It's grape picking season at the vineyard

By KAITLIN GEBBY
Posted 8/23/19

With more than 160 rows of fruit, a large section dedicated to Tennessee’s native muscadine grape, the Morrises are welcoming the community for their annual picking season at the …

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It's grape picking season at the vineyard

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With more than 160 rows of fruit, a large section dedicated to Tennessee’s native muscadine grape, the Morrises are welcoming the community for their annual picking season at the vineyard. 

Located at 346 Union Grove Road in Charleston, Morris Vineyard has produced wine at the hands of the Morris family since the mid-1980s.

According to co-owner Carolyn Morris, the vineyard was known as Melinda’s Vineyard until 1979, when she and her husband purchased it from his parents. 

Carolyn’s son, Nathan Morris, said they started making wine in 1986. Ever since, they have been a small operation as sweet as the grapes they grow. 

Morris said they grow a variety of fruit on the 60-acre vineyard, only purchasing apples, peaches and strawberries from regional farmers to create other wines, like their sweet apple wine. 

"People don't realize you can make wine from pretty much anything, as long as it grows out of the ground," he said. 

Nathan Morris said the trick to picking muscadines is spotting them when they’re ripe and slightly firm. Unlike the red and white grapes sold in stores, muscadine grapes are quite large — slightly larger than a quarter. Their skin is thick, their centers sweet and their seeds are big enough that anyone eating them might not want to swallow one. 

Morris said the best way to eat a muscadine is to hold one end, bite the other and pinch the center into your mouth, discarding the seeds. A ripe muscadine typically has a deep purple color on the skin. Muscadine grapes harvested before they ripen will be too hard to eat. 

Once harvested, Morris Vineyard removes the grapes from their stems before squeezing the centers out. 

Rather than stomping the grapes like Lucille Ball in an episode of “I Love Lucy,” the Morrises feed the grapes into a crusher and save the skins, which are pressed for their color and flavor.

Morris said white and red wines aren’t necessarily made from white grapes and red grapes, but said it’s the skin that gives red wine its color. The grapes for wine are fermented in barrels for three to nine months, allowing them to mature before adding other ingredients, like yeast and sugar. Finally, the wine is aged and bottled. 

Wine is bottled almost daily at Morris Vineyard. Using their bottler that seals six bottles at a time, the Morrises recently corked nearly 300 bottles in a single day. 

“You can always tell when we’ve had a bottling day,” he said. He added  you can smell the grapes as soon as you open the door to the tasting room. 

Unique from other wineries, Morris Vineyard sells 19 varieties of wine with some flavors offered in varying sweetness to appeal to all tastes. 

Nathan said his favorite was their dry blueberry wine. In his experience, he has grown to love dry wines and said the dry blueberry variety “is the closest you get to a cabernet” with their selection. 

For Carolyn, he enjoys the autumn reserve. The reserve is a mixture of red and white muscadine grapes blended together for a semi-sweet taste. 

The vineyard offers spaces for weddings and special occasions, as well as daily tastings.

Nathan Morris said they’re willing to answer any and all questions about the wine making process, even how to grow grapes at home. 

Looking to the future, Carolyn said a storefront in Wears Valley is in the works. She couldn’t provide an opening date, but said she is hopeful they will open for tastings in mid-September. 

Nathan, who was unsure of himself in college at Cleveland State Community College, said he feels secure in continuing his family’s business when the torch is one day passed to him. 

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morrisvineyard.com

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