Wine, Horses & Southern History: The Belle Meade Plantation (Nashville)


I’m in love with Nashville.

Generally I’m not overly keen on large cities, but I find Nashville more like a small town. I’m guessing it’s the laid-back, country-living sorta vibe. And I find the people here ridiculously friendly.

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The food ’round these parts is just incredible too. It’s no wonder they call southern cooking ‘soul food’. I’m going to have to make another trip down here again just to try every restaurant since I’m only getting a few meals in this time around.

Like most first-timers, we’re seeing all the popular touristy spots here in Nashville. We did a fantastic tour of The Ryman yesterday which we both really loved. Even if you don’t like country music, the history and the building itself is worth a visit.

Today we’re off to see another popular tourist attraction chock full of history: the Belle Meade Plantation.

Since the plantation used to occupy such a big part of the city, we figured it was worth a visit. I knew I’d have a tough time with the whole slavery part of the tour, but the plantation itself sounded spectacular. The fact that there is a winery there may or may not have helped sway our decision to check it out (hehe!)

First though, it’s time for breakfast. We decided on a place called Edgehill Cafe which I’d heard about from one of my favourite bloggers (Kristin of Camels and Chocolate).  She was raving about it and frequents this place often. And since she lives here in Nashville, I figured you really can’t go wrong with a local’s suggestion.

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She was right. This cafe is probably one of the funkiest cafe’s I’ve ever been to (and being a coffee fiend, I’ve tried many in my world travels). The decor and furnishings were a mix of old wood and industrial decor, with a bit of flea market chic going on as well.

And the chairs were upholstered with coffee bean sacks. How cool is that

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I wanted to take home this table made out of reclaimed wood. I wonder if anyone would notice me taking it out the front door?

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And the coffee was great too. No wonder so many locals call this place the ‘Best Coffee House in Nashville’.

When I asked if they had any gluten-free goodies, I nearly jumped for joy when the woman behind the counter said they had gluten-free pancakes. Woo hoo! Since it’s so hard to get anything gluten-free on the road, I could barely contain my excitement.

 

IMG_5106 They were absolutely scrumptious, and some of the best pancakes I’ve ever had (gluten-free, or not). Mnnn…

Cowboy had a scrumptious breakfast sandwich which was oozing with deliciousness as he bit into it. It was chock full of fried egg, sausage and spinach. He said it was fantastic. It sure looked incredibly tasty.

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If we had time, I could hang out here all afternoon.

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After a hearty breakfast, we were ready to head to the Plantation. Since it was just down the road it didn’t take us too long to get there.

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Belle Meade is a 30-acre historical plantation just outside downtown Nashville. This quintessential Antebellum home gained its fame in 1853 with thoroughbred horse racing. 

 

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In fact, many of the top racing horses such as Seabiscuit and Secretariat can be traced back to the horses from Belle Meade. (And interesting side note: this place tied into our road trip perfectly as we’d just been to the home of the Kentucky Derbry (read about our adventure) a few days ago. We didn’t plan it, it was just a neat coincidence).

John Harding founded this Plantation in 1807. At first he and his family lived in a small cabin here on the land (which is at the entrance of the grounds) until he finished building the mansion.

Since we had a few minutes before our mansion tour began, we headed over to the cabin near the entrance of the plantation to see the original home.

 

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The mansion itself was home to both the Harding and Jackson families for five generations.  During the Civil War, the plantation witnessed a battle just outside on the front porch. You can still see the bullet holes in the columns out front.

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 After hitting some hard times the families were unable to keep it running, so a lot of acreage was sold off (this place originally encompassed a big part of the city of Nashville).  A few other families lived in this home until it was sold to the local historical society. As a result, the plantation is now open to the public for tours and events (they do lots of weddings here, and they were setting up for one while we were here).

We signed up for the mansion tour and were told to meet our guide at the front door of the mansion in a few minutes.

