If you want to sample some of what the Great Smoky Mountains is known for you don’t have far to go. Local wines and, of course, moonshine is easily accessible along with some of the best whiskey you’ll hope to find in the area.
The Rocky Top Wine Trail is only one of the spirit tours available in the Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville area. If you like wine, you will find some of the best in the state along this enjoyable wine trail. And before you begin don’t forget to pick up your Rocky Top Wine Trail Passport. You can pick one up at the first winery you visit, or you can download a copy before you begin at http://rockytopwineries.com. Make sure you get your passport stamped at every winery you visit. Once you get your third stamp, you will get a free gift and if you finish the wine tour by visiting all six sites, you will get another gift at the end of the tour.
One thing to remember—be sure to have a designated driver for your wine tour. There are over 70 wines available for tasting and yes, you can get a little tipsy if you keep tasting. There are other options if your designated driver would like to sample wine along with you. Elite Limo Tours offers a wonderful tour to visit the wineries and you won’t have to worry about driving. Some restrictions apply. Everyone in the limo must be 21 years of age and have a valid ID to sample and purchase wine on the Rocky Top Wine Trail. You can call Elite Limo Tours at (865)-456-0023 to book your deluxe, ultra-responsible wine tasting tour.
It doesn’t matter whether you start your wine tour in Gatlinburg or Sevierville but for today, we will begin in Gatlinburg at Sugarland Cellars. Sugarland Cellars is located at the Gatlinburg entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and offers tours and complimentary limited wine tastings seven days a week. Their gift shop is filled with wine related gifts and Smoky Mountain memories. Sugarland Cellars showcases the rich Smoky Mountain history on their labels and it’s also explained by their tour guides. Visitors can enjoy wines that are crafted on site and listen to the stories related to the Smoky Mountain wine labels and the heritage behind the names. The wine labels are used as storytelling tools to keep the Smoky Mountain tales alive. Be sure to take a few moments and sit and sip some of the delicious local wines and listen to the stories contained within the walls of Sugarland Cellars. When you tour and taste the wines at Sugarland Cellars you are truly drinking “local” wines. The Tennessee wines are made from regionally grown grapes in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains by farmers who have been growing them for generations. The winery team members are mostly native East Tennesseans and any one of them can tell you where all the locals eat at the best restaurants in Gatlinburg. Just ask and they will steer you to some of the best food in the foothills of the Smokies.
Next on our trail is Doc Colliers Moonshine Distillery. Though not a winery, the Distillery is on the Wine Trail and is one of the six sites you’ll need to visit to fill up your passport and not only that, it’s one you won’t want to miss. Located at Stoplight #3, you’ll find some of the best moonshine in the area and with a valid ID, you can sample any of Doc’s flavors, including his one of a kind Moonshine Brandy. Doc Collier’s recipe for moonshine includes corn, sugar, and good mountain spring water. The spring water used is local. English Mountain Spring Water is just down the road and they deliver 300-600 gallons at a time directly to the distillery for use in fermentation and blending. You can also buy a bottle of English Mountain Spring Water at the distillery, so you can taste what fresh mountain water is like. You can also view some of the equipment that William “Doc” Collier and his family have used for generations to make their moonshine up in the mountains. Doc’s Shine Shop is setup like an old-fashioned country store, like the one where his daddy first sold his ‘shine. There’s also a gift shop where you can pick up something to commemorate your trip to the Smokies and the Shine Shop. The Distillery is open from 10 am to 10 pm Monday through Saturday and Sunday from noon to 7 pm. The address is 519 Parkway, Gatlinburg.
Next up is Mill Bridge Winery in Pigeon Forge. Located adjacent to the Old Mill, Mill Bridge Winery is perched on the banks of the Pigeon River just at the edge of the bridge that crosses it. One of the winery’s unique features is the patio overlooking the river where you can sit and sample a chilled glass of wine or hard cider. Enjoy the views of the river while you relax. They carry dry, semi-sweet and sweet wines along with sampling of hard ciders and seasonal wines. And of course, it’s near by the Old Mill Restaurant so if you’re in the mood for a bite to eat, it’s within walking distance.
Moving along the trail, next up is Mountain Valley Winery in Pigeon Forge. Specializing in sweet fruit French and German style wines, Mountain Valley Winery is located just past the Titanic Museum and WonderWorks Upside Down House in Pigeon Forge. Opening their doors in 1991, Mountain Valley Winery has produced some award-winning varieties of wine including Rhubarb wine. They also have a selection of fruit wines such as muscadine. If you visit in the fall color season that runs from September to October, you may be able to visit during the time they are bottling wine or even when they are crushing grapes at the winery. Whenever you decide to visit, you won’t be disappointed and definitely take your time tasting all of the wonderful wines to be sampled here.
