WADMALAW ISLAND -- Scott Newitt had this dream for years: He wanted to make his own vodka. He was doing well, working since 2000 as a general manager for a large wine and spirits company along the South Carolina coast after 10 years as a regional manager for Gallo wines.
But he kept coming back to this idea about making liquor. He already had the still -- a 55-gallon stainless steel and copper one built for him years earlier in Cincinnati.
Meanwhile, Jim Irvin, 62 -- Newitt's eventual partner in producing sweet tea vodka -- had spent most of his life as a land developer. His wife died in 1999, and he met his future wife, Ann, in 2000. They were looking for something different to do.
The Irvins saw a brochure for a 50-acre farm on Wadmalaw Island, just south of Charleston. They signed a contract to buy the place the day after they saw it.
"It looked like what I needed at the time," Irvin said.
The couple renovated the buildings on the site and set out to farm the land. After first thinking they would raise free-range chickens, they moved on to wine. Because muscadines are the only winemaking grapes that thrive in South Carolina, that's what they planted. In March 2001, 2,700 vines on 7 1/2 miles of trellises went in the ground.
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