By Stephanie Hill
A local agriculture operation is venturing into the wine and mead making business.
Lloyd Allison, who owns Allison’s Honey, is working on opening Tesnatee River Winery and Meadery. The business will feature a farm winery and on-site tasting room.
“With the tasting room, the best way to get anybody to buy wine is to have an option to taste it there, like you would with any food,” said Lane Williams, the wine maker with Tesnatee River Winery and Meadery. “You’re going to sell more if there’s someone giving out samples. So just to be able to showcase everything that we’re growing here, because it’s 100% farm winery, everything you taste in each glass, from the honey to the fruit, it was all from this land.”
“We’re growing the fruit here on the property and we decided that we wanted to incorporate down-to-earth-type wine and mead,” said Allison.
The different fruits grown on the property include muscadine grapes, apples, blackberries, peaches, blueberries and some cherries, Allison said. Honey is also produced there, and will be incorporated into drinks.
“Mead is a honey wine, so a lot of that. We’re going to have some premium products come out,” Williams sad. “We’re also going to have some house meads and some blended with fruit. We’re really going to experiment as much as we can and see what the customers like and cater to them.”
To start there will be eight flavors on the tasting menu, Williams said. There will be four wines and four types of mead.
“What’s going to really be unique [is that] we’re going to be bringing the fruit straight in out of the field,” Allison said. “We have a large cooler in here and if we can’t process it right then, it will go in the cooler for a day or two, and then we’ll process it.”
Allison said he started selling honey in the 1970s. When he started planting the fruit, he says he was originally going to do 75-100 grape vines.
“I kept adding to it and adding to it and I just woke up one morning and said I’m going to start a winery,” Allison said. “Now we have 17 acres [of muscadine grapes], and next year we’re planting three and a half more acres, which will finish what we’re going to do in this stage right now. That will give us 20 and a half acres of muscadine.”
Once Allison decided he wanted to do a winery, they started working on the tasting room. Allison said they started working on getting the licenses needed for the tasting room in August 2019, with Williams adding that they started working on the federal licenses in June 2019. Williams said their local license was approved last week, and they’ve now submitted everything for their state license and are waiting to hear back.
Once they get the state license, Williams said they’d be able to start big productions of their wines and mead. After that, he believes it’ll be about three months before they can open because the fruits need to ferment and the drinks get bottled.
“Some of our premium products, we’re going to have one that we bottle age for a year, so some of it is still kind of far out,” Williams said. “But it’ll be a lot sooner than that that we can have something for the public to taste.”
“We’re hoping in spring we’ll have some kind of grand opening,” Allison said.
Tesnatee River Winery and Meadery is located next to Allison’s Honey at 172 Lloyd’s Honey Farm Road (off Town Creek Road) in Cleveland. Any updates can be found on the Tesnatee River Winery and Meadery Facebook page.