And next on our trek is the Apple Barn Winery in Sevierville. When you visit the Apple Barn Winery you’ll be treated to the sights surrounding it. Located on the banks of the Pigeon River in the Apple Barn Village, the Apple Barn Winery is nestled in the complex that houses the Apple Barn General Store & Cider Mill, two wonderful restaurants, a bakery, an ice cream shop, a candy store and a Christmas shop. Offering a unique twist on wines, the Apple Barn Winery hand crafts their wines on site from the very same apples you see growing outside their door. The winery is open seven days a week for tasting and sales and their family friendly staff would love to have you stop by. While there, be sure to stop by their gift shop where you’ll find unique items and must have wine accessories. You can also watch the wine makers and learn about the art of winemaking by viewing them performing their craft through glass viewing windows.
Hillside Winery is the next stop on our wine trail. Specializing in Italian style and bubbly wines, Hillside Winery offers limited samplings of both seven days a week, even on Sunday. Be sure to visit the wine shop for a tasty treat or souvenir. Located at 229 Collier Drive in Sevierville, be sure not to miss this stop on your Wine Trail Tasting.
Now that you’ve had your taste buds washed with some of the best wine in Tennessee, you may want to try something a little stronger and better known in these Great Smoky Mountains. Something by the name of Moonshine. Tasting moonshine is a serious thing in Gatlinburg. Two of the best moonshine stills exist in downtown Gatlinburg TN and you won’t want to miss sampling this mountain brew. These moonshine stills are Ole Smoky Moonshine and Sugarlands Distilling Company. We spoke of Doc Colliers earlier and add these two to your moonshine tour and you’ll be very pleased with the variety and tastes you’ll get to sample.
Let’s begin with Ole Smoky Moonshine. There are two locations to choose from – Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge – Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery in The Holler is a good place to get started on your moonshine sampling tour. The store in The Holler is the flagship store and here is where you can see them fermenting the mash, sample moonshine and kick back in a rocking chair and listen to some live music. All you must do to start your tour here is show the shine server your ID, pay the $5 (which you will get back in the form of a coupon to use in the purchase in the store) and you will begin your education on what moonshine is and how strong it can be. You will begin with Blue Flame, the strongest of all the shine at 128 proof. From there you will move on down in proof to the fruity and other flavors of moonshine. You’re sure to find a favorite or two and if you decide on which ones you like, be sure to pick up some recipe cards located with the moonshine flavors that will give you ideas on mixing some wonderful drinks using the moonshine. Look around though, because there are many flavors on the shelves that you may not have tasted along with other merchandise like pour spouts for your pints and tee shirts for souvenirs. And don’t forget, there’s not only moonshine available but moonshine infused peaches and cherries for you to snack on…...after you are back safe and sound in your Gatlinburg cabin rental of course.
The Barrelhouse, another of Ole Smoky Distillery’s branches, is located in the old Davy Crockett Whisky store and this is where you’ll find Ole Smoky Whiskey. Here you can sample many flavors of whisky including jalapeño, salted caramel and root beer to name a few. The deal is the same – show your ID, pay your $5, and sample to find your favorites.
And for a little bit rowdier moonshine tasting experience, head on down to Sugarlands Distilling Company which is right down the street on the Parkway. There are different tours here at Sugarlands – the regular one and the premier one, among others. The premier includes a blended sampling tour which includes a 30-minute private tour of the still house. You will see shine in the making and also receive a private mixology lesson where you can also drink the cocktails being made. Other tours including a workshop are also available where you can be part of the whole moonshine process.
When you’re ready for your tour, show your ID at the front table and get a wrist band. You’ll be assigned to a tasting table where you’ll learn quickly not to drink until everyone at the table has been served and you get the go ahead. Shine can be drank straight or mixed and anything under 50 proof can go in the freezer to be made into a slushy. You’ll see a lot of familiar names on these moonshine flavors if you’re a fan of Moonshiners on the Discovery Channel. After you finish the tasting tour, you can pick out what to buy. If you purchase a jar of Sugarlands Shine, you can use the rack card to get a free shot glass.
If you’d like to sample even more moonshine, be sure to visit Doc Colliers which was mentioned on the wine tour and also the Old Forge Distillery in Pigeon Forge. They both have the Tennessee tradition of moonshine.
Remember to drink responsibly and have a designated driver for your tour. Also, due to public intoxication issues, there is now a small fee to sample moonshine, whisky and wine in Gatlinburg. Ole Smoky and other distillers will apply the fee in the form of a coupon to a future purchase. Drive safe and if you don’t have a designated driver, consider one of the limousine companies to take care of the driving for you like Elite Limo Tours who can handle all the driving for you and make your tour even that much more enjoyable.