Monday, May 16, 2011

Warm Springs Winery

The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Friday, May the 13th in Warm Springs at “Dinner’s Ready” for lunch. Hostess Erma Jean Brown arranged with chef and owner Chad Garrett to serve a delightful addition to the meal with the preferred dessert being chosen: Chad’s seven layer chocolate cake.
The club had a fun social time before moving down the road to Warm Springs Winery at 7227 Roosevelt Highway and touring the facility. Winery staffer Joe Bankovitch welcomed the ladies with most remembering him from running the Grand Wisteria from 2000 to 2005. Owner Ed Rocereta, a semi retired pharmacist was filling in at the garden club meeting time and date and could not lead the tour.  Bankovitch did a super job explaining every step taken at the winery with the only disappointment being that the fourteen acres of actual vineyards being too far a walk for the club to make with the chance of showers looming.
For over eighteen years Rocereta has propagated or “grown the grape” as the Italians say and made wine for his own consumption. He has converted the garage into a winery and moved in much equipment. There were grapes on the property but Rocereta has cultivated fourteen more acres over the last four years and this fall will harvest from the new plantings.
Bankovitch explained the wine making process pointing out the 1500 gallon tanks where the juice is first placed.  It takes several weeks to settle the sediment which is washed out three different times with chemicals that break down the impurities until a pure juice form is made. The yeast begins to digest the sugars present in the grape juice and carbon dioxide and alcohol are by-products of this process. The liquid is moved into other tanks and the blending process begins.
Warm Springs Winery uses only muscadines and the Georgia grown Norton grape.  The different blends make for the different varieties.  The wine is filtered into 750 ml bottles then goes to the machine which vacuums out the air and adds the cork. The labeling machine places labels front and back and finally they wrap plastic around the cork. Ed Rocereta designed the labels himself. The bottles are then stored at 72 degrees and upside down to keep the cork moistened.
Bankovitch explained the difficult licensing process at which time Warm Springs Winery has a license to be a winery and to consume on the premises, but they are working to get a license so our Meriwether wine can be distributed and sold in stores and served at restaurants.
The garden club members sampled seven varieties from Warm Springs Winery served in their distinctive logo etched glasses which are also available for purchase. Beginning with White House White-an off dry and crisp wine- they moved through Unfinished Portrait, a dry blush, to Lotus Pond White a lightly sweet wine.  Recognizable are the clear Roosevelt references and local landmarks with the lotus pond being a familiar sight on the right as we travel into Warm Springs before going under the narrow train trestle.
Kudzu Rosé is a semi sweet rosé named for the official state invasive plant. It was followed by one of their most popular, Tribute, which has a distinctive muscadine aroma. Bankovitch kept reminding the ladies to swirl and aerate their wine and sniff the bouquet before drinking. Old Atlanta Red was a popular sweet red wine the club enjoyed. A last wine, Blueberry, was not so popular or tasty and Bankovitch pointed out that they only bottled 260 blueberry and they may not make it again which has encouraged some to buy it for the that reason alone!
Bankovitch allowed member Gail Coffee to remove the cork with an elegant de-corker attached to the wine tasting counter. Members purchased a number of bottles of wines and the winery’s glasses before departing. All agreed that by sampling the seven varieties they learned their favorite types and flavors, but overall, the lowly muscadine made a delicious wine.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Lunch and Learn in Concord

April 2011
The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Thursday, April 14th and traveled to Concord for “Lunch and Learn” sponsored by the garden club in Pike County.  Sally Neal and Angie Williams coordinated the Meriwether club’s trip.
Held in the recently renovated Strickland Country Store, the ladies arrived to find delightful table arrangements featuring market baskets filled with colorful fresh produce from rhubarb to radishes. The Concord club introduced and thanked the many members who made the luncheon possible and also awarded their annual horticulture scholarship. Guests brought picnic lunches and the Concord club provided drinks and desserts-a simple plan that has worked brilliantly for over a decade with many clubs attending from throughout the Redbud District in Georgia.
Speaker for the Lunch and Learn was Sheri Castle from Chapel Hill, NC who is a noted food writer, cooking instructor, and delightful storyteller. Recently publishing The New Southern Garden Cookbook: or Enjoying the Best from Homegrown Gardens, Farmers’ Markets, Roadside Stands, and CSA Farm Boxes, Castle encourages cooks to use fresh produce in season and grown locally. The cookbook is organized in a unique way A to Z by the main garden ingredient: apples, asparagus, beets, blackberries to turnips, winter squash, and zucchini.
But Castle’s great sense of humor and cooking tips were the delight of the day.  She began telling about her entrance into the cooking industry by being a ghost writer and test cook for a number of famed cooking personalities who really could not cook. Then she lived in Italy to become a Mediterranean cook which she compared to being a good Southern cook. She pointed out while Southerners are known and judged for those special holiday and Sunday dinners, their faces really light up when asked about fresh vegetables and fruits from their gardens. Mama’s and Grandmama’s specially orchestrated meals are food memories that make up our most tenacious nostalgia.
Some of Castle’s basic cooking guidelines were to always use freshly ground black pepper, Kosher salt, large eggs from free roaming chickens, butter instead of margarine, milk, yogurt and dairy products that are always whole and not low fat, real buttermilk and not powdered, fresh cream not ultra pasteurized, and fresh stone ground corn meal. She recommended using light, thin aluminum metal baking pans, and insisted on preheating the oven twenty minutes before baking. Vanilla flavoring should be pure and not a flavored item and spices needed to be fresh and not from the wedding gift spice rack given to you when you married three husbands ago!
Each recipe is prefaced with a anecdote or cooking tip such as Ozark pudding cooked by Bess Truman to cheer up a homesick Harry Truman, the French Huguenots bringing the recipe over for their taverns, or thinking of the eggplant as a huge oversized berry. Merry Weather Garden Clubbers lined up to purchase her book and compliment her on her talk.
The next meeting of the Merry Weather Garden Club will be in May and the club will tour the new Warm Springs Winery.