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GRAPE SESSION So you're sitting around your house thirsty for something new and exciting to do, but you don't even have enough gas money to leave the state? You don't have to look too far, for a mere twenty minutes from Midtown Memphis, tucked into the rolling hills of West Tennessee, lies a little piece of heaven, where you can sit, relax, and delight in the earthy flavors of homegrown wine. Old Millington Vineyard and Winery, owned and operated by Perry and Carrie Welch, is the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon. You can enjoy some good company,a little fresh air, and a taste of some of the most unique wines in the area, all for free. On a lazy afternoon of my own, I decided to take a trip up Highway 51 and see just what sort of winery could possibly be operating in Millington, Tennessee. After all, driving through Frayser isn't quite the same as a trek through the Napa Valley. Turning onto a gravel driveway and patiently waiting for some arthritic dogs to pass, I congratulated myself on the assumption that this was going to be a podunk operation complete with some grapes fermenting in the bathtub. The moment I stepped inside onto the cool tiled floor,however, I knew I was mistaken. Sidling up to the tasting bar, I was poured a glass and before I knew it, was enjoying one of the most pleasant outings I had ever experienced. Opened in October of 2000, Old Millington Vineyards and Winery has achieved local fame as a charming and tranquil spot where you can feel free to roam sprawling vineyards, idle on the patio under a shady awning, or even catch some live music on the lawn. And if you don't know a blush from a beaujolais, Perry Welch will be happy to explain the difference. Once you've had a taste of his wine and his hospitality, you'll feel any uneasiness dissipate into pure bliss. Whether you consider yourself a wine connoisseur or you regularly twist off your cork, there's a wine for you at Old Millington Winery, but don't expect to find a cabernet or a merlot here. Welch specializes in fusing indigenous grapes from his vineyards. You will be invited to taste grapes ranging from the vidal and catawba to the bastard cousin of the grape, the muscadine, He will gently guide you through his tasting menu and patiently answer any questions you may have. Welch offers up an impressive selection of his own blends from a dry Delta Red to sweet Muscadine Blush. The menu changes with his whims so don't be surprised to find even a seasonal fruit wine like blackberry or pear. Be sure to take a taste home with you. If you've got more than one favorite, don't worry. Prices range from around $9 to $20 a bottle. No sooner than I had sampled my first white, I was invited to tour the winery and discover where this potion was divined. Prepared for a long sabbatical from the tasting bar, I finished off my glass and followed Welch down a narrow hall to a back room no bigger than a garage. Here, I learned, was where the whole process took place. Welch, a virtual renaissance man, does everything from crushing and filtering to labeling and corking every bottle. I was lucky enough to have tried a Vidal Blanc that Welch had just capped minutes before I arrived. When you visit, don't miss this chance to see where Welch unfolds his creative genius. You can check out his Italian wine press and oak barrels as he engages you in the art of wine making. If you like, he will take you on a tour of the vineyards right outside the door. Whatever you choose, make sure to take advantage of Welch's extensive knowledge. If you're just in the mood for a little relaxation in a beautiful atmosphere, you can take a picnic with you on Sundays and enjoy live performances from local blues artists on the back lawn. June concerts will feature Memphis artists Tom Gorbea on the 16th and University of Memphis professor, David Evans on the 23rd. Performances begin at 3:00 and are free. If you want to learn or just want to hear a few stories, Perry Welch can accomodate you any day. Once you've had the experience of visiting with him, you may never want to leave. But, alas, we all must go home eventually. So, after we concluded the tasting(no spitting), I stood up with my bottle of Delta Red and turned to go. An hour later, I finally did. After all, nothing goes better with wine than good conversation. You can visit the Welch's website at or call 901-873-4114.

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