SPARTA – Leave your evening dresses, party hats and high-heeled shoes at home. There’s no need for such fancy attire at the Upper Cumberland’s newest winery, which presents a more laid-back, country feel.
Northfield Vineyards, located on Ray Cemetery Road in Sparta, within earshot of the Upper Cumberland Regional Airport, recently celebrated its grand opening. It’s the region’s seventh winery – and plans to stand out from the others by playing off its particularly rural setting, a 30-acre rolling hill farm in White County.
“We want people to feel like they can come in and stay awhile,” said Mark Ray, who runs the winery with sister Marty Luna and parents Glenn and Diana Ray. “We’re more about a laid back, relaxing setting, a place where people feel at home and don’t have to dress up to come in.”
While the winery took about three years to come to fruition, the concept really dates back five or six years, when Ray started making a homemade version of Northfield’s Niagra as a hobby. It proved a popular venture among family and friends. Thus came the idea to start the business on the family farm.
“People would ask all the time, ‘When are you going to have more wine? When are you going to have more wine?’ And my dad told me that if we were going to do it, we were going to do it right,” Luna said. “So we did.”
The winery may have that new car smell, but there is history here to boot. Part of the building that houses Northfield Vineyards used to be Glenn Ray’s old shop, where Marty says they’d “strip tobacco or work on trucks.” Records show the farm itself dates back to 1904, but it’s probably been in the family longer. The Rays have expanded the shop to include a manufacturing room, which features three 600-galloon tanks, still fermenting the winery’s cranberry and blackberry blends; a retail store, in which a variety of Pick Tennessee products are available and where visitors can sample wines; and a reception room, where Luna says they’ve already booked several events like weddings, baby showers and class and family reunions. It wasn’t originally part of the business plan but was added with some good foresight.
“It’s been a big part of business,” Luna said. “We did our first wedding here in September, and we’re starting to book up with more. The venue part has really taken off.”
Northfield Vineyards currently has four wines available, Ol’ Black Izzy, a blackberry blend; Northfield Curve, a cranberry blend; a Cynthiana, an off-dry wine; and the Niagara, a white wine with a muscadine finish. Prices range from $12.95-$14.95. Northfield Vineyards is also a member of the Upper Cumberland Wine Trail, which includes DelMonaco Winery in Baxter, Highland Manor Winery in Jamestown, Holly Ridge Winery in Livingston, Red Barn Winery in Lafayette and Chestnut Hill Winery and Stonehaus Winery in Crossville. Both Ray and Luna said they’ve received a lot of advice and aid from others in that circle.
“You couldn’t ask for better people,” Luna said. “Everybody’s been extremely helpful. Extremely.”