October on the Farm
Making a Difference for the Environment – with Our Food Choices!
By Peggie Griffin
Now that we’ve eaten the last of our summer squash, peas, cucumbers, and okra, I’m looking forward to those cool weather veggies. At the time I am writing this column, I have young beets, spinach, turnip greens, Romaine lettuce, kale, broccoli, and cabbage plants in my garden. I hope by the time you are reading this article that I will begin to harvest some of these delicious veggies.
If you are wishing you had planted a fall garden, there’s still time to plant a few things. According to a chart in Alabama Gardner, you can still plant turnips until the first of October, radishes and bulb onions until the middle of October. Green onions can be planted from October until February. There’s nothing nicer than needing an onion for that pot of vegetable soup you’re making – and getting to go to the garden to pick it.
So far I haven’t written about a vineyard yet – and there’s one near me that I would like for you to know about.
Vineyard of the Month – Will’s Creek Vineyard
This month I would like to introduce to you Jahn and Janie Coppey at Will’s Creek Vineyard. (Jahn says you can pronounce their last name just like that check you write at the doctor’s office – “co-pay”.) Ten years ago, Jahn and Janie planted their vineyards on her family farmland in Etowah County, and two years later, they opened their winery. From the winery and shop the view of the lush, green vineyards, lake with cattails, blue herons and egrets, and mountains in the background is breathtakingly beautiful.
Jahn is originally from Switzerland, where his family owns vineyards. Janie is from Alabama and commuted to Atlanta to teach. In the summertimes, Janie had been working in the family vineyards in Switzerland, when she took their children to visit their grandparents. When Jahn and Janie talked about retirement, they discussed going to Switzerland to care for the family vineyards, but decided to stay in Alabama, where they have family property and where the winters are much milder. They changed the dairy where Janie grew up to a winery. Jahn said, “We changed milk into wine.”
Technically, Janie is the vineyard master, while Jahn is the wine master. However, they work together to do both jobs. They grow about 12 different varieties of muscadines - including the purple, the red and the bronze. They also grow scuppernongs, which is one of the bronze muscadines. In deciding which growing method to use, they researched muscadine growing techniques and chose the most popular growing method. They plant muscadine plants every 20 feet on 1 wire and then allow the plant to branch out. Jahn commented, “Other ways are being used, but we have found that this is the best. We’re not trying to re-invent the wheel.” No pesticides are used in growing the muscadines.
Their most popular wines are sweet muscadine, red muscadine, and blush. The muscadine is very acidic, and they can make a dry wine that will make your lips pucker. Sugar is added to the muscadine wine to make it palatable. In addition to being tasty, muscadine wine has many health benefits. It is reported to have high levels of resveratrol, an antioxidant which protects from heart disease and cancer.
Most of Will’s Creek Wine is sold at their shop, on the grounds of the vineyards. However, they also have a distributor, placing the wines in shops and grocery stores around the state. Visit their website at willscreekvineyards.com to find where their wine can be purchased.
Many popular events for the community are held at Will’s Creek. Janie teaches a class on the basics of wine-making the first Saturday of every month. They also sponsor an event every month – usually with music, food, and wine. This month – Saturday, October 10 – they will host their 5th annual harvest festival with a day full of activities including hayrides to the vineyard, food, live music, and the annual grape stomping contests for children and adults.
The events have been so popular that they are constructing a pavilion for events such as weddings or concerts. The pavilion will hold from 20 to 200 people. The kickoff event for the pavilion will be their annual New Year’s Eve celebration, with music by Joe Keracher, a 92 year old jazz legend.
There are 10 wineries in Alabama, and they work closely together to promote Alabama wines and legislation that would make promoting the wines easier. They are currently working on legislation that would allow Alabama wineries to participate in festivals and wine-tasting events in locations around the state, rather than just on the property where the wine is made. The next winery will open in October at Pepper Place in Birmingham. For a listing of all the Alabama wineries, go to www.alabamawinetrail.net.
Jahn closed the interview with an invitation, “We would love for you to come out for a wine-tasting. Experiment with the wines to see which are your favorites.” Jahn also had a request: “For those people considering growing grapes or muscadines, consider having a bottling plant – we cannot find any juice being bottled in Alabama. We do not currently have the facility to bottle the juice, although it is in the plans for the future. Right now we have to get the juices from Georgia.”
Will’s Creek Vineyards is located 10.5 miles north of Hwy 431 (in Attalla) on Duck Springs Road.