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She wasn’t hard to spot. She came out of the mansion onto the veranda wearing a beautiful purple dress similar to what the ladies wore back in the early 19th century.  I managed to snap a photo, though it was a bit tricky with so many people standing in front of us. She sorta looks a bit like a dwarf in this pic, but it’s really just the angle.


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She was very animated and knowledgeable and gave us a lot of great trivia about the home and the families who lived here over the years, as well as the famous horses that were bred here.

If you love the TV show Downtown Abbey,  you’d probably love this place (though I haven’t seen  the show myself, I know it’s based on that era).

Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take photos (even without the flash! Darn…) inside the mansion so I don’t have any indoor pics to share. But rest assured, the decor and furnishings are in the style of what they were almost 200 years ago.

Just a fun little side note, a couple of folks in our tour group, including the tour guide,  asked where we were from (because of our accents). They weren’t surprised at all to learn we’re Canadians, and said we have a distinct accent.  You never realize you have an accent until other people tell you that you do. I could definitely tell the locals here almost right away with their accent (that great Southern twinge) as well. It’s great though as it makes for a good conversation- starter when you’re travelling.

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Back to the tour…

The mansion was absolutely beautiful and the grounds are stunning as well. We managed to take way too many a couple pictures of the house and the impeccable gardens.

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Cowboy enjoyed rockin’ out on the veranda in these awesome chairs. All he needed was a glass of lemonade (maybe with some Bourbon) and he’d be happy as punch here all afternoon long.

 

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We were able to walk around inside the stable but there were several staff members setting up for a wedding (how cool!) so we just took a quick peek and then got out of the way.

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I fell in love with this swing. I think I should get one of these for my backyard. Well I don’t actually have a backyard, but if I did, I’d definitely want one of these in it.

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After touring the house and grounds, we were now ready to cap off the tour with a visit to the winery & a complimentary taste testing!

“This way to the winery”, says Cowboy. I’m surprised we even stopped long enough for a photo (ha!)

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The Winery here at Belle Meade is Nashville’s only winery! And, even better, it is the only non-profit winery in the U.S. Yep, that sounds like a perfect excuse reason to buy a couple bottles of wine if you ask me 🙂 All proceeds from the wine bought here goes straight back to the historical society to help maintain the mansion and the grounds. Awesome! That makes me even happier we did the tour. 

And now it was time give a few of these a taste test. Tough job, I know. But somebody’s gotta help them out and give them feedback.

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We were able to sample 4 of their wines and our taster guide gave us a lowdown on each of the different flavours. They were all delicious, I knew I’d be hard-pressed to choose only a couple to take home with us (first world problems, I know).

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My favourite one really surprised me. It’s called Red Muscadine and I didn’t think I’d like it as much because it tasted like a blush (or White Zinfandel) wine which I’m not usually as keen on. But this one was especially delightful. It’s a traditional Tennessee wine made with (rare, so we were told) American grapes that would have been found being made here at the plantation over a century ago. It has a very unique flavour.

It’s the perfect summer wine you’d enjoy on a sunny day rocking out on your porch with your friends.

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After our testing session, we picked up a couple bottles from the gift shop and headed outside to sit and relax in the beautiful gardens with our wine. This place was gorgeous. Neither of us wanted to leave.

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I decided to forgo the whole glass thing and go straight for the bottle!

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Cowboy chugged a bottle too, that’s how good this stuff was. Just kidding! Well, not that it wasn’t good, but that we don’t usually ditch our glasses. Save for funny photo ops, of course. We are both hams in case you hadn’t noticed yet (him more than I, clearly)

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One of our sweet tour pals offered to take a photo of us together (being normal this time). Since we’re travelling alone, we don’t have an awful lot of pics together. Except for the odd funny selfie shot, but those always look so awkward.

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What a wonderful afternoon at Belle Meade. If you’re in Nashville be sure to check this place out.  Lots of great history about the area, horses and delicious wine!

Next up, we’re heading to Franklin, Tennessee, which has won numerous awards for Best Main Street and Small Town in the U.S.

I can’t wait to check it out…

 

 

 

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