As long as you’re driving slowly while looking for it, you won’t miss the black, iron gates that open up into the long, scenic driveway of Delta Blues Winery, located at 6585 Stewart Road in Lakeland, Tennessee. To the left of the driveway is a small, calm lake, the vineyard growing and twisting along the grounds around it. Trees, standing stoically, border the entire property, making the winery feel like a special, hidden place in a valley. At the end of the sloping driveway sits the Delta Blues Winery, where winemaker, Dr. Ed Stevens, his wife and manager, Dianne Day, and the owner, Jerry Michie, operate their establishment on three unwavering principles — cultivation, dedication, and plenty of wine.
Padding softly up the stone steps, you find your way to the wraparound porch. French doors open up into the building, where the subtle smells are mixed together: clean, floral, and just a hint of something tart or spicy. The entire room is open with a wraparound bar which juts centrally from the back of the building. To the right, a gift shop displays products from local businesses. To the left, an open sitting area with large, inset windows looks out across the vineyard and over the lake.
What was the driving force is behind opening up a business, particularly a winery, in West Tennessee? Our driving force was simply the fact that we loved wine. Sharing a love for fine wine, and having toured wineries in California with a group of friends some years before opening Delta Blues is how it all started. The wine was lovely, but the experience is actually what inspired us. What had been the seed of an idea—planted and dormant, much like a lot of ideas that have to be pushed aside for daily life to carry on—had finally taken root. It’s been very interesting in lots and lots of ways. When we went into it, we didn’t know that 85% of the wine buyers in the United States liked sweet wines. We thought they were like us and liked dry wines!”
With several different varieties that range all across the spectrum of possible wine flavors, a lot of their wines are favorites among their customer base and tend to surprise people visiting for the first time. We had a fellow who came in here one night, and he said ‘Well, I came for the music, but I’ll taste the wine,’ he said. ‘But I don’t really like wine.’ I said, ‘That’s fine!’ So, he tasted four wines for five dollars...and said, ‘Well, I might just taste them all.’ He said, ‘I didn’t know this wine was going to be that good.’ He ended up taking home several bottles. I think people’s anticipation of it being a local wine is that it’s not going to be that good, and then customers come in, they taste our wine, and they are really surprised about how good it tastes...when they taste it, they buy it.
Wine tastings are offered throughout the day, where you can try four wines for five dollars. Tours are also available as time permits, and groups of eight or more are encouraged to call ahead and make reservations.
As for the most important part of visiting Delta Blues...the wine. Delta Blues Winery offers several varieties of wine. We import their grapes from other wineries in West Tennessee, currently cultivating our own grapes for self-sustaining wine production in the near future. It will take about five to seven years for the Delta Blues vineyard grapes to fully mature and develop in flavor. Right now, we’ve planted four varieties of grapes: Sangiovese, which is the primary wine grape in Tuscany; Barbera, a grape hailing from the Piedmont region in the Northwestern corner of Italy; Tempranillo, a grape of the Spanish variety; and Primitivo, the most planted grape in California. Dr. Stevens is a former professor with a background in microbiology, so the complex science behind the winemaking process was an easier learning curve.
The winery is not just known for its spectacular products. We wanted to bring the experience from the West coast to West Tennessee by recreating that experience at Delta Blues. With such picturesque scenery, it’s no wonder that Delta Blues Winery is an incredible venue to host events and activities. We do birthday parties, anniversaries, weddings, wedding showers, rehearsal dinners, you name it. And sometimes we have a group of, say, twelve to fifteen people call and say ‘Can we all come out and do a wine tasting together?’ We even do tours. We’ve accommodated the winery to host such events, making modifications such as turning our upstairs loft into a dressing room for the bride-to-be for weddings booked there. Our newest addition is the pavilion, perfect for hosting these events as well.
Behind the winery is a music stage, where musicians play for a jovial crowd sipping on wine and simply having a fun, laid-back Friday night. The stage sits in a valley. One of the nice things about that is the Greeks built their theaters down in a valley, and the acoustics are incredible. Low-key Sunday afternoon music is played on the porch or in the tasting room, depending on the weather (though, you’ll have to check out our Facebook page to find out all the details).
The winery attracts people every day. The bottling room is open to volunteers in the community to learn about and get involved in the local winemaking process. It’s a great learning experience, but most importantly, you get to keep a bottle of wine for free.
The winery’s charm entices people to visit with friends and family and to drink and be merry, making it become much more than just an establishment that sells alcohol and hosts parties; it becomes a true experience. That’s part of the winery business that people don’t really think about. It’s a place you go. It’s a place you come with friends, you do things, you sit on the porch and enjoy a glass of wine. We are warm and personable with our customers and appreciate the fact that a lot of our business is local.
Demonstrating our passion for local business, we sell local business’ products in their gift shop. Along with soaps, shampoos, jewelry, t-shirts, and other local goods, they sell gourmet cheese, jams, and jellies. We also sell products from a local Methodist Church, where the money from the items is donated to charity for the elderly. We have more items available for purchase during Christmas. We try to be an outlet for local endeavors.