Pleasant Hill Vineyards provides a tranquil and timeless setting to experience anything from weddings to wine tastings. And it’s right here in Blount County.
The Maryville winery and event venue was established in 2011 on the old Henry family farm at 2728 Wilkinson Pike that dates back to the late 1700s.
Karen Henry, the property’s landowner, said the historic site has since been redone to offer three separate venue areas — the forest, gazebo and loft — that can be used for a variety of parties and events.
“We had this wonderful barn and I wanted to turn it into a wedding venue,” Henry recently told The Daily Times.
While Henry had always dreamed of one day owning a wedding venue, it was Pleasant Hill’s estate manager Charles Pullen who came up with the idea to start a vineyard.
‘Charles said ‘Let’s put in a vineyard to romance the place,’” noted Henry.
At that time, however, Pullen said state laws placed restrictions on what could be done with the resulting grapes.
“The vines went in the ground April of 2011, but all we could do was sell the grapes,” Pullen said. “About the second year into it, Tennessee changed the rules and created the Farm Winery Act, so we’re now able to grow grapes, make wine and sell it here on property.”
Pleasant Hill has now grown more than 700 vines of seyval blanc grapes on a parcel of land on the 80-acre farm.
“The rest is history,” Pullen said.
Pullen said people come from all over to taste the wine.
“We have people from across the United States come out here to do wine tastings because they’ve Googled wine tastings near the airport or near Knoxville,” he explained. “It’s an awful lot of fun.”
Tastings, which are scheduled on an appointment-only basis, are $5 per person, which includes samples of all four Pleasant Hill wines, an engraved wine glass to take home, a cheese tray and tours of the vineyard.
“We show them the clusters of grapes and talk to them about how to take care of a vineyard, and we do very generous pours during the wine tasting. People can actually buy a bottle and walk down to the forest and sit down there at a table,” said Pullen. “And they leave whenever it’s convenient for them.”
The winery currently carries four selections — Emma’s Acre, a dry, white wine named after Henry’s mother; Blushing Bride, a semi-sweet blush; Ruby’s Red, an old vine zinfandel; and Sweet Springs, “a Tennessee iced tea sweet wine,” he said.
A cabernet sauvignon is also planned for later this year that’s made from grapes grown at a nearby vineyard.
The most popular, Henry said, seems to be the Blushing Bride.
“People that like a dryer wine like it and people that like a sweeter wine like it,” she said. “It’s sort of the in-between.”
As this season is the busiest for wine-making, Pullen said 6,000 pounds of grapes were pulled from the vineyard during harvest last month.
“We harvest the grapes and they go right into the hopper on the same day they’re harvested. ... The process begins immediately,” added Henry. “It goes from vine to vat within a day.”
The hundreds of leftover grapes will be harvested again within the next couple of weeks and pressed to be made into jellies.
Pruning is done in the winter and, at the end of March, the vines wake up.