We were blessed with spectacular sunrises each morning during our weeklong adventure on Edisto Island. At the start of our week, the morning sky was cloudless with a brilliant ribbon of color along the horizon.
Our second day on the South Carolina coast we decided to take a road trip to Wadmalaw Island to engage in a wine tasting at the Deep Water Vineyard. Started in 2001 and under new management since 2015, the vineyard and winery features 5 unique wines made from 4 varieties of muscadine grapes – a true native grape to the southeastern United States. The winery also partners with a California vineyard to expand their wine selection by importing grapes from that region to create another half dozen or so special blends.
On 48 acres of low-country land, they grow and bottle their wine – selling their product at local venues and shipping all over the United States. Each year they host four seasonal festivals. In August, the Grape Stomp Festival kicks off with a Lucille Ball character contest and features the seasonal Have a Ball, Lucille strawberry wine. We tasted this wine and ended up purchasing a bottle to share later on at the beach house. I have to admit it I’m not much for sweet wine but it was darned tasty!! 🙂
The grounds of the winery are typical of the low-country landscape and inviting. Self-guided tours through the vineyard are offered as well as places to sit, relax and/or enjoy a picnic.
After leaving the winery, our designated driver (who limited her wine tasting dramatically) drove us to another Wadmalaw Island attraction – the Charleston Tea Garden – the only large-scale tea farm in North America. The first successful U.S. propagation and production of tea bushes – Camillia sinensis – took place in Summerville, SC in 1888 and was known as the Pinehurst Tea Plantation. In 1915, the operation ceased and the plants grew wild until 1963 when the tea bushes were transplanted to an experimental research farm on Wadmalaw Island. William Hall purchased the research farm in 1987 and converted the whole operation to a commercial enterprise and the Charleston Tea Plantation was established. Partnering with the Bigelow family in 2003, the farm is thriving – offering free tours of the tea making plant and grounds. The on-site gift shop sells the various varieties of black and green teas produced here as well as offering free tastings. According to the website, in 2020, the company changed the name to the Charleston Tea Garden – in an effort to recognize the negative connotation that the word “plantation” evokes in the south.
I’m also impressed by the fact that the company is environmentally sensitive and uses no pesticides. They have also developed an irrigation system that enables them to “rely solely on rain and pond water to hydrate our young tea plants.” The Covid-19 friendly video tour of the plant was short but very informative.
During the video tour, I learned there are about 5-6 flushes of new growth each season on the tea bushes. It is this new growth that is harvested for tea production. A customized tractor was made specifically for this purpose. It travels down the rows of tea bushes, cutting off the new growth and depositing it into a hopper for transport back to the plant – creating the perfectly pruned “flat-topped” bushes seen in the background.
It was a great day exploring the low-country south of Charleston followed by a relaxing evening gazing out over the ocean on our beachfront porch!