A scientist by trade—with a long career in the pharmaceutical industry—Allison Kennington is no stranger to fermentation. Fascinated by both the world of wine and the magic of transformation, it comes as no surprise that her second act in life would be opening a winery. If you ask her about the decision to welcome new neighbors into Kennington Family Winery, however, it’s clear that she’s still in awe of how this next chapter has already begun to play out beautifully.
“We’d been to a few weddings at wineries and thought, this is beautiful, this is restorative . . . we could do this,” the Furman grad reflects. “As we worked our way toward the end of our time in corporate America, my husband and I asked ourselves, ‘What does the next chapter look like?’ And as we talked with our son Phillip—he’s now our general manager—we wondered, ‘What if we were to open a winery together?’ What could that look like, here in the Upstate?”
We’ve all spent time daydreaming of a fresh start or career shift. Often, the difference between fun musings and real action is how much we believe in our ability to pull something off—or how much energy we’re willing to put into proving out the idea. Thankfully, Kennington is already hardwired to turn possibilities into realities—and make dreams come true.
“As a scientist, it quickly became a research project. What are the success stories? Risk models? Different ways to do this? And the more we looked into it, the more we thought, ‘We can make this happen.’ Plus, there’s a great opportunity for it here in the area already.”
While the family was brainstorming business details, they kept one truth, or North Star, always top-of-mind. “We want to bring beautiful, amazing wines to the Upstate of South Carolina, and we wanted a place where our guests could become friends, and friends could become family. We wanted to create a place where, just like with our own family, people could relax and find joy and companionship in each other.”
And words simply can’t do justice to the place Kennington is talking about: a stunning sun-warmed haven framed by yawning skies and gray-blue slices of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Marietta. “When we first found our property, one thing was abundantly clear: it’s just so peaceful here. We’ve got fire pits and Adirondack chairs, a breathtaking view. It invites you to just sit and rest for a minute.”
How Kennington Family Winery crafts its diverse and exciting list of wines is uncommon, too: part curation, part experimentation. “We bring in bulk wines from talented winemakers at vineyards throughout the country—California to Washington, Oregon to New York—because talent is all over, and we want to share that with folks.” In addition to doing all of their bottling and filling on-site, the family specializes in a form of adventurous alchemy. “We’re passionate about exploring unique ways to blend and barrel-age our wines, to bring out different and unexpected notes and flavors in these beautiful varietals,” adds Kennington. “It’s about that spirit of taking a raw ingredient and making something different, something better, out of it.”
Her background in the pharmaceutical industry included fermentation and sterile filling, so the research and development side of the business came naturally. “I love the process of aging, blending and bottling: what different things might happen as you change the acidity and the tannins, or the aging approach. Those are the things that make it fun for me, as a scientist. We often ask, ‘what would happen if . . . ?’ And it’s that ‘if’ that allows you to experiment, to play, try some different things,” says Kennington, leaning into the mystery of it all. “For instance, we have some peach brandy barrels we’re looking forward to aging some wine in, and seeing what characteristics emerge. We’ve got more great ideas coming down the line soon, like maple barrels, too.”
The two wines that Kennington has aged in bourbon barrels have proved to be some of their most popular wines. “People can’t stop talking about them,” smiles Kennington. If you aren’t already familiar with the Dark Corner’s history of moonshine and brandy-making, trust us: you’ve got to ask the team at Kennington for the scoop. “A lot of what we do is about storytelling. We want people to find more than a great glass—we want them to find a great story, whether it’s about some of our wines, winemakers, or local history. This area has a fascinating heritage, and two of our wines are named in tribute to that legacy: our Dark Corner White Wine and Dark Corner Red, both of which are aged in bourbon barrels, to bring out some of that unique character.”
If you’re looking for ABV-free refreshment, you’ll find plenty of options at the family-friendly winery, too. “We’ve got a reasonably wide list, including interesting nonalcoholic options, so that, hopefully, everyone who comes in finds something they enjoy,” says Kennington.
More than anything, the Kennington family has sought to create a welcoming space for the whole community—and it shows. “I had no idea how much fun this would be. For people to come in and just hang out, talk to us—about anything. Our soft opening went incredibly well, and it’s humbling and wonderful that we have repeat guests already. We’ve had live local music, people dancing and singing, happy and relaxed . . . it’s exactly what we hoped for. We’re proud to be part of the community, and we want to be good neighbors. The reception we’ve gotten has made the challenges all worth it.”
Ready to plan a perfect outing to the winery? Kennington has the ideal itinerary in mind. “Come out on a nice afternoon, and if there’s a little cool in the air, we’ll light the fire pit, pour a great glass of red wine and open one of our fun s’mores kits. Or bring a picnic and share a bottle of wine with the skyline as your backdrop. The views are stunning, and we have large grassy areas with yard games to play, like Giant Jenga. Bring your dog, go for a hike and get some fresh air, then come visit us. It can’t be beat,” she insists with a smile.
5 Fave Wines To Try
- Sauvignon Blanc: a blend of different styles that offers bright acidity and stone fruit aromas
- Rosé: a special release at the grand opening; floral and fresh, semi-dry, with hibiscus and berries
- Dark Corner White: a local favorite; a stainless-steel-fermented Chardonnay aged in bourbon barrels
- Reserve Merlot: dark stone fruit aromas with an incredibly smooth and velvety mouthfeel
- Cabernet Franc: flavorful with a nice long finish; perfect for mountain-gazing on a cool night
- Wine slushies & live music
- Fire pits & s’mores kits
- Lawn games & BYO picnics
Winery Fast Facts
- Open 12p-7p Wed—Sun
- Grand opening April 2-3, 2022