When Jimmy Baswell told his wife the time to launch the dream had come, she was on board and ready.
“I’ve always supported him starting a winery,” said Elaine Baswell. “It’s been a dream of ours for a long time, and it finally came true.”
The testament to that is a neat and simple sign at 535 Mac Davis Road in Lowndes County announcing Marcella’s Winery, LLC. The Baswells, both retired, named their venture after Jimmy’s mother.
Jimmy explained, “My son talked me into trying to start a winery, and my mom, Marcella Jaynes Martin, gave me the land to grow the muscadines and start the actual winery, if it ever got that far.”
It did, but it took time. Marcella bought her son books to study, and he invested about 10 years of trial and error into learning the process from scratch, trying to find a taste he enjoyed sipping himself enough to actually produce it by the bottle.
“There was a lot of trial and error. We gave away thousands of dollars worth of wine before I found something I really liked,” he shared.
The Baswells started with any fruits that friends had growing in their yards they weren’t using. In 2008, they planted the five varieties of muscadines that they are making wine from now. Since September 2020, the enterprise has found its stride and grown from a small shed at the house to taking over the house. Quite literally, the house.
In a year interrupted by COVID-19, the winery process has expanded into the house, where a large wrap-around porch with good air circulation has allowed the enterprise to grow. Jimmy and Elaine are making use of a camper.
The big porch inspired a popular marketing tool: music nights at the winery. Live music draws friends together for wine tastings complete with charcuterie plates of cheese, crackers and olives. Social occasions from couples’ nights to engagement celebrations draw crowds.
“I discovered I really liked people coming out,” Jimmy said.
Much of the Baswells’ funds have gone back into buying tanks and other needed equipment this year while their daily conversations revolve around varieties such as Carlos, Noble, Southland and Scarlet, and the blueberry wine expected in August and blackberries are eagerly anticipated, too.
“We’ll do some pear wine, and we bought 12 elderberry trees, but it’ll be about three years before they’ll be producing,” said Jimmy, thinking ahead. He hopes the 320 gallons produced this year on two to three acres of vines will grow to 500 gallons in Year Two.
Stop by for a visit
A typical day at Marcella’s Winery has the Baswells opening the winery at 10 a.m. and tackling chores that range from feeding dogs and chickens and goats to all the upkeep on vines. No commercial ant poisons or pesticides here, only carefully-handled weed eaters.
“We’re a winery. We’re open until 8 p.m. If somebody drives up and they want to taste wine, we taste. We enjoy sharing that,” said Jimmy. “And we love planting stuff and watching it grow.”
Marcella’s success is due, the Baswells believe, to the “great people in Columbus and the surrounding areas.” It makes even the meticulous record-keeping a tolerable part of the operation.
“There’s a whole lot of paperwork,” Jimmy remarked. “You’ve got to know how much inventory you have on the premises from day to day, how much alcohol is in your wine. Every bottle of wine must be recorded and accounted for.”
The tasks fall largely to Jimmy and Elaine. A few helpers in the form of family and friends can pitch in where they are certified to do so.
“There’s a whole lot of togetherness in all this,” laughed Elaine.
The winery is grateful for the support of every person who drives up and asks about Marcella’s stock, every inquiry about how it’s done. They hope that translates into selling a lot more wine. as the pandemic eases. The retirement dream is, so far, on track.
“If it happens that will be great,” said Jimmy. “If it doesn’t, well, we’ll be happy with what we have.”