A sip of history: Rose Hill Mansion the setting for Wine Wednesday

Special to Lowcountry LifeNovember 13, 2012 

The Rose Hill Mansion is open to the public for tours.

FILE/STAFF PHOTO

  • WHEN: 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 14

    WHERE: Rose Hill Mansion in Rose Hill Plantation, 199 Rose Hill Way, Bluffton

    COST: $35 a person

    DETAILS: 843-757-6045

When Robin White retreats to the second floor of the Rose Hill Mansion, she's never far from the lively conversation coming from downstairs. Most of the time, she can't resist staying away from the action and joins the many visitors who are touring the historic landmark that she and her husband, Robert, call home.

"It's fun. I can hear laughter every day." White said. "And it's not an old, stogie history tour like you think of. They're so different. We let people sit down. We don't yell at people when they touch things."

The Whites bought the historic mansion in the gated community of Rose Hill Plantation 16 years ago. After a long restoration that began in 1997, the couple opened the home to visitors for guided tours every weekday at 2 p.m. The hourlong tour is followed by a tea party, complete with desserts and plenty of chit-chat.

The tours, now in the fifth year, have become so popular, the Whites decided to add another activity that is open to the public called Wine Wednesday.

The next gathering is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 14. The first Wine Wednesday, which served as a test run, attracted more than 100 people, marketing manager Tracey Bartlebaugh said. The November event, complete with food and live entertainment, will benefit the American Cancer Society through ticket sales at $35 each and a silent auction. White has a personal commitment to the organization as a survivor of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Aside from taking in the beautiful surroundings in the 154-year-old mansion, the event will showcase Rose Hill Wines. The private label wine is produced locally in Ridgeland and is another business the Whites got involved in about a year ago.

Chardonnay, red, pinot grigio, muscadine and historical wines are among the various wines sold under the label. Mansion director and tour guide Cynthia Glendinning said the daily tours have a different energy than the evening get-togethers.

"There's a lot more food and people get unlimited little testings of our various Rose Hill Wines," said Glendinning, who is a direct descendent of the Kirk family, the original property owner. "It's nice. It's like a big, upmarket cocktail party. Locals meeting locals and giving them a chance to come in, get a free tour and sample some really good wines."

Rose Hill Mansion has been described as the most beautiful plantation house in the Lowcountry. Built in 1858, its Gothic Revival architecture is one of true attractions to the 10,000-square-foot house because of its uniqueness to the South. In 1983, the house was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

A major fire caused massive destruction to the house in 1987, causing the copper roof to melt and cave into the second floor. At the time, the house was being used for business purposes by the Rose Hill Plantation Development Co.

The Whites bought the home on April 12, 1996, which was Robin White's 29th birthday. Robert White is the former publisher of the "Robb Report," a luxury-lifestyle magazine that has gone though brand changes over the years.

The couple moved into the main house until 2005 after years of restoration due to the fire. Along with tours, the private resident is used for weddings and group events.

"As far as this area, a lot of tourists will come to Hilton Head looking to play golf, the beaches and so forth. Some of them are interested in seeing the South for the very first time. They want to see a Tara from 'Gone with the Wind,' and we're kind of it."

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