Written by David Shivers
Still Pond Vineyard and Winery sounds like it might take its name from its tranquil country setting, but that’s not where the title originated, said second-generation owner Charles Cowart.
Cowart told the Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County on August 6 that the name is a nod to the property’s long-ago reputation for hosting illegal moonshine stills, a practice that started during the Civil War with the undocumented distilling of peach brandy for soldiers. Cowart noted the early “distribution system,” in which nearby property owners could designate a tree stump. Money would be left on the stump and in turn it would disappear, to be “magically” replaced by a quantity of illicit homebrew.
Still Pond plans early next year to return to its distilling roots. Cowart said the winery is working with the state to get appropriate licensing, after which Still Pond will produce vodka initially before expanding to other distilled spirits.
The vineyard and winery will simultaneously continue growth and production for its 11 award-winning muscadine wines. There are 18 wine varieties in all, including its Farmhouse and Notchaway labels, and others such as Confederate Peach, Savannah River Red, and Blackberry Bliss. In addition to supplying its own needs, Still Pond supplies fresh muscadine juice to other wineries across the southeastern U.S.
Still Pond’s grape production was started in the 1960s by Charles Cowart’s father to enable his farmworkers to have work in the wintertime. Upon the elder Cowart’s death in 1991, the son returned to take over managing the farm and vineyard. It remains a family operation, with the third generation now involved, and the “fourth generation is on the way,” said Cowart. Located off GA Highway 62, on Still Pond Road between Leary and Arlington, the property incorporates 180 acres.
The winery began operating in 2003, said Cowart, and its first year produced 2,000 gallons. In 2011 the total grew to more than 20,000 gallons, he said. In an average year the vineyard grows 700 tons of grapes and supplies 100,000 gallons of wine/juice to the muscadine wine industry.
Still Pond hosts three festivals annually as well as other special events. Just concluded was the very-successful late-summer Grape Stomp Festival. December will bring the Holiday Festival and the first Saturday next April will witness the “Bud Break Bash” Spring Wine Festival. The vineyard tasting room is also open to visitors Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and tours of the grape-processing facility are available.
A future profitable line of revenue for Still Pond is expected to result from research on chemical antioxidant compounds found in grape skins and seeds that are very beneficial to health. According to Cowart, muscadine grapes can contain up to 40 times more of these compounds than other grape varieties.