Watauga Lake Winery joins state’s newest wine trail

Published 8:43 am Thursday, October 15, 2015

Contributed Photo The Watauga Lake Winery and vineyard produces 16 wines from 4,200 grapevines in the fertile soils of Butler Tennessee.

Contributed Photo The Watauga Lake Winery and vineyard produces 16 wines from 4,200 grapevines in the fertile soils of Butler Tennessee.

The Watauga Lake Winery in Butler welcomes everyone to celebrate its inclusion in the newest Tennessee wine trail, “Thunder Road to Copperhead Road.”
On Saturday, Oct. 17, at 11 a.m., State Representative Timothy Hill will cut the ribbon formally announcing its place along this historic route.
“We’re very honored to be included, and, for our county, I think it will help with tourism,” said owner Linda Gay. The wine trail map leads people through Carter County, and she said she hopes this will benefit the entire area by giving exposure to the area’s natural resources, local businesses and historic sites.
The trail traces the original Thunder Road from Knoxville to Watauga Lake at Copperhead Road and crosses sections of the route that Kentucky moonshiners took from Cumberland Gap to markets in Knoxville and other locations.
Gay said that Appalachians saw distributing “white lightning” as an escape from poverty. Now, visitors are traveling from all over the state and nation to taste 16 different wines made from over 4,200 grapevines grown on the same soil.
The trail begins at the Blue Slip Winery in Knoxville and includes Eagle Springs Winery, The Winery at Seven Springs Farm on the original Thunder Road, Goodwater Vineyards near moonshiner Popcorn Sutton’s hometown, Spout Spring Estates Winery and Vineyard and ends at Watauga Lake Winery on the corner of Copperhead Road and Big Dry Run Road.
Watauga Lake Winery is the only one in the area selected to be a part of this trail because of its location along a former moonshine route.
The location is not the winery’s only connection to the trail. Owner and wine-maker Wayne Gay is a former agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms ­which pursued bootleggers and sought to shut down illegal distilleries. Gay worked at the agency when Charlie Riddle did. Riddle is one of the undercover agents mentioned in the story of Thunder Road and the father of Rick Riddle, who founded the wine trail.
Linda said people following or completing the trail may enter to win prizes like a free two-night stay at a bed and breakfast or free wine glasses. Various Johnson County bed and breakfasts and restaurants are offering discounts to visitors touring the wine trail as well.
Admission to the all day open house is free and includes winery and vineyard tours and a vintage car show by the Johnson County Cruisers.
The evening will conclude with music, dancing and dinner at 6:30 p.m. at the former gym of the old Big Dry Run School — now the Watauga Lake Winery. For more information, call the winery at 423-768-0345.

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