On a nearly perfect spring day earlier this week, the owners of a new winery in Lakeland celebrated with a symbolic ground-breaking ceremony.
“We needed to bring a winery to Shelby County,” said Delta Blues Winery co-owner Jim Wilson, who was talking with local, county and state dignitaries who had gathered on a small hillside off Stewart Road.
He said Tennessee once had the most wineries in the country, until prohibition wiped them out during the 20th century. Today, Shelby County has only one operating winery, but Jim Wilson — along with his wife Sheila and co-owners Dianne Day and Ed Stevens — are changing that.
The new winery will feature Creole-style plantation buildings designed by architect Bemis Atkins. It will not only serve as a vineyard and wine-making oasis but also as a gathering place for special events. Memphis music will be a big part of the culture, said Sheila Wilson.
The road to creating the winery has taken the team seven years of wine-making skills. They already are growing grapes at sister winery Crown Winery LLC in Humboldt, and those will be the products of the first bottles sold
at one of the growing number of wineries in the state.
Sheila Wilson said that’s important to the owners.
“The more there are, the better the tourism will be and the greater the economic value,” she said.
Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell Jr., who was among the participants in the ceremony, said he believes the winery represents a win for small businesses.
“I would hope every time one of these businesses opens, people think, ‘Hmmm, Lakeland’ or ‘Hmmm, Arlington’ when thinking about where they want to grow,” said Luttrell. “It’s definitely a boost for this part of the county.”
Now that the winery has received most of its permits, the buildings will go up quickly, Sheila Wilson said. She said grass on the property and some of the grapes will be planted in the next few days, and the buildings themselves should start going up in June.
Meanwhile, Sheila Wilson said she and the other partners are excited that their team will be part of the region’s agritourism when the winery opens its doors in November.
“We really want to bring people into the culture of a winery,” she said. “We’re going to make some state-of-the-art wine.”