Our Ties to Thunder Road Are Strong

The Original Thunder Road runs past the Union County Courthouse in Maynardville TNFrom Thunder Road to Copperhead Road. Our wine trail route closely follows the eastern leg of the White Lightening: Thunder Road to Rebels Trail, an official Tennessee Discover Trail.

We trace our history to the prohibition-era, moonshine-running corridor.  The runners brought the “Thunder” to many back roads of East Tennessee, and our trail follows Thunder Road, from Maynardville, Tennessee to the beautiful Watauga Lake region near the North Carolina border, ending at Copperhead Road.  Discover our award-winning Tennessee wines as you explore all that is in between!

You’ll traverse sections of the route Kentucky moonshiners took from Cumberland Gap through Maynardville and beyond.  Visit all five wineries on The Trail and you will travel Thunder Road to Copperhead Road and be deep in the heart of Appalachia.

Watauga Lake Winery is on the corner of Copperhead Road and Big Dry Run Rd in Johnson County.  This same Copperhead Road was made famous by Steve Earl’s song by the same name.

Goodwater Vineyards is in Cocke County near the area where the famous moonshiner Popcorn Sutton was from.

The Winery at Seven Springs Farm just outside Maynardville in Union County is on an original “Thunder Road”, a nighttime route from Harlan, Kentucky, to Knoxville, Tennessee, traveled by illegal whiskey haulers.

Listen to Thunder Road Theme Song and Copperhead Rd. American Legend — Thunder Road. Making moonshine was an industry in the American South before and after Prohibition. In the 1950s muscle cars became popular and various roads became known as “Thunder Road” for their use by moonshiners. The business of transporting moonshine, which began in the 1920’s with Prohibition and continued through to the 50’s to avoid paying taxes, was risky.  In an effort to avoid the law, fast cars, fearless drivers, and back-woods mountain roads that led to the cities and towns created an American legend – Thunder Road.

Many moonshine smuggling routes were referred to as Thunder Road, including Route 9, going north from Atlanta, the nighttime route from Harlan, Kentucky, to Knoxville, Tennessee, traveled by illegal whiskey haulers, Georgia Highway 197, the stretch of Jacksboro Highway that runs through Sansom Park Texas, and old timers from North Carolina even say that Thunder Road had a Southern Route via Texas over the Appalachian continental divide rolling right into the alley aside Eureka Saloon.  Many 1940s and 1950s muscle cars became popular for their value to moonshiners in running their moonshine and avoiding the ‘revenooers’.  There is a common association of Thunder Road with sour mash whiskey and moonshine and many events throughout the Southeastern United States celebrate this unique Appalachian Heritage.  To the men who traveled these routes, it was much more than legend — it was the road to freedom from economic despair.

Would you like to have a wine tasting at your next Tennessee festival? Contact us for details.
Thunder Road represented escape from the poverty of rural Appalachia that running “White Lightning” provided. Fast cars, fearless drivers, and back-woods mountain roads that led to the cities and towns created an American legend – Thunder Road. Today’s Thunder Road Wine Trail takes you across those very roads from Thunder Road in Maynardville to Copper Head Road in Butler, TN. You’ll discover wonderful Tennessee wines as you experience the real East Tennessee — wild, beautiful, friendly, yet sophisticated.
Rick Riddle, Founder, Great Valley Wine Trail

Our Ties to Moonshining History Are Strong

Junior Johnson, the ATF & NASCAR

This story appeared in the Roanoke Times & World News. Greenesboro, N.C. on October 9, 1993, by Bob Zeller.

This is a true story. A story about Junior Johnson, a notorious moonshiner and NASCAR driver who was targeted by the Alcohol / Tobacco / Firearms (ATF) department of the government for illegal activity.

Hold on to your hat. Enjoy the ride.

Read the True Story

Our Wine Trail Ties to This Story…

  1. Charlie Riddle, a key figure in the story and father of the Thunder Road Wine Trail founder, Rick Riddle, is one of the ATF undercover agents mentioned in the story.  Be sure to ask Rick about this when you visit The Winery at Seven Springs Farm.
  2. Wayne Gay, the winemaker/owner at Watauga Lake Winery, is a retired ATF agent and worked at the agency the same time Charlie Riddle did.  Rick Riddle only found this out later after getting to know Wayne better.

But Johnson’s brothers failed to take heed, and the government began building its biggest, most aggressive case ever against the Johnson family. The name of the scraggly ATFA undercover agent who hung around the Johnson house was Charlie Riddle. “He took up with them right quick because he looked more like a mountaineer than they did,” says Carter. Although Riddle and another undercover informant, Jarvis T. Carver, were carefully questioned at first by Junior’s mother, Lora Belle, they were persistent and eventually wore down the family’s reluctance to deal with them.

The White Lightning Trail Is In Our Backyard Too

Ties to White Lightning Trail.  Local writer Jack Neely recounts the history and legend of Thunder Road as he retraces the infamous bootleggers’ route when it officially became a state tourist attraction as The White Lightning Trail in the summer of 2010. The Tennessee Department of Tourism captures the entire 200 miles of unique American stories told every day through Appalachian arts and crafts, preserved buildings and sites, historic town squares and the tales of legendary characters in their White Lightning Trail driving guide.

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