Fourth Annual Made in the South Awards

by Elizabeth Hutchison, T. Edward Nickens and Jed Portman - December/January 2014

From heirloom-quality banjos to alligator-charred furniture to an ingenious twist on the old-fashioned, Southern artisans continue to raise the bar on craftsmanship

2013 Made in the South Awards
Tara Donne

Drink Category: Runners-Up

>The drink category winner

>Meet the judges

2013 Made in the South AwardsStinson Vineyards
Product: 2011 Imperialis port
Made in: Crozet, VA
Est.: 2009

Thomas Jefferson never lost faith that Virginia could produce quality wine, but even he might be surprised to find a port this sophisticated produced miles from his former estate. There, the Stinson family runs both a vineyard and a tasting room that doubles as a general store of sorts, with local meats and produce for sale alongside their small-batch wines. In 2013, they began bottling a rustic-style port made from Tannat grapes, a lesser-known variety characterized by its light body and low tannins. Port aficionados will appreciate the Imperialis’s twin hits of acid and smoky fruit. Aged in oak barrels, it’s a natural companion to roasted game and salty cheese. “We were inspired by French ports made in a minimal-intervention style,” Rachel Stinson says. “We went with that, and really did as little as we could to it.”

Price: $29

Covington Spirits
Product: Sweet potato vodka
Made in: Snow Hill, NC

After each sweet potato harvest, there are piles of tasty but misshapen tubers that never make it to market. Several years ago, farmers Jimmy Burch and Bobby Ham hatched a plan to save those ugly ducklings, at least in the Tarheel State. If vodka could be made from regular old white potatoes, they reasoned, why not sweet potatoes? To their delight, the resulting spirit retained the distinct taste and from-the-earth purity of its origins. “People will tell you that vodka has no flavor,” says head distiller Paul Gussenhofen.“Anybody who knows liquor knows that’s a myth.” Amid the alcoholic vapors that rise off a glass of Covington is a caramel aroma that offsets the bite of the 80-proof vodka. This might be the best use of sweet potatoes since your grandmother’s marshmallow-topped casserole.

Price: $23

Pure Sodaworks
Product: Café cola
Made in: Chattanooga, TN
Est.: 2011

Shawn Clouse, Matt Rogers, and Tiffany Rogers founded Pure Sodaworks with the goal of mixing honest sodas from all-natural herbs, spices, and fruit juices. Their unique flavors—hibiscus lemon, apple pie, honey lime—earned them a loyal local following. But one question lingered: Why didn’t they make a cola? “At first, we had no intention of doing a cola,” Matt says. “Everybody else already has one, and Coca-Cola is so well known.” When Rogers finally gave it a shot, he knew they had to develop a version that would stand out in a crowded field. He looked to turn-of-the- century recipes, built layers of citrus, cinnamon, kola nut, and vanilla, and finally, months later, cracked the code with an infusion of locally roasted coffee, adding depth and richness missing from other craft colas.

Price: $7 per four-pack

2013 Made in the South Awards