Sip away a Southern day on Wadmalaw Island
By Scottie Davis
Special to Bluffton Today
There is nothing more southern than offering a guest a glass of cold ice tea on a hot day. The freshest tea around is from the Charleston Tea Plantation near Charleston, the only tea plantation in America.
Irvin-House Vineyards is also on Wadmalaw. The winery produces some pretty good vino and Firefly Vodka that’ll knock your socks off. A day of sipping tea in the morning and wine and vodka in the afternoon amidst the tranquil beauty of this South Carolina island is nothing short of a day in paradise.
Harvest season at the tea plantation begins in May and one of the first things you spot as you enter the tea plantation is a huge green harvester looming lazily above the verdant rows of hedges that look like they have just been given a crew cut. Tea is produced from the new growth removed from the plant.
This is the perfect time to visit the tea plantation and you can take a trolley tour deep into the tea fields where you learn about the tea plant (kin to the Camellia) and discover why it thrives so well in this area.
After touring the fields, visit the processing factory where the harvested tea leaves are sent and American Classic tea is born. As you go through the plant, an informative video explains how tea gets from the tea leaf to a delicious beverage. After the tour, a glass of American Classic tea awaits you. Remember, sip the tea, as Southern culture dictates.
A few miles from the gates of the Charleston Tea Plantation is the Irvin-House Vineyards where Ann and Jim Irvin planted four varieties of muscadine grapes and produce five wines under the Live Oak label. Wine tastings in the party room are always a treat.
And then, there is the vodka. Scott Newitt, gung-ho about making vodka from muscadine grapes, got together with Jim Irvin and the next thing they knew, they were offering several flavors of vodka through Firefly Distillery (named after the critters that twinkle on a summer’s eve). Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka, which incorporates the tea from the tea plantation, is marketed in all 50 states and is very popular. This writer can attest to the fact that it goes very well with lemonade. Scout’s honor.
One of the premiere events at Irvin-House Vineyards is the Grape Stomp in late summer, just like in “I Love Lucy.” Well, almost.
A day on Wadmalaw Island — at the Charleston Tea Plantation sipping tea in the morning and Irvin-House Vineyards in the afternoon trying out their wines and vodka — has the makings of a memorable Lowcountry adventure.
Scottie Davis is the owner of Weekend Get-Aways on a Tank of Gas. Her next motor coach trip to the Charleston Tea Plantation and Irvin-House Vineyards on Wadmalaw Island is May 19. Check out details at www.scottiedavis.com or call 681-1900
CHARLESTON TEA PLANTATION
617 Maybank Highway; (843) 559-383
Open Wednesday-Saturday: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday: noon to 4 p.m.
6775 Bears Bluff Road; (843) 559-6867; www.charlestonwine.com
Open Thursday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.