Fresh Off the Vine
Tucked beneath webs of Spanish moss down a narrow dirt road on rustic and charming Wadmalaw Island, you’ll find Charleston’s only winery, Deep Water Vineyard. When owners Andrea and Jesse Freiwald packed their Minnesota home in 2012 to spread their roots in Mt. Pleasant, they never anticipated becoming part of this venture. “The idea of owning a vineyard was always something in our minds, but never in South Carolina,” Andrea claims. Even in 2015 when their Minnesota friends called them up to tell them that the Deep Water property (formerly known as Irvin House Vineyard) was for sale, the couple protested. “We just made every excuse why we couldn’t do it,” she continues, “Too expensive, too far away, we have young kids.” Then their friends did what any good friends would do: they dared them to go talk to the owners. “Everything just kind of fell into place after that,” she says.
The 48-acre property is home to the only species of grapes native to North America— muscadine. A unique crop that grows in 150 varieties, muscadine does particularly well in the hot, humid climate of the Southeast and is a rarity amongst winemakers. The average domestic vino, especially those produced in California, is made from European viniferous grapes. Often wines produced with muscadine are syrupy-sweet because of an excessive addition of sugar, but the Freiwalds wanted to create a wine that would allow the natural taste of the grapes to stand on its own, so they removed much of that sugar from the fermentation process. Depending on the variety, muscadine grapes can possess a sweet-yet-tart, and sometimes almost spicy, flavor with a thick skin that creates a definite crunch. “It has a nostalgic element to it,” says Andrea. “The taste stirs up feelings of picking wild muscadines in your grandmother’s backyard. Even if you’ve never actually done that.”
Four varieties grow at Deep Water Vineyard to produce five stand-alone wines—two reds, two whites, and one blend—but the couple also imports a Chardonnay and Cabernet from the Lodi, California, area to enhance their own offerings with unexpected blends. The Chardonnay is bourbon barrel-aged, creating quite a deviation from the traditional practice of oak-aging red wine, and blended with one of their muscadine variety. The Cab is similarly infused with a particularly sweet version of muscadine wine, spawning a surprising off-dry sweetness that one doesn’t typically expect from a Cabernet. The Chardonnay and Cab are also offered as stand-alones for a total of nine available varieties, but Andrea hopes to add a rosé and possibly a sparkling peach prosecco in the near future.
“All of our varieties are good porch-drinking wines. We serve them chilled, even the reds, because we’re in the South and everything is better chilled,” chuckles Andrea.
The wines are not only refreshing and unique in their taste, but also boast a long list of health benefits. The widespread notion that red wine is good for your heart comes to fruition here at Deep Water. According to the National Institutes of Health, muscadine grapes contain six to seven times more resveratrol, an antioxidant promoting cardiovascular health, than other red wine varieties. It’s also known to aid in the prevention of cancerous cell formation. “Plus, it’s native to the area,” says Andrea, “Naturally, having something that’s native is better for your health. That’s why you’re only supposed to eat local honey.” Even Deep Water’s white wines lay claim some of these health benefits.
For now, the family of five is happily enjoying life on the farm. Jesse mans the day-to-day duties of overseeing the wine production and general maintenance of the property while Andrea takes a more front-of-house role with marketing and leading the $5 wine tastings. She also runs her own robotics company remotely (if you’ve ever taken advantage of Amazon Prime’s two-day shipping, you’ve likely utilized her business’s service). And their three children, Aiden (age 10), and twins Liam and Owen (age 7), love to spend their days running around the property and caring for the farm animals—which include a cow, a goat, three pigs, countless chickens, dozens of rabbits, two dogs and a cat. In their free time, the family often relishes outdoor activities on the island like crabbing, fishing and bonfires.
Though they’ve been tending the vineyard for just under two years, the couple has big plans for the future. “I would love to open up a tasting room in Summerville. We get a lot of visitors from that area, and I think the downtown strip would be perfect,” tells Andrea. Firefly vodka distillery also sits on their property, but once the company relocates to North Charleston sometime next year, the Freiwalds are hoping the county will allow them to fill that space with their own brewery. Cheers to that!