Long Live the Crown
Something magical happens when you get together with good friends over a bottle of wine. For Scott and Dawn Fallert, and Andy and Christine Horner, that magic came in the form of committing to the purchase of the largest vineyard in Tennessee and now adding on a nano-brewery!
The Fallerts and Horners having been great friends for sometime and would often get together and brainstorm on new business ideas over a bottle of wine. One of their biggest ideas came after the previous owner of Crown Winery, former Miss Tennessee Rita Howard, decided to sell. Meanwhile Eric Botbyl, who owns Botbyl Pottery and Companion Gallery, located on the vineyard grounds, informed the Horners during a pottery class that the winery was still available for purchase. After that the wheels started turning and the rest is history. Together, they purchased the winery in September of 2017 and they’ve totally revamped the offerings since. They've changed some of their wines to reflect their personal preferences–quality wine is something that is very important and they couldn't be prouder of their new selections. “We’ve really tried to breathe new life into this place,” says Dawn, referencing how business had slowed due to Rita’s late husband Peter’s illness and subsequent passing. Peter was instrumental in establishing the business and is responsible for planting all the grapevines. Dawn and her team, however, wanted to make the place their own, and so they’ve done just that.
You couldn’t handpick a better team with varying talents to run this business! Dawn, who runs most of the day-to-day operations, has a background in design and event planning. “We have a lot of weddings here and that’s my favorite!” shared Dawn. She went on to explain that helping to make people’s events exactly what they want them to be and working with brides really brings her joy. Aside from weddings, Dawn can help design and set up the perfect environment for intimate moments, creating a special experience. “We have a lot of proposals that happen here during private picnics in the vineyard and I’m glad to be a part of that.” If you want to sneak away and get married in the vines, complete with romantic picnic under the Mulberry Tree, they can do that too.
Dawn's husband Scott is a Chemical Engineer and works in manufacturing. He focuses most on the intricacies of wine making and being data-driven, he also helps to keep the business on budget. He also loves engaging with his customers and networking with other wineries. When not at the vineyard, he loves watching his boys play soccer and loves working out and being active with any of the couple’s three children (Lauren 21, Weston 18, and Sutton 15). The children can also be found helping around the vineyard, either hosting a tasting, serving handcrafted pizzas at their events, or helping to maintain the grounds. It is definitely a family venture!
The other half of the team is Andrew and Christine Horner. Christine relishes in learning about all the history of the wines. “She loves history,” shared Dawn, “and she’ll listen to podcasts, research, read, anything to be able to better inform our customers.” She also likes to experiment with wine and cheese pairings. “Andrew (Andy) is an inventor, a fixer of all things, he’s the one that will take care of anything not working,” shared Dawn. “He’s also the talker, the entertainer, loves showing people around...” In his spare time, he’s spent the last two years building their family home. To recharge, he goes off-roading on ATV’s with one of his daughters. The couple’s daughter Shelby is moving to California to begin a film-production career and daughter Mia is in 7th grade.
Barry Leach, though not an owner, is a very precious member of the team at Crown. He is the estate’s winemaker and now brewmaster. He worked at the winery under the former owners and is now making a name for himself fermenting not just grapes but malt, hops, and grains as well. Having been a hobby-homebrewer since 2012, he started bringing in some beer to share with the owners and they loved it! Now you can not only taste Barry’s wine at Crown, but you can help yourself to a selection of rotating craft beers on tap. “Guests booking events absolutely love that they can have both beer and wine available without the hassle of having to bring it in,” said Dawn. “That’s huge for weddings lately!”
When asked what makes weddings so special at Crown, Dawn replied, “It’s a vineyard yes, but it looks like an Italian countryside here. Without leaving the state of Tennessee, you feel like you’re at a destination wedding. Of course, wine and beer are available on site, and when the bride and groom are off doing pictures, the winery will host tours for the guests to keep them engaged.” This hospitality isn’t just reserved for weddings—the team at Crown loves hosting tour groups as well! “Several senior groups through different Chambers have visited the winery and we just love them!” stated Dawn. “We can even incorporate a lunch during the visit if desired. Just ask!” Tastings include a tour of the vineyard and winery, guaranteed to be entertaining and informative with the goal of you feeling like family before you leave.
Crown Winery is the largest vineyard in the state of Tennessee with 28 acres of grapes on 48 acres of land. Seven grape varieties are grown, including three whites: Cayuga White, Chardonel, and Traminette, and four reds: Norton, Noiret, Chambourcin, and Sangiovese. They currently make seventeen different wines, including a sparkling wine made in the same style as champagne (fermented in the bottle). Perhaps the most unique is the Sangiovese grape, an Italian variety grown in Tuscany. When Peter wanted to plant the vineyard he was told it wouldn’t grow in West Tennessee. It’s a true vinifera grape, so Peter worked with Dr Lockwood at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville where they took a stock root that would grow in the soil here and grafted it to the Sangiovese vine. It worked, and now they grow five acres of this grape. It is their number one selling red wine currently and very different for Tennessee!
“A glass of wine means gathering around a table, celebrating, spending time with friends and family, relaxing at the end of the day...it’s about bringing people together.” Dawn and her team have been bringing people together at their Wine Downs at least twice a month! Held on the second and fourth Friday of the month (and adding more dates in the Fall), Wine Downs host a different live band each time and is free to attend. You can purchase wine and beer by the glass to enjoy with hand-crafted pizza made right at the winery. Dawn recommends trying The Fredo—a simple crust with homemade alfredo sauce accented with red pepper for kick, then topped with chicken, spinach, and tomatoes. The Mama Mia is another top seller but traditional flavors are also available, including pepperoni and cheese. You can also build your own! Guests often start showing up around 6:00 PM to grab a pizza and a good spot, with the live music starting around 7:00 PM.
Another event coming up soon is the Farm to Table Dinner on September 28th and a Harvest Festival on the 29th including a stomp the grapes competition! Teams will compete to see who can extract the most juice from their tub of grapes, all through the act of ‘stomping’. There will be live music that night and something for the kids to enjoy as well!
In October, the winery will host an Oktoberfest featuring their Oktoberfest Craft Brew. Stop by to spend time in the biergarten, and instead of pizza, they’re planning to offer some German-inspired dishes—all cooked on site. Other food trucks will be invited to attend the festivities as well. Be sure and check their website (listed below) for up to date ticket and event information.
We wrapped up our visit with Dawn by discussing plans and dreams for the future. “We would love to have overnight accomodations soon, perhaps little Tuscan Villas?” Exciting things are happening at The Crown Vineyard, Winery, and Brewery! Be sure to follow along with the Fallerts and Horners at their website: www.CrownWinery.com and on Facebook at Crown Winery LLC.