Every year between August and October, something magical happens. Wine harvest season! This is the time when vineyards in the Northern Hemisphere bustle with activity picking grapes from the year’s harvest. The season spans about a 2 month period because different grape varieties ripen at different rates.
Wine harvest season in Georgia is especially exciting in recent years. In 1900, Georgia was the fifth largest producer of wine in the nation. When Congress overrode President Woodrow Wilson’s veto of the Volstead Act in 1919, followed by the ratification of the 18th Amendment, the Georgia wine industry dried up. After prohibition, wine production centered on western states and didn’t return to Georgia until the 1980’s. Today, business is booming for a growing number of wineries and tasting rooms. And like the good old days, many of the grapes harvested will be combined with sweet Summer fruits to make quintessentially Southern concoctions.
One of my favorites is Traveler from the Horse Creek Winery. This light, “fruity but not too sweet” wine is made from two of the most classical fruits ever to come out of Georgia – peaches and muscadines. Officially discovered by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1584, muscadines are considered “America’s first grape.” They’re tough-skinned grapes that range in color from golden bronze to purple-black, and they’re as sweet and delicious as they are prolific – they’ll grow just about anywhere there’s sunlight. They’re also a nutritional powerhouse, packed full of resveratrol and ellagic acid, which lower cholesterol and inhibit the growth of some types of cancerous tumors. You really can “drink to your health!”
Another of my favorite Georgia wines is Scarlett from the Habersham Vineyards & Winery. Scarlett is an Off-dry blend of Chambourcin, Cabernet and Vidal grapes and is packed with rich, ripe blackberries and blueberries. It’s as deliciously southern as Blackberry Cobbler (but not as sweet)! The spelling also makes me wonder if the name isn’t a nod to another famous southerner, the iconic character Scarlett O’Hara.
I can’t talk about Georgia’s wine harvest season without noting Georgia Winery. This amazing vineyard has been a certified organic “Farm winery” since 2003, with a number of muscadine varieties as their main crop. My favorite of their seasonal wines is the Southern Sangria. It’s packed full of fresh berries and made from 100% fruit so you know it’s delicious!
Finally there’s Sweet Acre Farms. I love this winery for many reasons, but mainly because of their sustainable practices. They make fruit wine the old fashioned way, growing almost all of the fruits that go into them. What they don’t grow themselves, they source from local farms. Theirs are pure, unfiltered wines true to the fruit on the label, not grape wines with fruit flavoring added. My favorite of their offerings is the Semisweet Strawberry. It’s deep and ruby red with just enough sweetness to let you know it’s a fruit wine.
I can’t wait to get up to the North Georgia mountains to try this year’s new wines!