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Get your Butterducks in a row
Effingham winery serves no wine before its time
Beth and Bill Utter with some of their latest bottlings

"It probably started with that pear tree that was planted when our daughter, Beth, turned two—so many pears, so little time to eat them all What to do with all that fruit?" says Barbara Utter.

Bill Utter, a 30-year veteran of Piggly Wiggly, had an idea: make all those luscious pears into wine. And thus began the hobby that took up more and more time, luring him into fascinating research and experimentation, and finally blossoming into a thriving local winery.

Situated out on Blue Jay Road in Guyton, what may be thought of as a neighborhood hamlet just outside of Savannah, his little winery called Butterducks now brings droves of visitor from all over the South, indeed, from all across the country. Yet Barbara admits that even some folks in Guyton don’t know what a jewel they have out there in those serene woods.

Some of Bill’s best creations arose from his idea to produce wines from fresh, locally grown Georgia fruit—you can thank that burgeoning pear tree!—not grape-based wine ‘flavored’ with fruit, but sweet Georgia peaches, plump blueberries and succulent blackberries, crushed, juiced, aged and cherished to make their own unique wines.

“We pride ourselves on the quality of the fruit that goes into our wine, and you will never see our wines mixed with water, concentrates, flavorings or juice,” says Bill. “If the bottle says ‘peach wine,’ it’s made from Georgia peaches, not a grape wine that’s been ‘flavored!’”

Indeed, Butterducks’ Sweet Peach is a Gold Medal winner in the big Wines of the South competition, and his Scuppernong and Blueberry varieties have won numerous awards over the past few years.

Curious yet? It is definitely worth the short ride from Savannah to experience Butterducks Winery and give yourself time to taste and savor their growing repertory of fine and sweet wines.

One of things I love best is their numerous events, from the popular Customer Appreciation Day and Soup n’ Sip Saturdays, to Bill’s Fall Wine & Food Pairing Workshop where his vintages are tasted in unison with gourmet cheeses (the Horseradish White Wisconsin Cheese is a personal favorite), savory dips, sauces, crackers, and cured meats—all sold in the winery’s gift shop—as well as fresh fruit, sweet Georgia pecans & hand-dipped chocolates.

Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day see record crowds and they return each year because not only is the wine wonderful, but the staff is knowledgeable & friendly, and Bill, with his gray beard, baseball cap and plaid shirt, makes you feel like he’s welcoming you into his home, not just a place of business.

He’s passionate about his beloved wines and detailed in his knowledge of wine-making, taking genuine pleasure in the work, happy to give his customers enthusiastic daily tours of the ‘tank room’ where the product is made, assuring us that “I do all the corking myself, making sure that each bottle is perfect, that the ‘duck is up’” – referring to their logo – “and that every case of fruit is fresh and juicy.”

He prides himself on his roster of respected Georgia farms that send him their produce:

“We get most of the peaches from Lane Southern Orchards, with over 2500 acres of the finest fruit around. Alma Berry Farm has only 450 acres, but their blueberries are the sweetest.” He’ll point out the big GW Kent Primo Tanks from Italy or the German pumps with a gleam in his eye, or show you a short video of the new peach-pitting machine with all the glow of a dad with a new baby in his arms.

The care he takes with his wines comes through in the exquisite flavors, whether you prefer the delicate Dry Blueberry or the meltingly soft fruitiness of the Sangiovese Rosé. His Duck Call Red is a local favorite, a delicious blend of blueberry, blackberry and Merlot with just a hint of sweetness.

You may find yourself spending more time than you originally planned at Butterducks, with three levels of tastings, ranging from the Free-3 to the Grand Tasting of 10 (along with a souvenir wine glass), shopping for wine paraphernalia, cheeses, sweets and sauces in the gift shop, taking the ‘tank room’ tour, or having Barbara fix you up a beautiful gift basket or wine, cheese & fruit plate to take out to their pergola for lunch.

You’re welcome to bring your own picnic too, take a walk around the property to enjoy the peacefulness of the woodland, and be sure to check their website for monthly events and tastings—in fact, their Wine Club is a great place to start.