About an hour southeast of Nashville is the town of Manchester, Tennessee, home to an array of many wonderful activities that make for a charming day trip.
Our first stop brought us to the award-winning Beans Creek Winery. Upon walking in, visitors are met with an elegant tasting bar and quaint gift shop filled with locally made goods and of course their delicious wines. After shopping around for a bit, we had to indulge in a tasting. My sweeter palate prompted me to sample the Roseycheeks and Pannydroppin’ Peach, both of which were two of the best fruit-based wines I’ve ever tasted. They also paired perfectly with the incredible Jack and mild cheddar chesses from the local Sweetwater Valley Farm in Philadelphia, Tennessee they had on hand during the tasting.
I really stepped out of my comfort zone and went for the Apropos Port, one of Beans Creek’s most notable wines, as it was awarded a Double Gold medal at the Indy International Wine Competition, meaning that each of the nearly 40 judges on the panel awarded it the top prize. Though it didn’t suit my sweet tooth, my friend who has a much finer taste for drier wines was very impressed with this Port, living up to its gold medal status.
After our satisfying samples, Production Manager Josh Brown was kind enough to give us a tour of their operations and provide fascinating insight into how Beans Creek makes their stellar creations. The winery got its start 12 years ago when Josh’s father, amateur winemaker Tom Brown, opened it after years of practice since making his first batch of wine in his mother’s kitchen in 1976. This passion project has grown into a full-fledged winery that houses roughly 30 wines, all of which are made in house by fruit only from Tennessee. Josh excitedly told us about how they make their wines start to finish, from the local farms that supply them with the grapes, to the process of crushing and fermenting them into their award-winning wines.
But one of the most interesting parts of the tour came when I asked Josh what makes Beans Creek unique from other wineries in the area, to which he promptly hopped off the large bin he was sitting on to open it and reveal pounds upon pounds of strawberries that will eventually be turned into their signature sparking strawberry wine, with Valley Home Farms in Wartrace, Tennesee being the main supplier of the berries for this bubbly. He really immersed us in the process of how they make this particular wine, from letting us taste a cup of the sweet, raw juice straight out of the strawberry bin to bringing us to the cellar where they have to constantly turn the bottles upside down to let the yeast settle on top after fermentation. The tour, coupled with Josh’s charisma and enthusiasm, was a truly unique and enjoyable experience and served as a real highlight of the day.
Our next stop was lunch at the lovely Coffee Café, which is dubbed “Manchester’s best kept secret.” It’s shocking that a place like this is such a secret, as the food was excellent and I was treated to the best cup of tomato soup I’ve ever had. They have an expansive menu that caters to every interest, along with an alluring case of desserts that include red velvet cake, cinnamon roles, varies kinds of pies and more. If you’re in the Manchester area, be sure to make a pit stop at Coffee Café – you won’t be disappointed.
Perhaps one of the most notable sites in Manchester is the humble Foothills Crafts, a lovely craft store filled with beautiful gifts and treasures made by talented artists all across Tennessee. Phyllis Dix, who has been a member of the organization for all but one of its 36 years in business, was so thoughtful in agreeing to chat with me on the phone while holding down the fort at a crafts show and explain the history behind the shop. She explained how it began with a woman who worked as a home demo agent for Coffee County and saw such lovely crafts in people’s homes – so lovely that she thought they would be successful on the market. Today, Foothills Crafts is filled from one end to the other with the work of local woodworkers, oil painters, artists who make handmade cards, baby blankets and so much more.
Though I almost walked away with one of many stunning oil paintings on the back wall (one of which was made from a log on a tree and incorporated the actual worm trails grooved into the wood), I stumbled upon a beautiful cloth crayon bag – a perfect gift for my 2-year-old niece. Many of the items are also tagged with the name of the artist who created it so you’ll always know who made your new treasure. Foothills makes for the ideal gift shop and is a true gem in this pleasant town.
Our final stop of the day, and a fitting one at that, was to one of Tennessee’s grandest natural landmarks, the Old Stone Fort Archaeological Park. Dating back roughly 2,000 years, the land was initially inhabited by Native Americans. Today, it serves as a natural treasure for guests with its many gorgeous hiking trails and opportunities to fish in the Duck River. The sunny skies and perfect 80 degree weather made the experience of visiting the park that much more gratifying. After exploring the museum that explains the history of the park and the people that originally called it home (they’re currently updating the museum with expected completion sometime this summer), we decided to pick one of the simpler trails and explore the park up close. Our more than one-mile trail took us past hundreds of trees, greenery as far as the eye could see and above a beautiful waterfall that makes for the ideal photo op. This has to be a true gift to the local residents, as the natural beauty of Old Stone Fort presents the prime opportunity for a leisurely stroll or power hike for lovers of the outdoors. It was the perfect end to an already wonderful day.