Natchez is known as the oldest established city on the Mississippi River, and the hub of the steamboat era. As if Natchez wasn’t already a tourist’s dream, the addition of a winery, brewery and distillery have added more reasons for tourists to visit the city and to stay longer. Those antebellum homes aren’t the only places tourists may experience spirits. After touring Natchez’s historic homes, tourists can also spend a day touring the facilities where wine, beer and spirits are made.
It started with Old South Winery, where owner Scott Galbreath buys muscadine grapes from Mississippi growers to produce the company’s nine wines.
The best sellers are a sweet red wine called Sweet Nobel, and a sweet rose’ called Miss Scarlet that is similar in color and sweetness to white zinfandels. Four white wines are produced, from the dry Carlos to the sweetest, Sweet Magnolia. The winery opened in 1979 and the wines produced there are for sale through Mississippi package stores. Wines are also shipped to other states which allow such transactions. A segment of Mississippi Roads aired on Mississippi Public Broadcasting in 1999 that tells the story of Old South Winery.
Craft beer was added to the city’s business sector in July 2012 with the opening of Natchez Brewing Co.
Brewmaster Patrick Miller got the idea to start the brewery after living for several years in Asheville, North Carolina. He missed the craft beer that was so popular there after moving back home to Natchez, so he conducted a feasibility study and determined that Natchez was ready for its own brew. He and his wife, Lisa, own the company which produces several offerings including its flagship beer, Bluff City Blonde. Other year-round brews include ALT-ered States, a German-style amber and Old Capital IPA. Seasonal and specialty beers are also produced at the brewery.
Rounding out the trio is Charboneau Distillery.
The distillery is located next door to King’s Tavern restaurant, owned by Doug and Regina Charboneau. Their son, Jean-Luc, produces a white, aged rum at the distillery. Doug and Jean-Luc attended the American Distilling Institute’s Craft Distillers conference, committed to being one of the little guys and bringing something different and interesting to the community. The first white run was introduced in 2014. The rum is made from raw sugar and molasses from a sugar mill a few hours away in Louisiana. The rum was rated “exceptional,” receiving 92 points out of 100 by the 2015 International Review of Spirits.
Each of the businesses offer tours of their facilities where people can learn more about the process used to create each product. The tap room at Natchez Brewing Company is open at various times Wednesday through Sunday. Tours and flights of beer are available and there is also the excitement of trivia on Wednesdays. Children and designated drivers can take the tour at no charge.
Old South Winery offers free tours to individuals and small groups during regular business hours, Monday through Friday from 10am to 5pm. Large groups pay per person and must call in advance for reservations.
Tours are available at Charboneau Distillery hourly on Friday from 5pm to 8pm and on Saturday from noon to 6pm. There is a small charge for the tour, which includes a rum cocktail at the conclusion of the tour created by King’s Tavern bartender Ricky Woolfolk. (Or, as he prefers to be called, “spirit artisan.”)
King’s Tavern, located at 613 Jefferson Street, is said to be the oldest standing building in the Mississippi Territory, circa 1789. Woolfolk collects liquors from the world over, and blends his own homemade fruit infusions and bitters, that he skillfully blends into craft cocktails. Woolfolk offers a mixology class by appointment that is both informative and entertaining.
The next time you find yourself in the city on the bluff, spend some time touring, and sampling, the adult beverages produced there. Natchez has the distinction of being the smallest city in the United States with a distillery, winery and brewery, and the only city in Mississippi to have all three.