Blending wine, whisky, and music at downtown Nashville City Winery

Wine at the bar is served from these barrel taps; an interesting experience albeit not one that lends itself to investigating the labels.

Earlier this year we declared Nashville, Tennessee to be "Music City" greatness and a newfound penchant for wineIn that post we cited Arrington Vineyards - located about 30 minutes outside the city - and the Nashville City Winery as the vanguard in this embrace of winemaking for a city long known for... definitely not winemaking. It's thus with great excitement that we're revisiting Nashville City Winery as part of our ongoing look at the larger trend of urban winemaking in the United States (catch up with us at Travessia Urban Winery in New Bedford, MA, and at Amigoni Urban Winery in Kansas City, MO).

It's worth turning back to what we wrote in March (quote below) to highlight the biggest difference between City Winery and and some of its downtown cousins we've visited in Massachusetts and Missouri. The Nashville variety is a true downtown entertainment venue born of the fusion of wine and music. We'd normally think this an alarming sign of low quality afterthought winemaking, but the Nashville "Music City" sense of place actually makes this approach work here. The Winery & Barrel Room Restaurant is obviously recently built, but very tastefully constructed. We'll call the style "nouveau rustic", serving the house-fermented wine alongside a compelling selection of spirits (whiskey!) that spiritually bridge the gap between the stemware in your hand and the state you know you're visiting. Meanwhile there is a large (by winery standards) concert venue feet away where live music on stage compliments restaurant style seating and dining. It's big, different, and far more commercial than any winery we've ever felt compelled to write positively of... but it works here.

Many ways Arrington’s opposite, the Nashville City Winery is part of a growing trend of American “urban winemaking”. As part of the “City Winery” chain of combination winery and venue, NCW lacks the uber local character of owner-winemaker places like Travessia in New Bedford, MA and Amigoni in Kansas City, MO. That said, we absolutely loved the fusion of music venue and winery in a way that feels exactly as it should: modern yet authentic, big yet cozy. Bartender Cameron’s impressive knowledge of what he was pouring tells us that these folks are as serious about wine education as they are about wine making. While many visitors will sip in blissful ignorance, the obvious love of wine we found here should play well for millennials who crave a good backstory to go with their wine. Winemaker Bill Anton has three standouts on an all-around solid lineup.
— Wine:Thirty Flight on March 29, 2016

We need to disclaim for the tasting notes that it was a little difficult determining the vintage of anything we tried, for at the bar they are served direct from barrel taps rather than bottles, so there were no labels to speak of. This was perhaps our biggest annoyance, but also tells us that they've some room to grow in a positive direction refining the overall wine tasting and sale experience. As we wrote in March, "NCW would be well served to improve its small glass tasting options for those looking for a tasting - rather than a bar - experience." No matter, the stuff in the glass was pretty good (and to some extent purchasable on their website). We understand that they're working on a 2013 Merlot that they like so well they've decided to reserve it, so we're excited to go back and give that a try next year!

Sauvignon Blanc

The Sauvignon Blanc shows the most personality among the whites, giving us a touch of grass without making us feel like we're drinking a field.

Cabernet Sauvignon Rose

The Rose of Cabernet Sauvignon is dark for a rose, almost like a light Pinot Noir, giving us some candied strawberry that is lighter in the mouth than the nose lets on.

Hyland Pinot Noir

Here we were surprised to find a compelling nose, some slight acidity to give it structure, and pleasing vanilla notes. It's a darker, leggy Pinot that reminds us of its Oregonian cousins.

Cabernet Franc

The Cabernet Franc's notes of cranberry, raspberry, and pepper are completely transformed through swirling in the glass, and give you something unique to love.

The Rest...

  • Pinot Gris: Very light nose with a little melon, otherwise highly drinkable and wholly unoffensive.
  • Roussanne + Marsanne: Honeycomb and floral notes, creamy mouthfeel with vanilla in the finish.
  • Chardonnay: Uncomplex and buttery, a little flat on the mouth. My grandmother, Gaga, would love it! It's trying to be California whereas we think the grapes would be more suited to an Old World approach.
  • Obsidian Cabernet Sauvignon: The single vineyard wine they seem most proud of, the Obsidian is a deep dark colored wine in which you'll find gentle tannins, dark chocolate, and graphite. It's dry, particularly in the back, and lingers a bit in your throat on the finish.
  • Syrah: Jammy red fruit and vanilla with qualities we found more reminiscent of Australian Shiraz than Old World style Syrah.