Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Visiting the Low Country: September Oaks Vineyards

While traveling north along I-95 in Georgia we searched Wine-Compass.com for a winery adjacent to the highway and found a candidate just north of the border in South Carolina. In fact, September Oaks Vineyards is situated only a few miles off I-95 in Ridgeland, South Carolina. The winery is owned and operated by Grady Woods (and his family), who started the venture as a side project from his typical vocation as an architect. They planted the vines two years ago in a field surrounded by oak and pecan trees draped with Spanish Moss. A true southern property. And in typical southern fashion the grapes are various muscadine varieties that excel in the hot and humid climate. In addition they planted Carnelian, a hybrid "created by the University of California in 1972 in order to create a grape for hot climates which still possessed some of the characteristics of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape. It is a hybrid "created by the University of California in 1972 in order to create a grape for hot climates which still possessed some of the characteristics of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape. It is a cross between the Carignane and the Cabernet Sauvignon that was then further crossed with the Grenache."

While this fruit matures they source fruit from north and south Georgia. Now, some Drink Local zealots may frown upon this decision, since the grapes are grown out of state, but considering that September Oaks Vineyards lies so close to the Georgia border - it is no difference than a Virginian or New York winery sourcing grapes from across the state. In order to accommodate the tastes of the local population, the wines are crafted from off-dry to sweet; however none of the wines were sickly sweet or gritty. We started with the driest, a White Merlot where the juice lies with the skins just long enough to gain color. This wine is also used in the Family Reserve Red Wine which is also blended with muscadine. Both of these are nice wines - not completely dry but tailored for an audience moving in that direction. But their best sellers are the 100% muscadines, the Carolina Wren Red Wine, Crescent Moon White Wine, Palmetto Red Wine, and Yellow Jasmine White Wine. These are all medal winners - the most recent Finger Lakes competition was very successful. These wines are quite good - the whites recommended with spicy foods; the reds, perhaps for sipping. The reds reminded me of the Hungarian wine tradition of drinking semi-sweet reds; not overly sweet and very drinkable. One day soon we need to visit Hilton Head which will allow us to visit September Oaks again as well as the other area wineries.
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