Grisamore: Muscadines still making sweet music

October 8, 2013 

Cliff Music

FORSYTH -- When Cliff Music introduces himself, folks naturally want to know if he can sing or play an instrument.

No, he tells them, he is not musically inclined. About the only thing he can play is the radio. You might hear the sounds of Bach or Beethoven coming from inside his round house on Old Union Gin Road.

Some people want to make sure he knows how to spell. After all, the sign out by the road reads “MUSICADINE” instead of “MUSCADINE.’’

He has to chuckle about it. It is not a plywood typo.

Music has been cultivating muscadines and scuppernongs for 18 years. When he opens the back of his property and lets folks walk the long rows to pick them, he uses some wordplay with his last name.

Just for fun, he inserts an extra “i.’’ No need to buy a vowel. He has a spare.

Some people get it right away. Others aren’t as quick to the draw. He once placed an advertisement in a local newspaper, which apparently ran it through spell check because it was back in a plain wrapper when it went to press.

Most of his business comes from word of mouth, with an emphasis on the mouth.

“I think everybody who grew up in Georgia probably had an aunt or grandmother who had a muscadine vine,’’ he said.

The locals come to visit and carry gallon buckets down to the vineyard. Music gives them rides in his “musicadine taxi,’’ a glorified golf cart.

He has 3.5 acres and 650 plants. “I think I know every one of them by name,’’ he said. There are 10 varieties, from the popular “Fry” (named after Georgia muscadine pioneer Dr. B.O. Fry) to the Triumph, Summitt, Nesbitt, Regal, Loomis, Coward, Tara and Scarlett.

City folks drive from as far away as Atlanta and Savannah, after they notice his ad in the Georgia Market Bulletin. Some are Asian-Americans, who appreciate the muscadine’s similarity to the Kyoho grapes of Korea, China and Japan.

They all somehow find the place, even though it is 12 miles off the interstate and tucked in the piney woods between Juliette and High Falls. Some GPS devices will lead you right to the front door. Others might steer you down some dirt road until you find your way back.

Music found his way here 40 years ago. He was born in West Virginia and grew up at the Ohio Soldiers and Sailors Orphanage in Xenia, Ohio. He met his wife, Judy, at the orphanage. They married in 1959. He was transferred to Georgia with Scott Paper Co. and lived in Jonesboro.

“It was our Sunday ritual to go for a drive and look for a place to live out in the country,’’ he said.

He found 20 acres in Monroe County in 1973. Using a blueprint from the U.S. Forestry Service, he built a 1,200-square-foot round house. (Yes, there are square feet in a round house, but thanks for asking.)

A county extension agent later recommended cultivating the muscadines, so he planted half the vineyard in 1995 and the other half the following year.

Once the grapes were established, he opened a “U-pick” operation and began supplying purple muscadines and green and bronze scuppernongs to mom and pop stores in the area.

Most years, the season has a small window. “It usually runs from Labor Day until the end of September, when we are out of fruit,’’ he said. “But we had so much rain this summer and it was cooler. Muscadines love the heat.

“Some people just assume we are closed, but we will be open for another few weeks. It may be close to Halloween. That has never happened before.’’

Loyal muscadineers are still coming by to fill their buckets and bellies. (You are allowed to eat while you pick.) Many tote home the grapes to make jelly or wine.

A Southern staple. There’s something about ‘em. Sweet music.

Reach Gris at 744-4275 or egrisamore@macon.com.

 

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