Updated: Feb 22, 2022
The Tennessee Viticultural and Oenological Society (TVOS) was organized. Its purpose was to promote the study of the art and science of grape growing and winemaking. It started with 26 members and they came from all corners of the state.
Thanks to attorney S. McPheeters Glasgow, our long-serving treasurer, the TVOS Charter was sold to the Holiday Inn in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, for $2,500. Our older Charter permitted the hotel to qualify for a liquor license and our Society to continue with the same name but in an improved financial situation.
Through the efforts of TVOS, the Tennessee Grape and Wine Act was signed into law, making licensing possible for wineries, allowing them to operate tasting rooms in all counties, wet or dry, but with severe restrictions. For example, only 5,000 gallons of wine could be sold retail per year and all grapes or fruit had to be grown in state. No commercial wine grape vineyards existed in Tennessee at that time.
TVOS initiated a demonstration vineyard project to determine the differences between grape variety adaptability, productivity, and fruit quality for the diverse climate regions of the state. Eleven sights were selected and the Department of Economic Development provided a $13,000 grant to help fund this program. The University of Tennessee also agreed to provide certain technical support for this project.
The first commercial winery in modern times, Highland Manor in Jamestown, Tennessee, was licensed. Jamestown is located in a dry country at that time. While Highland Manor was shuttered for a time, it has reopened in recent years.
TVOS was awarded the prestigious Monteith Trophy by the Vinifera Winegrowers Association of Virginia. The Association cited TVOS for its outstanding contributions to the American grape and wine industry.
The Tennessee Farm Winery Association (TFWA) was organized, consisting of TVOS members who were actively or planning to go into commercial grape or wine business.
The Tennessee Grape and Wine Law was amended to allow wineries to sell up to 15,000 gallons of wine annually but required 85% of the fruit used for production to be grown within the state.
The Tennessee Grape and Wine Law was amended to allow wineries to sell up to 20,000 gallons of wine retail per year, and it required 75% of the fruit to be grown within Tennessee. A new winery could use up to 50% out-of-state product for the first three years of its operation.
The state legislature enacted the Tennessee Viticultural Policy Act and established the Viticultural Advisory Board (VAB). Its purpose was to promote the development of a more stable grape and wine industry in the state. A sum of $15,000 was allocated for expenses by the VAB.
Winter 1985 – 1986
Approximately 400 acres of grapes were being grown within Tennessee by about 75 growers but severe winter weather killed or damaged many vines.
A total of 12 wineries had been licensed by the state of Tennessee.
An annual award was approved by the TVOS board in 1986 to honor the late William Homer Blitch, who served as the Society’s first president. The award is usually a large silver wine chiller, appropriately engraved and presented to a member (or couple) who has contributed outstanding service.
The VAB established a state viticultural plan, outlining market potential and problems or constraints on the industry. It also recognized the lack of funds needed to assist in solving these problems.
The Tennessee Grape and Wine Law was amended to allow wineries to sell up to 40,000 gallons of wine at retail annually. Wineries were also required to offer their product to wholesalers in the four major metropolitan areas of the state (Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville).