BLAINE – January has been a busy month for Alice and Chuck Belt, owners of Spout Spring Estates. The Belts have already begun bottling red muscadine wine and preparing their 2016 riesling wine for release. With more than six acres of wine grapes, the Belts continue to hope for growth at Spout Spring Estates Winery and Vineyard, 430 Riddle Lane, Blaine.
Alice and Chuck are both mechanical engineers and wine lovers. Alice said, “We bought the farm in 2003 from my uncle.” The 120-acre farm was originally a cattle farm, but they decided to grow old world grapes. She said they planted the first grapes in 2004, but lived in Knoxville at the time. “We moved onto the farm in 2006,” she said. “It all started with our love of wine.”
Alice said, “We wanted to start growing about an acre of grapes a year.” Spout Spring Estates is one of the largest producers of Cabernet Sauvignon wine grapes in Tennessee. The vineyard contains cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, chardonnay, riesling, sangiovese, stuben and muscadine grapes. The Belts hope to continue expanding to include pinot noir, sauvignon blanc and other grapes.
Alice said, “We also grow blueberries and Japanese wineberries to make other flavorful wines.” She said they purchased about 400 gallons of blackberries from a source in Union County, last year. Currently, Spout Spring Estates offers 12 wines and a variety of other products, including a cabernet sauvignon jelly.
Chuck said, “We do sell out of certain wines during the year, due to limited quantities of fruit, because we are growing it ourselves and do not purchase off-site, except in the case of blackberries.” He said they have expanded their blueberry patch and hope to harvest more Japanese wineberries this year.
With only riesling grapes, Chuck makes three dry wines, one semisweet and one sweet wine. The semisweet and sweet wines sell out quickly. “We will need to plant more vines to increase the available quantity,” he said. The Belt’s vineyard supplies several of their grapes to other wineries and home winemakers in Tennessee, which also limits the available grapes for their own wines. They also offer assistance to other wine makers, who need fruit crushing or pressing.
Spout Spring Estates style of wine making is more traditional. “Our style of wine making is to allow the vintage to express itself,” said Chuck. Spout Spring Estates does not add colorants, concentrated tannin or other additives used in today’s wines. The additives are often added to obtain a consistent flavor profile while it is on the shelves at the store. He said, “Our wines will have a different flavor profile, and the characteristic flavors of the grape variety will be somewhat different each year.” Essentially, a Spout Spring Estates 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon will not taste the same as a Spout Spring Estates 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon.
The grapes are harvested by hand, cut from the vine in whole clusters. About 95 percent of the grapes are placed into harvest bins to be sold to other wineries. The harvest bins are placed in an air conditioned storage space overnight. The following morning, Chuck delivers the bins to the wineries that are contracted to purchase the grapes. The grapes that are kept to make Spout Spring Estates wines are taken to a crush pad, which proceeds through the crusher destemmer, where the berries are broken open and removed from the stems.
For white wines, the grapes go from the crusher to the press, where the juice is pressed from the pulp and skins and pumped into tanks for clarification and fermentation. After fermentation, the juice is raked off the lees, the sediment of wine in the barrel. Chuck said, “In some cases, the wine is left on the lees to improve complexity and mouthfeel.” The wine is then moved to stainless steel tanks for aging and finishing.
For red wines, the grape skins are left on during fermentation to allow color extraction. After the fermentation process, most are barrel-aged to add complexity of flavor and aroma and improve mouthfeel. Barrel aging can be as long as two years or as little as six months. The wine is then moved to stainless steel tanks for finishing, bottling and labeling.
Spout Spring Estates offers wine tastings Tuesday through Saturday, from noon until dark, and Sunday, from 1 until 5:30 p.m. Tastings are $4 for five one-ounce tastings. Alice said, “When someone buys a bottle after a tasting, and they usually do, we comp them the price of the tasting.” She said it is their way of saying thank you to their customers.
Spout Spring Estates also serves as a wedding venue to those who love the scenery. According to the Great Valley Wine Trail website, the estate’s “stunning views and perfectly-groomed estate winery framed by acres and acres of vineyards, just beyond our 100 year old tree with a swing,” makes a romantic location for a wedding. Alice said the venue is rented out for an entire weekend for one wedding. “Last year, we had 23 weddings,” she said. Currently, the estate is open to booking weddings from April to late October.
Spout Spring Estates is also one of the five wineries on the Great Valley Wine Trail through East Tennessee. The wine trail’s mission is to share the passion for rural Tennessee and Tennessee wines and promote agritourism in Grainger, Union, Claiborne, Cocke and Johnson counties.
Alice is a member of Tennessee Viticulture and Oenology Society (TVOS), Vineyard Association of Tennessee (VAT), a past treasurer of Tennessee Farm Winegrowers Alliance (TFWA) and a past member of the Governor’s Viticulture Advisory Board.
Chuck is a member of Tennessee Viticulture and Oenology Society (TVOS), Vineyard Association of Tennessee (VAT) and Tennessee Farm Winegrowers Alliance (TFWA). He serves as the executive director of VAT and has been interested in supporting and growing the viticulture industry in Tennessee for the last 10 years. He currently serves as chairman of the Governor’s Viticulture Advisory Board for the State of Tennessee.
For more information about Spout Spring Estates Winery and Vineyard, call (865) 719-7485 or visit spoutspringestates.com.