Have you tasted wines while watching skeet shooting on the back deck of a cottage that overlooks rolling greens and a small pond?
If you’ve toured the Little River Vineyards at Summer Duck Farm on Highway 73 west, you may have had the chance to do so.
If you take Highway 73 west towards Mt. Gilead, you will pass the white picket fence on the left side of the road, and you will see the sprawling trellis system on either side of the driveway leading to a plantation-style home that sits on a hill, beneath massive old oaks.
The 20 acres of vineyard at Little River were planted in 1999-2000, and originally planted varieties include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Reisling has also been added.
According to the vineyard, these varieties typically have difficulty growing this far south, but the unique and special terrior makes it possible. Terrior is originally a French term in wine, coffee and tea used to denote the special characteristics that the geography, geology and climate of a certain place bestow upon particular produce.
“Grown at the foothills of the Uwharrie Mountain Range, our grapes have a distinctive regional character, which adds to the wine’s personality and intensity,” reads the brochure of the farm’s history. “The combination of chalk, clay and gravel provide a unique influence and earthly flavor to the wines.”
In the early days of the vineyard, grapes were sold to other North Carolina wineries. Little River Vineyard built its winery in 2008. In addition to grape wines, they also produce strawberry wines, peach wines, blackberry and blueberry wines. These fruit wines are sold under the label Crawdad Creek. Grape harvest typically begins in August and goes through September, and harvest happens by hand. According to the winery, from harvest to barrel no pumps or hoses are used. Everything is gravity-fed. The wine ages in French oak barrels which are charred on the inside.
“Over the years we have made wine for friends and family but in 2008 decided to move into commercial wine-making. We have harvested grapes here for 10 years and experience tells me that the quality of grapes will lead to premium wines assuming that we have great winemakers,” said John Georgius, vineyard and winery owner. According to the Richmond County Historical Society, Georgius has traveled extensively to prominent wine regions.
Georgius named the property Summer Duck Farm. It is located between Little River and Buffalo Creek.
The farm dates back to the 1850s. A graveyard on the property dates to the late 1830s. At that time, it was the Powell-Brookshire Farm, with 1,200 acres.
A large hay and livestock barn stands on the spot it was first built in 1937. The Corn Crib in the center of the farm was built in the early 1870s. In 1991, the farm containing 333 acres was sold to John Georgius, president of First Union Bank, according to the Richmond County Historical Society, who took a tour of the vineyard on Saturday in place of its monthly regular meeting.
“The wine is great,” exclaimed Susan McInnis, who sampled a variety of wines at the tasting room.
The farm includes an automatic sporting clay course, and private hunts for quail and duck are held throughout the season. The grounds maintain a kennel, with English Setters, German Short-haired Pointers and Labrador Retrievers.
Another feature of the winery is the mobile tasting room, a large RV that is used to tour and sell wines. The outside of the tour bus is black and the logo of the winery is printed on the side. Inside, the bus looks nothing like a bus. Subdued lighting and dark marble accompany wooden wine racks along the walls, and bars stand ready to serve wine to visitors.
One staff member said during the tour that the winery plans to tour with the bus, starting in the Florida Keys this summer and heading up the east coast selling wines at a variety of events.
For a list of all the events at which Little River wine will be sold, visit its website at www.littleriverwines.com.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.