River’s Bend Winery and Vineyard, located at 692 Adams Rd. in West Point, is open for business and is producing nine of their own wines that are designed to tempt even the most discerning pallet.
The winery is the result of the careful planning of owner Donald Hughes and his wife Lee and is rapidly becoming the desired destination of many.
“We first looked in LaGrange and wanted to open a winery right on the square. When we talked with the chamber they said, ‘When can you open?’ but since you have to be able to grow something to be a farm winery, the square wasn’t ideal” Donald Hughes said. “We looked around and then we found the perfect place, right here in West Point.”
In order to be able to open a winery and vineyard, federal, state and local regulations must be met. Hughes gives credit to Troup County planner Nancy Seeger for helping him to make sure that all of the required regulations were followed.
“We did everything by the book. We wouldn’t even have started this process if we didn’t have the blessing of Troup County. We are so excited to be here and to be finally open,” Hughes said. “We are on 10 acres of land and right now we have planted 240 blueberry bushes. We want to start using our own berries to produce blueberry wine.”
Hughes is originally from Columbus but has been living and working in Texas for 28 years. It was in Texas where he had gained both his business administration and wine making experience.
“When we started making wine, we started with private parties and as the wine got better we became more popular,” Hughes said.
“We knew that we wanted to return to the area to retire, but knew that we needed to make money to do so,” Hughes said. “Opening River’s Bend was a way to combine our love for wine while making it possible to return to the area we wanted to be in.”
In January 2012, ground was broken for the building of the winery. The establishment officially opened this past Jan. 15th and held their grand opening on Jan. 25th. Their tasting room is able to accommodate up to 30 guests but that number can go up to 75 when the outdoor patio is also used.
The outside of the two-story structure is all cedar while the inside of the tasting room is all pine. The bar, along with the shelving and racks in the tasting room, are all custom-made. The second floor of the building is the couple’s home.
The room behind the bar area, the “clean room,” is where the grape and other fruit juices are fermented, bottled, corked and labeled. For the grape wines, the entire process takes about two months and for the wines that are made from other fruits, the process is about one month. The juices that Hughes uses to make his wine are from Georgia and California.
“All of our grape wines are young wines. People are buying our wines so rapidly we are not able to age them yet,” Hughes said.
Stephanie and Nicholas Burzynski, Alabama residents, had made the trip to West Point to sample River Bend’s wine.
“We travel to a lot of wineries, we enjoy tasting the different wines. So far the strawberry is one of the top ones from here, the strawberry is excellent,” Stephanie Burzynski said.
The strawberry wine that the Burzynskis liked so much is called the Naked Strawberry and is one of the fruit wines that Hughes produces. The other fruit wine is the Naked Peach. Both wines are said to give the consumer “a taste of the South,” and are served at a cool 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
River’s Bend produces four different red wines. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbee and Pinot Noir are available for tastings at either room temperature or slightly chilled at 6o degrees Fahrenheit.
The white wines that are produced at the winery are Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. The white wines are also chilled at 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Right now we own the company but we are leasing to purchase the land from my cousin, James Hughes, our private financier,” Hughes said.
“We are interested in making friends, we are not after customers,” Hughes said. “We want to make friends, people we know who want to come back and enjoy both our wine and the scenery. We have never met a stranger over a glass of wine.”
River’s Bend Winery and Vineyard is open from noon to 8 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. The facility is also available to reserve for a private event.
River’s Bend website is both informative and entertaining. Besides listing the days and hours of the winery’s tasting room, it has a complete list of their wines, along with descriptions, and even offers a bit of humor, a separate section entitled “Things a Wino Would Say.”
For further information, the River’s Bend Winery and Vineyard may be reached by calling 706-645-1181 or by visiting their website at www.riversbendwineryga.com.