Trying to have a healthy and environmentally friendly Labor Day bash on Hilton Head Island can be a bit like serving Tofurky for Thanksgiving dinner. Your enthusiasm for vegetarian fare may spur your guests to scramble for steak and barbeque ribs, and merely expressing a desire to put limits on sugar-laden treats can make your family think you’re a scrooge. Now, I do not want to put the kibosh on the fun and being that this has been our first summer back in the Lowcountry “proper”, we have been indulging in the abundant local fruit and vegetable harvest, grilling everything from burgers to shrimp kabobs, and sipping cheery adult beverages – peach Bellini’s anyone? So never the spoiler of a potential good time, but striving to be more conscientious this year, I searched for ways to be both! One clear and easy way toward a more sustainable party (and anytime, really) is to buy local. Luckily this is the Lowcountry so buying local is not really a problem – it’s an adventure! I shop at farmers markets, I grow some of my own herbs and veggies, and the seafood I purchase is caught in the waters surrounding Hilton Head Island. I look for the Certified SC label and know when I see this mark; the items I purchase (or the food I am ordering at a restaurant) are grown or produced by my in-state neighbors. But mostly I try to stay conscious of what I buy and where (or who) it came from.
Getting back to those adult beverage…well, my preferred “poison” is usually that of the fermented grape variety. And up until now any newbie oenophile could tell you that pretty much any US wine worth it’s nose would originate in California, Oregon or Washington with maybe the odd bottle out of Virginia or Texas making the grade. Certainly the lower South and especially the coastal South, could not produce any vino except that super sweet, scuppernong variety, right? Well, hold on to your corkscrew as good (some may even say great) locally grown and produced wine is as close as 25 miles outside Hilton Head Island!
September Oaks Vineyard is a family owned boutique winery located in the pretty hamlet of Ridgeland, SC. In fact, if you drive to Hilton Head Island from the north you pass by the town exiting off Interstate 95. Beyond a breathtaking strand of 200-year-old plus live oaks, the September Oaks tasting room greets you with lovely rustic ambiance and the gracious “Well, hey there!” of Manager Alice Ann Toole. Owner, architect and winemaker-in-training Grady Woods may also be on hand for a tasting. The winery is his passion and his baby, having built it from the ground up, on property he originally planned as his personal residence. Thank you Grady for sharing your passion, creativity and skills as a winemaker with us!
Alice Ann kindly provided a tour of the tasting room, the “cellar” and most importantly, some of their fantastic wines. She was excited to pour a taste of their newest wine, the Lenoir American Red Wine. As Alice Ann explained the Lenoir grape is a European American grape hybrid that can literally trace it roots to the Lowcountry. “Muscadine grapes are indigenous to America and these grapes grew wild in South Carolina. When the Huguenots of France immigrated to America in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries they brought their French grape vines with them. Many settled in the Lowcountry and their French vines hybridized with the native grapes to create the Lenoir hybrid. When these settlers moved west they took their vines with them and the grape disappeared from South Carolina.” But, Alice Ann added, “Grady searched and found a Lenoir grower in Texas so we now have vines planted here on site.” They are thrilled to bring back this grape to its original homeplace of South Carolina and produce the first South Carolina Lenoir wine in nearly 200 years! This is the essence of “buy local”, I think and I am happy to do my part. My palate liked the Lenoir (a lot!) and let’s just say some lucky family members will find it under their tree this year! Beside the Lenoir, September Oak’s production this year includes:
- A dry but floral Pinot Grigio
- SOV Family White: Light and refreshing wine served at the International Ecotourism Conference this year to rave reviews as well as 2 thumbs up from me!
- Carolina Wren: An award-winning sweet wine
- SOV Family Red: a Merlot/Muscadine blend
- Peach Sunrise: a taste of summer with Muscadine infused with peach
- Palmetto: Demi-sweet red Muscadine
- Crescent Moon: Semi-sweet Muscadine with notes of vanilla and passion fruit.
- Kiwi Gold: Locally grown kiwi and Muscadine make a very light and delicious wine. This will be on my gift giving list this year!
Believe me when I say I think this venture could be on the cusp of lighting up the wine world. But even if you are not a wine lover you’ll no doubt appreciate the atmosphere, the information and southern hospitality.
The winery is also a nice place for a casual get together (they have hosted several weddings too) and they have all the best local connections to assist you with catering, event set-up, etc. The folks at September Oaks are doing something very special out in Ridgeland and their wines deserve a taste and our support so stop by and tell them the foodie vibe blogger sent you. From my friends at September Oaks… Beach, backyard or back porch … refreshing, fruity sangria is a natural for celebrating everyday! A favorite recipe served at SOV events: Carolina Summer Red Sangria
- 1 bottle September Oaks Carolina Wren red wine
- 1/2 cup Grand Marnier or Triple Sec
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 lemon, thinly sliced
- 1 orange, thinly sliced
- 1 quart lemon/lime soda, club soda or ginger ale
Combine wine, orange liqueur and sliced fruit in a pitcher and refrigerate overnight. Just before serving, add soda to taste, stir and serve over ice in tall glasses. Garnish with additional fruit. Variations: Add prosecco or champagne in place of soda, or place a scoop of sherbet in each glass and pour sangria on top. Experiment with any fresh fruit … strawberries, pineapple, blueberries, raspberries, apples, peaches … just slice the fruit or drop whole berries into the wine mixture before refrigerating.