Rotary hears about Still Pond winery and distillery

Published 5:40 pm Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Still Pond vineyard, winery and distillery, located between Leary and Arlington, Georgia, “in the middle of nowhere,” according to owner Charles Cowart, was the subject of the Rotary program this week.

Rotarians learned that it is the only winery/distillery combination business in the Southeastern United States, and Cowart shared the history of how the business was developed.

His father worked on a large cattle farm and planted 180 acres of muscadine grapes in the late 1960s to give farm workers something to do in the winter months. The grapes were harvested in late August and early September and contracted to wineries in Canandaigua, New York.

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Following the death of the property owner, Cowart’s father purchased the land, which then went to his son Charles in 1991.

Cowart said at that point they had to determine a way to keep the effort going, as labor became unaffordable for them in the mid 90’s. As they saw a big demand for wine fruit, they began consulting with the wineries to see the best way to go.

Given the very hot temperatures at harvest time, the grapes deteriorated quickly and quality was an issue.

The Cowarts started putting in processing equipment so that they could harvest and process the grapes at their peak, before shipping. They soon realized they were close to being a winery on their own. In 2003 they opened the winery called Still Pond, located on Hwy 62, and now use 40 percent of their crop in their own process, and 60 percent is processed, chilled, blended and shipped to other wineries.

They are now making 22 different muscadine label wines.

Their latest venture is making distilled liquor using the alcohol from the winery. Cowart said it took two years to get licensed for the distillery and they had to get a law passed before the Department of Revenue would allow it to function.

They now make all kinds of liquors, including a prize- winning Vintner Vodka and moonshine. Coward brought a lineup of spirits they offer for sale.

A process Cowart is very excited about is the possibility of using the grape seeds and skin byproducts from muscadines to produce a pharmaceutical drug that shows promise being used for treatment of Cancer. He said the seeds contain polyphenols and other nutrients and antioxidents that are already being used for vitamins, skin products, etc.

The winery/distillery operates a gift shop, and offers wine tasting Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Still Pond has three on-site festivals each year. April celebrates the bud breaking, August is a grape stomp and December is a Holiday event.

Look for them on Facebook or call 1-800-475-1193 for more information.