South Carolina wines are flavored by the native muscadine and scuppernong grapes - sweet, thick-skinned varietals - that are so prevalent here. Until the past 30 or so years, wine-making was largely a hobby, something your odd uncle did in the basement.
But now vineyards are making the native wine as well as importing bases of other varietals and processing them in their own wineries to put a South Carolina flavor on your old favorite drink.
While our vintages have never rivaled anything out of Napa Valley, our vineyards offer guests the opportunity to meet the winemakers personally, hear their stories, have dinner, listen to music and learn all about the process of making wine.
Here are a few of our favorites:
Created on an old family tobacco farm, La Belle Amie Vineyard in Little River is an operating vineyard that is open to visitors. The Bellamy family has been on the land since the 1800s and has been growing grapes and making wine for almost a century. It has only been in the last 25 or so years that the wine was available for sale. Visitors can sample the vineyard's offerings in the tasting room, along with gourmet food, or you can bring your food and have a picnic on the grounds. A gift shop sells wine and accessories. But the big draw are the monthly festivals hosted at La Belle Amie. Visit the website for a complete list of events and live music performances. Hours vary by season.
Williams Muscadine Vineyard and Farm in Nesmith also hosts a festival - the annual Muscadine Festival - celebrating the grape that grows so abundantly in South Carolina and is responsible for the sweetness of our wines. David Williams, 2010 Agriculturalist of the Year and owner of the farm, invites you to step back in history to see what life was like for African-American farmers. There's the 80-year-old farmhouse that once was gave shelter to 20 family members. Chickens, peacocks and ducks mingle with visitors who can sift flour, churn butter and wash clothes - the old-fashioned way with lye soap, a washboard and black wash pot. The 5-acre vineyard is filled with some of the best muscadines you'll ever taste. Tours include an animal farm tour, old farm tools and kitchen utensil demonstrations, story time for the youngsters and a visit to the vineyard. Muscadine season hits its peak in mid-August to mid-September with the annual Muscadine Festival on Labor Day weekend.
Enoree River Vineyards and Winery in Newberry County is evidence that muscadines can make a good-tasting wine. Richard and Laura LaBarre live on the property and planted the rows of Noble (red) and Carlos (white) grapevines in 2006, adding the Herbmont and Lenoir vines three years later. The LaBarres make wines from their own grapes as well as bringing in juice from Italy and Washington State to bottle here. Their fruit varieties include cranberry for Christmas. You can stop by for a tasting (very small pours of all the wines they offer to see what you like) or rent the whole place out for a party. Large groups should call ahead for reservations.
Located in Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach, Carolina Vineyards and Winery has been in business since 1999 with vineyards in Chester. Tim and Carrie Walker began as hobbyists and now produce and sell varietals and sweet fruit-based wines, including merlot, chardonnay, elderberry, peach and blueberry. Carolina Vineyards and Winery's tasting room offers a sampling of any seven of its wines for only $4. If you find something you like, but don't want to have to carry it home, you can have shipped or order your favorites online.
Deep Water Vineyard on Wadmalaw Island is a 48-acre winery and vineyard with something for everyone. The vineyard offers walking trails, a garden, a large pond, the winery, a gift shop and Firefly distillery. You can spend a few hours or a full day. Picnicking is welcome, and pets can come as long as they are leashed. The winery is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday with many varieties available for tasting.
Hyman Vineyards in Florence has been growing grapes since 2005 and making wines, jams, jellies, salsa, barbecue sauce and juices since 2007. Hyman Vineyards also makes dietary supplements and beauty products with grape and raspberry seeds as well as offering fresh produce.
Victoria Valley Vineyards welcomes guests to a seat at the table - Table Rock that is. Nestled in the valley at the foot of Table Rock in Cleveland, the vineyard offers a full lunch menu or a small-plate and dessert menu for after lunch. Visitors can stroll through the 47-acre vineyard modeled after European vineyards. Victoria Valley also has a tasting room and gift shop where you are sure to find something drinkable in your taste.
City Scape Winery in Pelzer was purchased in 2015 by Josh and Deb Jones, who had been hobbyist winemakers for years before the opportunity to buy City Scape came up. They so love making wine that they have created a U-Vent product to help learn to make wine through hands-on experience. After three or four visits to the winery, over a month or so, you will leave with about 30 bottles of wine you crafted yourself. Visitors to the winery can stroll through the vineyards, meet the "maintenance crew" - a team of goats - and sample some of the winery's offerings in the tasting room.