Cellar 53 Winery in Brush Creek promotes local agriculture, protects rural landscape
The newest sipping stopover along the Upper Cumberland Wine Trail is a testament to one family’s commitment to farmland preservation and conserving country lifestyle.
Owned and operated by Scott and Rebecca Paschal, with the help of their three boys, Cellar 53 Winery is notched into the western edge of the Highland Rim in Smith County, just south of I-40’s Exit 254 on Alexandria Highway.
Cellar 53 opened to the public as a walk-through vineyard and winery just last year. But it took root more than a decade ago.
In the early 2000s, Scott and Rebecca shared “a dream to keep the family farm.”
So they made arrangements to purchase a 100-acre tract that, while it’d been under family ownership for generations, had earlier been platted for future sproutings of suburban-style houses in lieu of raising crops and livestock.
In order to make a profitable long-term reality of their dearly priced dream, they set about sowing the seeds of a wine-growing operation.
Over the ensuing ten years, their vision blossomed into what is today a winsome venue for sipping homegrown vino and lingering about a vintage landscape that exemplifies Middle Tennessee at its bucolic best.
The idyllic parcel that rears the fruiting vines for their assortment of wines does abut up against a cove of contemporary homes. But that’s where the residential development stops.
Beyond the rolling hedges of Cellar 53’s wine grapes rises a wild and sprawling expanse of thickset timber that’s now buffered against exurban homebuilding.
Visitors to Cellar 53 are invited to stroll the grounds or relax in the tasting room or on the patio behind the pole barn that houses a conference room, commercial kitchen and wine-making vats. Typically, Cellar 53 has ten or so wines for oenophiles to sample.
“I make a lot of dry wines,” said Rebecca. She noted that they also grow all the blackberries for their blackberry wine, which tends to be a customer favorite.
The itinerary for touring Cellar 53 is pretty laid back. “You taste wine, you get educated, you walk through and appreciate the vineyards and the agriculture,” explains Rebecca. “And hopefully you buy a bottle and go home and enjoy it.”
Over time, the Paschals have come to recognize that a key element of their role in the community and the regional economy is in fact instructional, and maybe even inspirational. Their message to locals and tourists alike is that agriculture remains a viable livelihood for people willing both to work hard and think creatively about how to use their land and develop markets for selling locally grown products.
The Paschals believe wine growing has a particularly robust future in the Volunteer State if its full potential is ever uncorked. “Before the Prohibition Era, Tennessee had 19,000 acres of wine grapes,” said Rebecca. “Now we have 900. So we obviously can grow them here.”
The Tennessee Farm Winegrowers Alliance reports that there are currently about 25 wineries in the state.
“During the late 1800s, vineyards were flourishing in Tennessee, mostly in areas that were believed to be unsuitable for other agricultural uses,” according to TFWA. “At the time, it appeared that grape-growing would become one of Tennessee’s most important cash crops. However, Prohibition all but ended this promise in 1919. It is just within the last quarter of the 20th century that grape growing (and winemaking) has seen a remarkable recovery.”
The Upper Cumberland Wine Train includes eight wineries. Visit uppercumberland.org to learn more.