It’s hard to know where to start when you come across something as unique and special as Farmer’s Daughter Vineyards.
The story behind this winery and vineyard starts three generations ago in Mitchell County, Georgia with cotton and peanut crops. These crops make sense because we are talking about the South here – the deep South. Approximately 55 miles, as the crow flies from the Gulf of Mexico. And while it is a farming area with all kind of crops, the only grapes you will find in the area are Muscadine. Unless you happen to be standing in the Farmer’s Daughter Vineyards that is.
So, how did husband and wife, Clayton and Renee Moss decide to plant grape vines, build a winery and make wine? It might be one of those when life gives you lemons you make lemonade stories, but in this case, Clayton and Renee were also well-equipped with the necessary ingredients to give it go.
Clayton is a third generation farmer, and it just so happens that he studied alternative southern crops as part of his Ag/Econ degree from the University of Kentucky. When a plot of land with pine trees on the farm became infested with beetles, the trees had to go. Clayton determined that the soil was a quality sandy loam with good drainage which gave them a lot options for planting. They narrowed it down to olives, blueberries or wine grapes. They decided on wine grapes and as the saying goes, the rest is quickly becoming history.
All of the vines planted at their vineyard are French-American hybrid wine grape vines (see GEEK FACTOR footnote). The vines were planted in the Spring of 2014, the winery was built in 2015 and in 2016 the first wines were bottled. The whirlwind of success the couple has experienced in the it’s short time is pretty phenomenal.
So, you have this great wine, but you have to let people know about it – especially when what you’ve done hasn’t really been done before. This is where Renee’s skill set comes in. With a degree in marketing and corporate branding, she has created a brand that is pure genius. The name Farmer’s Daughter is in honor of the couple’s own daughter, and almost all of the wine names were inspired by her. If you have a daughter, or you are a daughter, or you know and love a daughter, names like Bombshell, Knockout and Hellraiser will surely bring a smile to your face.
In only their third vintage, the wines have garnered attention from near and far, winning top honors in international competitions. You can see from the photo, they are going to need a bigger shelf to display the medals. See a complete list of awards here.
When we visited the Tasting Room in Thomasville, they had just released their newest wine, a semi-sweet Rosé called, Saltwater Gypsy, named in collaboration with country music artist Aubrey Wollett’s song of the same name. Although it is semi-sweet this one tasted “drier” to me than the dry Rosé, Sand Angel. Just goes to show you, everyone’s palate and perception is different. If you think semi-sweet is not your cup of tea, I would recommend at least having a taste of this one, I think you’ll be surprised. Either way, no beach trip should be complete without one of these wines and it is distributed in Florida so you may be able to find it on a beach vacation without a detour to Thomasville.
The rest of the wine lineup includes 5 wines. Two reds: Heartbreaker and Knockout. Heartbreaker is a big, bold style, while Knockout is a lighter style. Three whites: Bombshell (notes of pear, honey and citrus), Troublemaker is light and crisp (notes citrus and melon), and Hellraiser which is another semi-sweet wine that is well balanced by acidity. All three are easy drinking, magically disappears kind of wines.
The tasting room is beautiful and offers live music with some pretty notable performers. The space is warm and welcoming and is a nice place to hang out and have a glass of wine and one of their delicious cheese, and charcuterie options. The space was hopping on the Sunday afternoon that we stopped by.
I realize Thomasville, Georgia might be a bit out of the way for most folks. But, the Farmer’s Daughter is only one reason to visit this amazing small southern town. You will find local cheese maker Sweet Grass Dairy, who not only has a cheese shop but a full service restaurant with delicious local options. There is a coffee shop, a plethora of beautiful boutiques and historic, small town scenery that make it worth a little detour to if you are ever driving through south Georgia. Food and Wine magazine called it one of the best small food towns, read the article here. Wine Enthusiast got in on the action too – read that article here.
If the only thing that excites you is a classic Burgundy or a Napa Cab, then I guess you might not be excited about these wines. But you know what? You’re not only missing out on great wine, you’re missing out on an opportunity to experience something quite special. Clayton and Renee Moss are farmers, grape growers, wine makers and entrepreneurs. But they are also visionaries, who have pioneered a new opportunity in a place where no one else had attempted to do so before. Cheers to making great wine and making history.
GEEK FACTOR: The French American hybrid vines make this work because they are resistant to Pierce’s Disease – bacteria spread by inspect that wipes out vitis vinifera vines in the southern US. The hybrids were developed at the University of Florida and the University of Texas specifically for hot climates. Read more about Pierce’s Disease and wines grapes here. So, just like the University of Minnesota is integral in developing cold climate grapes, these universities are doing the same for warm growing regions. You can read more about the specific grapes grown at Farmers Daughter by clicking on these links: Blanc du Bois, Lenoir, and Lomanto.