WRITTEN BY CAROLINE DUVALL | PHOTOGRAPHY BY TAMMY LEE
As September approaches, there is a buzz of activity at Tsali Notch Vineyard in East Tennessee. When the muscadine grapes are ripe, it is time to begin the harvest. The vineyard, named after the Cherokee leader, is home to 35 acres of muscadine grapes, and sits on over 200 acres of beautiful farmland. Tsali Notch is the largest muscadine vineyard in Tennessee, and welcomes beginners, wine makers, families and friends to join in the “U-Pick” harvest.
The Tsali Notch property also hosts events such as weddings, receptions, reunions and other gatherings. The farmland sits in a beautiful valley overlooking the Great Smoky Mountains and the Cherokee National Forest. There is a restored Party Barn for larger functions, and The Jackson Lounge for a more intimate setting; a recently refurbished 19th century farmhouse that faces the surrounding hills and 6,700 grapevines in the valley.
A Log-built Tasting Room is the perfect place to sample the 6 varieties of muscadine wine that the vineyard produces, as well as sparkling wine, juice, and fresh jams. It is open for public and private tours Wednesday through Sunday from Noon to 5pm, and offers several Tsali Notch products for purchase. Tsali Notch juice, which is high in antioxidants, is also available at several local Pharmacies near the vineyard.
The location of Tsali Notch is ideal for muscadine grapes: the nearly constant breeze sweeps the morning fog out of the valley, which gives the grapevines a maximum amount of sunlight. Muscadines are rich in flavor and antioxidants, and typically grow well in a warm, dry climate. The vines are planted from North to South to make the most of the East Tennessee sun, and receive little to no chemicals or preservatives. This ensures that Tsali Notch can offer a fresh, natural crop with a full, rich flavored product.
Cary Cox has owned Tsali Vineyard since 2009, and enjoys the pleasures that come from working with “America’s Wild Grape” in its purest form. Earlier this year, Cox entered several of their wines in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Contest, and the results speak for themselves. The Tsali Notch Hiwassee White Wine took home a gold medal, and the French Broad Rose received a silver medal. Last year, the Sparkling Muscadine won a gold medal in the University of Tennessee Wines of the South event.
Cox is looking forward to an excellent muscadine harvest this year, and a few additions to the vineyard. Planning continues for a new building that will expand their event spaces and accommodate the growing demand from wedding and event planners. The idyllic farmland attracts more than muscadine pickers, and the newest addition will hold over 250 guests in a climate controlled building that displays the best view of the property.
Tsali Notch opens their doors to travellers from all over the country, but Cox enjoys keeping the vineyard’s success local. When the City of Sweetwater approached him to co-host the National Muscadine Festival, it was a perfect match. The Festival occurs from September 26th-27th at the peak of the muscadine harvest. This year marks the 5th annual festival, and includes muscadine sampling and picking, with a hayride tour and tractor show.
This September, the Festival welcomes the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, which raises funds to benefit CASA Monroe. The 20+ Balloons will set off at dusk each night of the festival, lighting up the vineyard in a beautifully colorful glow. In addition to the Balloon Fiesta, guests can expect to find a variety of food, fun, live music, and of course – the best muscadine wine in the state.
Visit tsalinotch.com and nationalmuscadinefestival.com or muscadineballoonfiesta.com for event information, reservations, products and directions.
140 Harrison Road
Madisonville, Tennessee 37354