Working in vineyards requires specialized equipment to process the wine. To harvest and keep the vines in working order, sometimes a bit of mechanical know-how can keep vintage equipment up and running.
Collectors often restore and display old iron, but it is just as enjoyable to see it in action. Louisa Beach Cooke, owner of the Beachaven Winery, notes, “If you take care of your equipment, it will last.”
On their vineyard and winery in Clarksville, Tenn., the family uses a combination of John Deere tractors along with a 1980s German Braud grape harvester and a sprayer to work and harvest their vineyards. To harvest the grapes, they use a Deere 2640 with a loader from a 520 to pull the harvester. To pull the sprayer, they use a Deere 2355.
Grapes are harvested in August and at first, the family harvested by hand; Louisa said it was hot, hard work. The purchase of the 1980s model grape harvester changed everything, time-wise: "Life is good; it will pick everything in three mornings. That used to take a week per variety."
The Beachaven Winery goes back decades and has a wonderful history. "My father, Judge William O. Beach, was the Montgomery County Mayor," Louisa explained.
Interested in wine during the 1960s and ’70s, Judge Beach went to France and was entranced by what he saw. "He said, ‘I can do this,’" Louisa explained. "A friend gave him a kit to make wine with – and for a couple years, he made some really bad wine."
The bad didn't last, though, through trial and error, the wines improved. Beach planted grapes on his farm. "He planted eight varieties on 20 acres," Louisa said.
Over time, the family learned which grapes were suited for the Tennessee climate. "My favorite wines are vinifera; they make chardonnay and cabernet, but they don't grow good in Tennessee.
“The Tennessee climate is too unpredictable for vinifera, so we stick with American native vines like Concord, Catawba and Delaware. We also grow French hybrids that are grafted onto American root stock."
Growing grapes in Tennessee was not a new phenomenon. Back in the early 1900s, Tennessee had many small vineyards producing thousands of gallons of wine, but in 1919, Prohibition put an end to commercial winemaking in the state for many decades. Beach pioneered legislation which changed that, reviving Tennessee's wine industry.
Working together with his son-in-law, Ed Cooke, Beach opened a commercial winery one the edge of Clarksville. "We got married in 1980," Louisa said, "and bought this farm here (where the winery now sits). We broke ground and planted three varieties to make champagne with. It was our premier product for a while."
In 1986, Beach, Ed and Louisa founded Beachaven Vineyards & Winery LTD. When they opened on the edge of town, she said there was nothing out that direction but tobacco fields. The highway access, though, proved to be the perfect place for their winery to thrive.
Beach passed away in 1991 and the family continued to expand his efforts. By 2009, their production and storage capacity had more than tripled. Beachaven wines have won more than 500 awards at regional, national and international competitions.
In 2016, Beachaven celebrated 30 years in the business. Operating with vintage equipment that holds its own, the vineyards and winery are still family owned and operated, and Beachaven Winery is a Tennessee staple.
Tours are available anytime, and Louisa encourages visitors to stop by. To learn more, log onto their website at www.beachavenwinery.com
Readers with questions or comments for Cindy Ladage may write to her in care of this publication. Learn more of Cindy’s finds and travel in her blog, “Traveling Adventures of a Farm Girl,” at http://travelingadventuresofafarmgirl.com