Visit River's Bend Winery and Vineyard in West Point

dminty@ledger-enquirer.comMay 29, 2013 

Donald and Lee Hughes began dreaming about opening their own winery years ago but the dream became a reality in January of this year when River's Bend Winery and Vineyard opened in West Point.

"We had to find a way to pay for all the wine we drank," Don joked.

While living in Lee's native Texas, the couple spent many weekends touring vineyards and learning about wine.

Don discovered he had a knack for making wine and when he retired from his job as general manager of a Texas food distribution company he decided to explore the business side of wine-making.

"It's been a learning process," Don said, noting that a number of federal, state and local licensing requirements must be meet before wine can be made for distribution.

Upon retirement, the couple also wanted to move closer to Don's family in Columbus.

They discovered an ideal winery and vineyard property in West Point and began working with Troup County officials on how to start the business.

The Hughes import juice from grapes grown in California vineyards to make wines such as cabernet sauvignon, malbec, merlot, pinot noir, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. Strawberry and peach wines are made with Georgia-grown fruit.

The couple planted blueberry bushes this spring and are excited to experiment with blueberry wines in a few years when the plants reach maturity.

"We weren't farmers but we became farmers," Don said.

Don eager to grow his own grapes and wonders if he can successfully grow more than Georgia's famed Muscadine grape.

Lee jokes that her favorite part of wine-making is the tasting part while Don has discovered a passion for the science of wine.

"All that chemistry you had to take in college or high school when you thought 'When will I ever use? I don't even know why I have to take this.' Well, I use it now," Don said.

Fermentation, settling and bottling are done at River's Bend Winery.

It's a family affair with Don's siblings and their children pitching in to help prepare the wine for drinking.

"They'll work for wine," Don joked.

Most of River Bend's wines sell for $17.95, with fruit wines at $14.95.

In the summertime, the peach and strawberry wines would be refreshing on a hot day, Don said.

He also recommends the Chardonnay and the Sauvignon Blanc for sipping on the porch.

The winery has indoor and outdoor tables where guests can relax with a tasting (three 2-ounce pours for $5 or five 2-ounce pours for $7). For $11, guests can get five tastes and a signature glass with River Bend's logo.

They winery also hosts private parties and events.

This month, Ladies Night Out dates are June 13 and June 27. Women get a two-for-one $5 tasting and 20 percent off bottles, glasses and cheese platters.

On Couples Nights (5-8 p.m. June 7 and June 21) a glass of wine costs $3.

Each Tuesday, from noon to 8 p.m., is Two-for Tuesday where two glasses of wine cost the usual price of one.

The Hughes welcome wine novices and aficionados and encourage guests to sip their wine while enjoying the relaxing West Point scenery.

"We don't get tired of the view," Donald said.

River's Bend Winery And Vineyard

When: The tasting room is open noon-8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday

Where: 692 Adams Road in West Point, GA.

Details: 706-645-1181



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