Slanted Window marks one year in wine business


Deena C. Bouknight Contributing Writer

Dion and Cathy Sena can relate to the adage, “Time flies when you’re having fun.” The couple has been reflecting in recent weeks on the one-year anniversary of their Slanted Window winery. 

They recently put out this statement to the public, “When we reminisce on this past year, we think of the first time opening our doors to the community, we think of the ribbon cutting ceremony and the celebrations people have spent with us; we think of all the dancing and singing at our live music nights and harvesting grapes for new wines to share with you all; we think of the laughter, the smiles, and the cheers and we can’t wait to keep it going.” 

Slanted Window is a winery that serves and sells wines produced from European-variety grapes grown on the SenAmore Vineyard in the Tellico Community, considered the first and only vineyard in Macon County. The Senas have been actively pursuing a successful vineyard and winery for the past five years. The couple finally experienced the fruits of their labor when they began offering up various wines to the local and visiting public last year at a renovated gas station on Harrison Avenue they transformed into a distinct venue.

Dion has been visiting Macon County since his parents, Dr. Dick Sena and his wife, Dorothy, bought a farm and an old farmhouse in 1963 and began summering with their family when they traveled to the mountains from Miami, Fla. 

The house, which is situated next door to the Tellico Trout Farm where the historic Ramsey family home is located, was built in the late 1800s and was a part of the Ramsey family’s history in Tellico Valley, explained Dion. 

“As each of the Ramsey children got married, they built a home in the valley and were given 150 acres. Our farmhouse was the first son, Harley Ramsey’s, home.”

Dion and Cathy became full owners of the family property, which includes 28 acres, in 2009, and began restoration of the home, which had some damage due to high winds a few years earlier from Hurricane Ivan. 

“We also decided to plant a few grapes to see what would happen,” he said. “After two years of trial and error, we grew the vineyard from five rows of Chambourcin – a Pinot Noir type grape that grows well in our microclimate – and added 10 more rows of that. We then added 15 rows of Cabernet Sauvignon, the most widely grown and most popular grape in the world, as well as 15 rows of our Italian Sangiovese. We have additional experimental varieties we trial as well. It was always our desire to make an outstanding, Italian-styled wine (like a Super Tuscan), to reflect my Italian heritage, but right here in Macon County. It was also our desire to create a quality wine and we knew this would take time – lots of time.” 

He added, “We named our farm/vineyard SenAmore – Sena, because of our last name, and Amore, which is the word for ‘love’ in Italian.” 

The name for the winery was inspired by the slanted window on the second-floor front porch of the home. 

“My mother covered it with siding because she didn’t really like it,” said Dion. “However, this act ended up saving that window decades later. When we removed the siding, we discovered the old slanted window – original and intact!”  

For various reasons, it took some time for the Senas to get a farm winery license. “However, because we are agricultural and our wine is a by-product, we were finally able to get licensed as the first farm winery in Macon County in the fall of 2019!” said Dion. “When starting a vineyard, and in order to have good wine, you must have good grapes. Most typically vineyards allow three years growth prior to making and bottling wine. We allowed five years of growth to strengthen and fortify the vines. Being the first winery in Macon County (which does not have an American Viticultural Area designation) there was no shared knowledge for us refer to. We have the only aging library of wine for this area! Nobody knows how long a bottle of red wine from our area will age to proper maturity.”

The Senas teamed up with a skilled vintner, wine maker, Jabe Hilson. Dion shared, “Jabe not only understood the challenges of our microclimate with science-based knowledge but was successful in experimentation and creative wine making endeavors. Together, and with the recent addition of our nephew, Nick Roots, as vineyard manager, we have been able to take our grape growing and wines to the next level.” 

To offer the Slanted Window winery to the public, the Senas in 2018 purchased an old gas station on Harrison Avenue in Franklin that had stood empty for several years. “The SenAmore vineyard and winery tasting room is far from town and very rural [in Tellico] so we thought this would be a much more accessible location,” said Dion, who remembers stopping at the station as a teenager before he ventured out to his family home in Tellico.

“We feel like we created something special, unique, and different,” said Cathy, “not only in the physical structure, which Dion and I envisioned and created with the assistance of Kopp Construction and with a designer from South Florida, Dee Malone, that I have worked with for decades, but in the concept of serving excellent but casual food, featuring local N.C. beer, local N.C. Bourbon and of course, our wines.” 

Slanted Window features a classic automobile theme with parts of cars serving as decorative accessories and the former gas pumping area as the outdoor patio. 

Slanted Window opened in April of 2022. “Franklin has been receptive and appreciative of our efforts,” added Cathy. “We are extremely proud of our wines and what the soil of Tellico Valley in Macon County has produced! And, we are extremely proud of the team and ‘family’ that we have developed over the past year here at the Tasting Station and the customers from near and far that have supported us in this adventure!”

When tasting wines at Slanted Window, visitors will learn about each wine – its idiosyncrasies and pairing suggestions.