When you picture a winery, a stone cottage in the middle of a grape vineyard might come to mind. But how about a place that brings all the crushing, the fermenting and the bottling to the big city? Blue Slip is East Tennessee's first urban winery and the owners love using local products.
On a quiet hilltop in Grainger County pillows of fog lead to a peaceful spot filled with vineyards that grow grapes of all kinds. "We actually consider ourselves wine growers as opposed to grape growers because grapes make the wine," says Chuck Belt, the owner of Spout Spring Estates.
His grapes make the local wine that's processed and sold in the Old City. And two business savvy wine lovers are behind Blue Slip, a name that means something different to everyone.
"In order to get home, to get a pass to get home, you had to get all your teachers to sign and it was a blue slip. It was your vacation, it was your ticket home, it was kind of your freedom," says Jeff Gaylon, co-owner of Blue Slip.
When Gaylon asked his business partner, Linn Slocum, what she thought of the name, she immediately took to it. "Blue is my favorite color. And he said well, 'what do you think about?' I said I think about a boat slip. I think about water, blue October sky. That was my impression of blue slip," says Slocum.
Linn and Jeff met almost a decade ago at the Public Building Authority where they both work. They realized they both shared a passion for wine. So they expanded their partnership from co-workers to co-owners.
"We've developed a real good working relationship and to spend that much time together and not kill each other is a small miracle but we really enjoy what we do," says Gaylon.
What they do is full of flavor, tart, dry, buttery, crisp. And they use all local fruits like Muscadine, a sweet treat synonymous with the South.
"It's one of the premier wines and the best selling wines in the wineries in the state," says Connie Perrin, Vineyard manager at Richland Vineyards.
"You have farmers, you have business people, you have wine makers who are really artists, in a lot of ways. All these people come together to make a product that is just unbelievable," says Gaylon.
From farm to glass. Two people who took one passion to grow a business in the Old City.
It's one of "Your Stories" because there's no place like this one.
Originally posted on December 8, 2010