These South Georgia vineyards are drawing notice for their still and sparkling wines made from sweet Georgia Muscadines. Also featured are recommendations from wine columnist and educator Jane Garvey, who is currently and instructor at Atlanta Wine School.
Chesser Island Winery
The Okefenokee Swamp may seem an unlikely place to find wine in general, much less French-style sparkling wines. But here at their Folkston winery, Tracy and Melinda Chesser produce noteworthy sparkling wines made from blueberries, blackberries, and muscadines, using the same techniques (méthode champenoise) employed to make French champagne. Later this year, they plan to release a rosé-brut sparkling wine (Foxfire Cuvee Rouge) as well as a Sauvignon Blanc–style wine, which they claim is made from the first Blanc du Bois grapes harvested in Georgia.
Wines offered: (Sparkling) brut, sec, and demi-sec, produced from 100 percent Georgia-grown grapes and other fruits; (still) red and rosé table wines, a dessert/port wine
Jane Garvey recommends: Billy Bowlegs Blue
Noted: Chesser’s Okefenokee Brut and Billy Bowlegs Blue (both sparkling wines) named “wines of distinction” at 2007 Georgia Trend wine tasting; Suwanee Tawnee named “wine of distinction” at 2008 Georgia Trend wine tasting.
Free tastings offered Saturdays. 3940 Chesser Lane, Folkston, 912-496-2916, chesserislandwinery.com
Meinhardt Vineyards & Winery
The Meinhardt family planted this southeast Georgia muscadine vineyard eleven years ago; today, they bottle 10,000 to 15,000 cases a year. At press time, Meinhardt wines were available only at Sam’s Clubs and Wal-Mart stores in southeast Georgia (in addition to their two retail stores); however, owner/winemaker Ken Meinhardt says he plans to expand into the Atlanta market by end of the year.
Wines offered: Muscadine, available in fifteen varietals, including a dessert wine, and in blackberry, peach, and plum blends.
Jane Garvey recommends:Lotts Creek Red Georgia Muscadine, $20. “Lovely orange peel notes; 18 percent alcohol. Chill and serve with Flat Creek Lodge’s Colby cheese or Sweet Grass Dairy’s Thomasville Tome and toasted, spiced Georgia pecans.”
Noted: The Lotts Creek Red Georgia Muscadine, a port-style wine, was the runner-up in the wine category in the 2008 Flavor of Georgia competition, sponsored by the Center for Agribusiness & Economic Development.
Free tastings (for up to five wines; $5 for five more) offered Tuesday–Saturday. 305 Kennedy Pond Road, Statesboro, 912-839-2458; another location in Savannah’s City Market, 306 West St. Julian Street, meinhardtvineyards.com
Still Pond Vineyard
This southwest Georgia vineyard and winery, located thirty miles south of Albany, was founded in 1968. Today, it is owned and operated by the Cowart family, who last year produced 4,000 cases of premium Muscadine wine here. In 2007, they released the first batch of their Late Harvest Noble, which is similar to a port wine.
Varieties offered: Eleven varietals of Muscadine, including Carlos, Noble, and Magnolia
Wines offered: Notchaway Red, Notchaway White, Late Harvest Noble
Jane Garvey recommends: Still Pond Gold, $15. “Estate-grown Muscadine; a golden, full-bodied sweet dessert wine.”
Noted: Notchaway Red named one of top ten wines of distinction at 2007 Georgia Trend wine tasting; received gold award at 2007 Wines of the South Competition.
Free tours and tastings offered Monday–Saturday. 1575 Still Pond Road, Arlington, 800-475-1193, stillpond.com
Photograph Courtesy Still Pond Vineyard