The Best Wine Experiences to Uncork in Franklin
I had my first taste of quality wine on a trip to Tuscany a few years ago. Crowded in a family vineyard tasting room among rows of twisted Sangiovese grapes and olive trees, I sipped on generations of Chianti tradition between palate cleansers of aged Pecorino Romano, prosciutto, and balsamic vinegar. I had never before experienced anything like that moment; it was heavenly. The red wines were deep, spicy, and peppery. The whites were sour, crisp, and fruity. I bought a bottle of Chianti Classico at that vineyard—frankly, one of the first I’d ever purchased for taste and not price—and brought it home with me. A month later, I opened the bottle with friends. I made everyone close their eyes and taste the wine—which transported me back right there to that vineyard.
The beauty of a glass of wine is that it transports you back to a memory. When you see that wine on a menu, it feels familiar.
The wine scene in Franklin is robust. From our own local vineyard to an event that turns wine into action for local youth, here are six incredible spots to make new wine memories.
If you ask a local about the best place to grab a glass of wine, they’ll send you to JJ’s Wine Bar—after all, wine is in their name. The experience is an upscale tasting, with 28 varietals for guests to sip on over board games and conversation. They even have a porch, so you can enjoy a glass on a warm summer evening. Co-owner Lisa Judd wants JJ’s to feel like home. The wine bar is accessible for all levels of wine aficionado; they have modestly priced wines all the way up to high-end wines. Pick a wine from Argentina, France, Italy, Spain, New Zealand, Chile—the list goes on. Wine is dispensed from unique machines in three different pour sizes to “invite experimentation and exploration,” Lisa says. JJ’s has seasonal tasting events and luxurious holiday dinners that spotlight their many wine choices. It’s a comforting, relaxing, intimate choice for a taste of your favorite vineyard.
There’s no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than with a picnic and a glass of wine watching the sunset at Arrington Vineyards. There’s jazz in the background and the low chatter of families spread out on picnic blankets and tables on the grassy hillside overlooking the vineyard. It’s an absolutely stunning memory—one that is sweetened with a glass of Stag’s White (a refreshing white with flavors of nectarine and green apple) or Red Fox Red (made primarily of my favorite Sangiovese grapes with notes of berries, vanilla, and cocoa). Visitors are welcome every day of the week to sip, explore, and taste. In addition to casual Arrington visits, guests can reserve a Signature Experience—a seated group tasting in Arrington’s Vineyard House—or a Premier Experience—a guided tour and semi-private tasting in the Wine Loft with Master Vinter Kip Summers. “We tend to find that everyone becomes friends after the experience,” shares Tasting Experience Manager Katie Jones.
For those “What should we do tonight?” questions that request a quiet answer, bring a few close friends (or a date) to downtown’s beloved Red Pony. It’s been a go-to dinner spot for locals since 2006, with owner and Chef Jason McConnell changing up their elegant, upscale menu bi-monthly to keep things fresh and creative. There is no better pairing to dishes like Hickory Grilled Bone-In Rib Eye than Red Pony’s extensive wine list, which includes offerings from Germany, Hungary, Italy, South Africa, France, Argentina, and Australia. From blends to bubbles to blancs, there’s a wine for every guest to savor and explore.
For a memory with impact, enjoy wine and fellowship at one of Franklin’s best events: Wine Down Main Street. In 2001, six Main Street merchants wanted to come up with a way to increase business downtown. According to Denise Carothers, Director of Resource Development for Boys & Girls Clubs of Middle Tennessee, the merchants hired a public relations firm to help with revenue. “Out of their meetings was born Wine Down Main Street, an event for adults to sample wines from around the world and give patrons an opportunity to see all the wonderful merchandise available in the shops along historic Main Street,” Denise shares. That first Wine Down Main Street sold out of tickets, with a portion of proceeds—more than $17,000—going directly to the Boys & Girls Club. Each year, the number of tickets has grown and Wine Down Main Street is one of the largest ticketed charity events in Williamson County. The event has raised more than $2,147,551 since its inception, with world-class wines (over 150 of them) served at tasting stations scattered through Franklin that bring folks into town from around the world. Local restaurants serve seasonal favorites and live music happens in the square. “I always enjoy seeing the out-of-town attendees who return year after year,” Denise says. “Without the support of Wine Down Main Street, our clubs would not be able to have a deepening impact on the youth we serve. As a result of the success of Wine Down Main Street, we are able to achieve outcomes such as higher graduation rates, lower juvenile crime, fewer teen pregnancies, increased civic engagement, and greater success among our youth.” Wine Down Main Street is held on the first Saturday in November and will return in 2021.
I don’t know much about the difference between Old World and New World wines, but, luckily, the folks over at Cork & Cow do. (As it turns out, Old World wines refer to wines coming from places across Europe and the Middle East that are considered wine origins, like France and Italy. New World wines are those that come from former colonies in hotter climates, like the United States and Australia.) For a wine experience that will take you through all of your favorite wine memories, Cork & Cow is an absolute must. Whether you’re planning to splurge on a bottle of Shafer ‘Hillside Select’ Cabernet Sauvignon or you want to sample a few different red blends, you’ll find the perfect glass at this downtown staple. Of course, you’ll find me ordering a Chianti Classico from Tuscany.
We’re ending on a sweet note: dessert. Dessert wine, specifically, lends a finishing note to an evening as gently as a nightcap shared among friends. For a stately ruby port that teams up well with a slice of Honeysuckle Pie (Belgian chocolate, salted caramel, and peanut butter mousse—oh my!), you’ll find me at The Honeysuckle in Cool Springs. They offer several ports in addition to a long list of classic wines from around the world. You can find half-price bottles of wine at The Honeysuckle from Sunday through Wednesday, or stop in for an early treat from 3-6 p.m. during happy hour.
I’ll see you there.