Libations Day! Doesn’t that sound delicious? Tasted singly, or together even better. This is another one of those places on our want to stop at list and we’ve been placing check marks left and right this year.
First, we needed a vehicle and thank you Enterprise for the upgrade to a comfy Honda 4-door Civic with a very modern dashboard. Brent was our chauffeur and gave us the low-down (we are in the low country after all) on good places to eat in West Ashley (as in west of the Ashley River). We’d already made our dinner choice for Friday; California Dreamin’ on the water overlooking the Ashley River. Three years ago we couldn’t get enough of their warm, dripping with honey croissants and we needed a fix one last time. Funny how the first time with most any place is always the best; why is that Captain Ron? Same this time, but we did enjoy seeing the prom goers in their gowns and tuxes. This is not 1976 for sure! The girls’ gowns are expensive and well suited for Oscar night and the boys with their coordinated vests, make quite the statement. Not that I didn’t love my prom dress, but “his” light blue tux- oh gag me awful!
Saturday morning we headed out, driving from John’s Island south to Wadmalaw Island; our first stop, The Charleston Tea Plantation. What’s that you say? Tea grown in America? Yes Ma’am even though tea is not supposed to grow here the plantation has been growing tea for over 50 years. The only tea growing/producing plantation in North America, plus you can tour the grounds, the unexpectedly small production room, taste hot and cold teas and purchase most any tea accessory.
The tea bushes grow close together and are approx. 4’x3’ wide.
Starting very soon, the new top shoots will be harvested by a very unique machine and the tea making will begin. The shoots get harvested 6- 8 times before the end of the season in early October. My favorite tea here is the Governor Gray; easy on the bergamot and smooth sippin’.
The tea plantation is the prefect morning stop before moving on to the “good stuff”; the wine offerings of Irvin-House and their new skyrocketing venture, Firefly Distillery, the primary reason for our visit.
Does the name Firefly ring a bell in that I’ve mentioned it more than once? Remember the picture taken in Hope Town, Abaco at Firefly Resort? Yes, the same owners. Must be a successful business in South Carolina, not to mention that Jim and Ann retired early and started the vineyard in 2001.
The tasting rooms are situated across from each other with a patio in between for relaxing and/or listening to the live music on Sippin’Saturdays. Saving the best for last we began by joining the next wine tasting which appears to be held in their small production room.
Irvin-House is Charleston’s only domestic winery with working vineyards, not a fluff place but real honest-to-goodness grape growing and wine producing.
The Irvins grow muscadine grapes, a fruit native to the Southeast, and produce authentic muscadine wine (with a modern twist), creating five labels from four varieties of grapes. We knew going in that we’d find the wines too sweet for our taste and sure enough three were on the sweeter side but two were less so. Their Tara Gold is a semi-dry, similar to Pinot Grigio and the Mullet Hall Red is a dry table wine that won the 2005 Silver Medal at the Hilton Head Wine Festival. In between the five wine tastings, we munched on popcorn, watched a short “history-of” video and listened attentively to our tasting guide. Walked out with our souvenir glasses and a bottle of Mullet Hall. All wines are $12 and except for a handful of shops in South Carolina (Charleston mostly) you can only buy at the vineyard. Producing 2,500 cases a year is pretty small-scale but enough to be in business.
Finally, the piece de resistance, the culmination of our tasting day; Firefly Distillery and its 16 offerings! Ok, so we could only select 6 to try but that was fine. We checked off many of the same, but differed on a few. Several choices can only be purchased at the distillery ( Southern Lemonade Vodka, Mint Tea Vodka ) and they are in fact produced on site. Several others (two rums and three liqueurs) are only sold in South Carolina and are produced on Wadmalaw Island as well. The more well-known delight, Sweet Tea Vodka and the five Moonshines are widely available and are bottled in Kentucky. Doesn’t take the brightest fly in the tasting room to figure out if you love certain bottles, better get ’em here and now!
Here’s an interesting tidbit (although perhaps only to us). We’d recently bought a 1.5 liter bottle of Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka and with it was a refund card expiring the next day. Phew. So now you know that Firefly’s home is on Wadmalaw Island. I’d readied the form to mail in (hey it was $7) figuring we’d find a mailbox in our Charleston travels. We did better.
Our final stop for the day, and one we nearly forgot, was to gape at the spectacular Angel Oak, a live oak figured to be over 300 years old. Words and photographs cannot adequately describe this sprawling, gigantic tree; a forest unto itself. We’ve never seen anything like it; truly amazing. Imagine the Swiss Family Robinson finding this tree 🙂
A small cabin on the property houses a gift shop and on the screened-in porch we found a woman who along with her sister and mom produce an extensive collection of sweetgrass baskets; now I have one.