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Daylilies, Olives & Wine

Traveling the Georgia Grown Trail (part one). 
by Erin Z. Bass

Many of you may remember our travels through South Georgia last month. Themed “Treasure Hunting With a Twist,” the tour was all about discovering the state’s homegrown products, businesses and people. The first leg, from Nashville to Lakeland and Sparks, packed in three agricultural gems that make the Southern part of the state so unique.

Not only is Georgia growing grapes, but it’s the first state east of the Mississippi River since the 1800s to grow olives. Pair that with a garden of more than 1,200 varieties of daylilies, and you may find yourself wanting to set up shop and grow something of your own.

Horse Creek Winery is one of several in the area making wine from muscadine grapes. Serious about producing award-winning wines (their Winnersville White beat out a California wine in a Sonoma competition), Owners Ed and Andrea Perry offer a serious tasting at their vineyard on Hwy. 76 West. Even those who turn their noses up at muscadine wine may be surprised at the taste of some of these wines with equine-inspired names like Ponderosa Gold, Big Red and Jockey. (Watch the video below to find out more about how Ed Perry names his wines.) Horse Creek also makes several wines that are ready to hit the beach, like Florida Joe, a semisweet blend, and Beach Party watermelon-table wine.

If muscadine wines aren’t your thing, there’s always Horse Creek’s muscadine slushie. The winery is becoming known for its frozen concoction, a blend of red and white wine that’s hard to stop drinking after just one glass. Tastings are offered Wednesday through Saturday from 1-6 p.m., and Horse Creek also has a tasting room off I-75 in Sparks that offers tastings Thursday through Sunday.

But if you want to get a glimpse of Georgia Olive Farms‘ Lakeland orchard, you’d better put down the slushie. Owned by brothers Jason, a state representative, and Sam Shaw, and their cousin, Kevin Shaw, the farm is now the leading East Coast producer of its own brand of oil, along with olive trees. Tours aren’t available yet, but you can view the orchard and olive trees on Hwy. 221, about 4 miles northeast of Lakeland. Olive trees and oil are also available for purchase on their website, or you can check Georgia Olive Farms’ Facebook page to find out where they’ll be selling the oil around the state.

As an added bonus, Kevin Shaw’s wife, Gayla, also makes grits, so look for bags of Gayla’s Grits around the state. They taste great topped with a dollop of bright green Georgia olive oil. (Jason (left) and Kevin are pictured above.)

If you feel the need to take home something of your own to grow right away, head over to Country Lane Daylilies, located just around the corner from Horse Creek’s tasting room in Sparks. (Take exit 41 off I-75 and then take Roundtree Bridge Road and keep an eye out for the Country Lane sign and gravel road to the right.) Husband and wife Jo and Wayne Taunton have been hybridizing and growing their own daylilies for several years. They’ve even begun growing their own seedlings each year in hopes of registering their own special creations like Sparks October Sunset and Georgia Southern Hospitality.

The brightly colored flowers fill their back yard, and Wayne is happy to take visitors through the rows. If you call ahead (229-549-8889), Jo may even have some homemade lemonade and peanut brittle for you.

That completes part one of our Georgia Grown Tour. Stay tuned for parts two and three on future Tuesdays. For lodging options, check out Shadow Oak Plantation in Nashville or Gin Creek in Hartsfield.

All photos by Deep South Magazine. 

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