Irvin-House Vineyards goes on market as Firefly plans move downtown

Irvin-House annually invited guests to stomp grapes. (Marie Rodriguez)

In advance of relocating its spirits-making operation closer to downtown, Firefly Distillery is shedding its sister winery.

Ann and Jim Irvin in 2001 purchased property on Wadmalaw Island and planted 11 acres of muscadine grapes. Irvin-House Vineyards, which hosts a series of annual grape-related events, last year produced about 3200 cases of wine and welcomed 40,000 visitors.

Asked if she expects to find a buyer who will maintain the winery, Ann Irvin said, “You know, I would think so, because this is such a tourist attraction, being on Wadmalaw with the tea plantation. There is no place like this in South Carolina”

But Wadmalaw is too far from Charleston for Firefly to fully take advantage of the city’s flourishing liquor tourism industry, so the distillery that popularized sweet tea vodka is packing up. Irvin declined to reveal exactly where the new facility will be located, but said she and her husband are also moving to Charleston.

“We’re 66 and 68,” Irvin said. “We’re moving on with our life, and we just can’t handle the vineyard.”

According to a story published in the Charleston Regional Business Journal after Irvin shared preliminary plans with The Post and Courier, the distillery is headed to 17 acres on Azalea Drive. It will be housed in a new complex called “The Bend,” along with Palmetto Brewing Co., a restaurant and performance space. The Bend is projected to open in late 2016 or early 2017.

The 50 acres listed for sale at $1.6 million include the Irvins’ home; various outbuildings and open pastures. Irvin recently reviewed photographs of the property that her son shot with a drone-mounted camera, and was struck by the scope of improvements her family had made to it. She recalled riding through the future vineyard on a tractor.

“We did everything,” she said. “So when I look back over it, it’s bittersweet. I would hope somebody would love it as much as we have.”

Irvin added, “It’s been fun. But you know what? It can be fun for someone else.”