glides down the throat! I enjoyed the variety, and most of the merchants were friendly and knowledgeable.

       But finally, after a couple of hours, I discovered the jewel of the wine festival that I’d completely missed when we arrived. It was the tent of Chateau Ross, a winery located in Springfield, TN, where the vintners were telling visitors to “Go ahead and bypass us if you’re looking for sweet wine. You won’t find it here.” And there is where I stayed for the rest of the festival. Their wines were deep and dark, bold and mysterious, just as my palate prefers. I loved every wine of theirs that I tried, the Petite Syrah being my absolute favorite—they billed it as “chewy…scrape it off your teeth. Not for meek,” and I was sold. They were great and I told them so, and I hope to visit their vineyards sometime this summer or fall.

       All in all, we had a great time at the festival, got positively tipsy in the sun, and came home with two bottles of wine to enjoy on the patio sometime soon. My only complaint about the festival was the lack of food samples, which were advertised on the event website. The $25 ticket was supposed to include “samplings from participating Tennessee food producers”—the only thing I sampled for free was a bit of cheese from Thomas Andrew’s Restaurant. Perhaps none of those food producers chose to participate. Or maybe I was a bit too fancy-free to notice?

Here are the wines we came home with: a Raspberry Blush from Hillside Winery (for Dad and Mom) and a Sangiovese from Chateau Ross (for me!).

Find out more about these Tennessee Wineries!

Chateau Ross

Hillside Winery
Amber Falls Winery
Mountain Valley Winery