Through the grapevines: how tennessee wines came to fruition

Through the Grapevines is a series of stories about how Tennessee Wines came to fruition. Over the next few posts, we will talk about the history and background of Tennessee Wines. To read more stories like this one, check out our Stories page frequently!

This is where it all began…

Tennessee is known for many things: natural beauty, Country music, and a certain whiskey brand, just to name a few.  There’s something else that is on the rise though that few people expected – grapes and wine. Although grape-growing and winemaking in Tennessee is a concept that dates back to the 1880s, the Prohibition era brought the business to a halt. Finally, it saw its resurgence in 1973 in the kitchen of a local judge from the small town of Clarksville.

William O. Beach and the Birth of TVOS

William O. Beach was a judge and a local winemaker in Clarksville, TN, who had a vision for something bigger than just making wine in his own home. To do this, he teamed up with other well-known lawmakers and wine enthusiasts like John Watkins from Louden County, Fay Wheeler and Clay Easterly from Crossville, and Carl Cola, a senator from Blount County. Together they created the Tennessee Viticultural and Oenological Society, or TVOS for short. From there, they took to the state capital to pass the Tennessee Grape and Wine Law.

After countless hours of work and persuasion they proved successful!  You could now get a license to commercially produce wine in the state of Tennessee. The bad news was the new law came with a slew of restrictions that hampered the industry’s growth for years to come. One of these rules was that a commercial winery was only able to sell 10,000 gallons of wine per year. Another was that all wines produced in Tennessee had to be made with 75% Tennessee-grown fruits, and the producer had to live in Tennessee for two years before they could begin production. TVOS fought these restrictions though, and they took it farther than the state legislature.