If you were to conjure up a list of wine-friendly destinations,
the Great Smoky Mountains wouldn't likely be anywhere near the top, ...
…and foodies seeking out an expertly prepped and paired meal will head to the bright lights of bigger cities with big name chefs before hopping a flight to Tennessee, but there are visionaries out there who are slowly but surely revolutionizing what we view as wine country. One such group of visionaries banded together to create the highly lauded – and epically delicious – ….
Walland, Tennessee, is a sleepy town nestled in the shadow of the Great Smoky Mountains in the eastern part of the state. The 2010 census pegs the local population at a mere 259 people, but what the community lacks in inhabitants, it more than makes up for in beauty and charm. The rolling hills are green and lush and dotted with trees that have been around far longer than most of the local families, and the mist that rolls through in the early morning gives the whole place an almost mystical feel. Then the sun comes through, warming the earth and the dew and casting its golden light on the large stretches of undeveloped land.
One has to imagine that it was the very intoxicating expanse of nature that captured the attention of Florida and Dave Laiser when they first discovered the area back in the 1930s. The couple was searching for a place to settle, and an unfortunate fight between Flora’s silk stockings and a thorn-riddled blackberry bush sparked the name for the farm they would soon call home. In 1976, Blackberry Farm wound up in the hands of Kreis and Sandy Beall, who thought the property would be a lovely place to raise their infant son, Sam. Over the years, the Bealls turned the farm into a hub of homemade food and hospitality, welcoming hungry travelers with hot meals as well as a place to rest their heads. Sam Beall eventually took the reins, and he continues the Beall family tradition to this day.
The Land and the Barn
Blackberry Farm isn’t just a cute name – the land is constantly worked, providing the Inn and restaurant therein with an impressive bounty of everything from heirloom produce and wildflower honey to freshly laid eggs and artisan cheese. It’s an incredible representation of the land, and it can all be experienced bite by bite at the on-premise restaurant, The Barn. It’s here that Executive Chef Joseph Lenn knits together what the other skilled artisans at Blackberry Farm produce, creating harmony, balance, and some pretty mouthwatering cuisine. The accolades have been numerous and frequent, many of them from some of the leading lights in the world of food and wine, and one glimpse at the rustic-meets-luxury setting, menu, and cellar, leaves little doubt as to why.The requested photo source cannot be loaded at this time. Error: OAuthAccessTokenException Code: 400, The access_token provided is invalid.
The Barn is housed in the very structure it was named for, the network of wooden beams stretching high into the cavernous ceiling over the white-linen draped tables surrounded by eager guests. The interplay between the pastoral architecture and surroundings and the upholstered wing chairs, candle-strewn chandeliers, and fine china is simply beautiful, creating the sort of easygoing glamour that’s reflected in the food.
Blackberry Farm Food and Wine
Opt for one of several available tasting menus, and you may start with a potato and ramp salad, with a tart pickled ramp aioli laced, a hickory gastrique, and fried quail egg, which collectively show your palate what a deft hand can do with simple ingredients. The interplay of acid and fat is intoxicating, and there’s a smoky depth to the gastrique that lends complexity. Follow with house-made tagliatelle, the wide, flat pasta cradling olive oil braised kale, lamb sausage, and Aleppo pepper, a combination that is both light and hearty. The influence of southern cuisine is evident in entrees like the wood-oven roasted guinea hen, which is served with refined versions of traditional cornbread pudding and collard greens; our grandma never made this, but we sure wish she had.
Wine is important here, as evidenced by the 8,000-square-foot cellar, but the size is the only thing even remotely intimidating about the wine program. There is a team of sommeliers, led by Andy Chabot, @andychabwhose sole goal is to guide and educate guests of all tastes and levels of expertise. Whereas some restaurants aim to overwhelm with big-name labels and daunting price tags, pretension has no place at The Barn. More than 170 half bottles ensure guests can pair by the course and sample a variety of bottling, and with a list that features producers from some of the best and most promising wine regions all over the world, the only problem is how to narrow it down – something Chabot and his crew are more than happy to help you do.
Blackberry Farm Vacation
All of this sounds like a dream vacation, something the fine folks at Blackberry Farm have picked up on and turned into a popular package experience. In addition to the annual food and wine events that bring iconic names like Alain Ducasse, Turley Cellars, and cookbook author Patricia Wells, the farm is equipped to turn an afternoon workshop into a week-long respite. Come and learn about wine, see a concert (Kacey Musgraves and Nickel Creek are both scheduled for upcoming tour stops.), attend a yoga retreat, experience life on a working farm, or just get back to the unspoiled beauty of nature, get breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner reservations at The Barn, then lay your happy head on a perfectly fluffed pillow in one of Blackberry Farm’s cottages, estate rooms, or in a self-catered house perfect for hosting a family getaway.
Whether you come for the day, the night, or a weekend of well-deserved food and fun, the innovative and cooperative minds at Blackberry Farm have created an exciting enclave of gastronomic glee that both elevates farm-fresh food and makes fine wine accessible to a part of the country that until recently has been geographically isolated far away from such delights. It may be a vision far beyond what Florida and Dave first imagined when a torn silk stocking signaled the start of their life in the Smoky Mountain foothills, but there are plenty of pleased palates that appreciate that things turned out just the way they did.
1471 West Millers Cove Road
Walland, Tennessee 37886