Vineyard in the Del
Back in November, I meet up with my food and wine blogging buddy Nicole Sauce for a little trip out to Del Monaco Winery and Vineyard for their grand opening. I heard about the opening from my co-worker who is apprenticing at Del Monaco because she is planning on being a master wine maker. From what I understand, Tennessee has similar terrain as parts of France and Germany, so it should be a decent area to grow grapes. I am not sure if Tennessee is warmer or more humid that grape growing regions in France and Germany, so weather may play a factor in growing grapes in Tennessee. I do know this for sure, there is a type of parasite that lives in USA soils, including Tennessee in which will kill any type of French grape root. To grow decent wine grapes here, the vines must be grafted to local grape roots such as Concord or Niagara grape roots.
Nicole Sauce and I got to Del Monaco and I was pleasantly surprised at this place. The main building is definitely inspired by wine country villas, and it is really well thought out for what the owners want to use it for. There is plenty of parking, there is a lovely banquet ball room, there are other smaller conference rooms, beautiful balconies, and a bridal room, for a bride and party to relax before presenting herself to her guests. Off of the main banquet ball room is a small gift shop and tasting room. I like the tasting room because it has a huge picture window that over looks the stainless steel vats where the wines age. During the opening, we tasted all the wines they had to offer, and took part in the delicious yummies they had in the banquet room. One fun thing they had was a full table of desserts and a chocolate fountain to dip fruit and pound cake in. I have never had a chance to be around a huge chocolate fountain before, and I really liked it! I also let my clothes taste the oozy chocolate too, and I am sure my shirt enjoyed it too.
I have taken interest in amateur wine making. We have made a small amount of wine for a few years now from grapes grown in Napa. We know how to crush, punch and press grapes by hand. We have aged our wine in glass carboys. We have learned that French toasted Oak is really the best if we want to age our wine with oak. We have struggled to bottle with real cork, and have a couple bottles not seal. The only thing we have not done is grow and harvest. When we were in France, we had conversations with a couple winemakers about returning for the harvest and working for them. That is such a great romantic idea to go and harvest in Burgundy, but of course the reality of lack of money, time, back strength and endurance are stopping me from really pursuing this idea. So, my hopes of understanding harvest is not dashed, I believe that I can volunteer a couple hours one weekend day to help harvest at Del Monaco. It is just a short hour and 15 minute drive from my home, and help harvest their premature grapes. The vineyards need about another 5 years before they can use the grapes to make wine, so lack of skill at harvesting will not hinder their wine making. Stay tuned for September 2009 when I become a vineyard harvester!