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One of the benefits of being in a wine club are the exclusive events you can attend.  We are “citizens” of Frogtown Cellars, a winery north of Atlanta, and this past weekend I attended an all day event centered around the harvest.  This was not just a party, we worked for our dinner.  In the morning, we picked grapes for hours.  While it was a great experience, it was hard work.  And the weather could not have been more perfect.

Cabernet Sauvignon ripe on the vines

More vines full of ripe fruit

My first full bucket of grapes

The grape we harvested was Norton.  This is an American grape (unlike vinifera grapes like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon that came from Europe) and is not made into wine by many wineries.  It was cool to work with such an obscure varietal!  I have only had Norton wine made by Frogtown, but they do an amazing job with this grape so I am a fan.  There were 16 other wine club members along for the fun, and several stated that the Norton is their favorite Frogtown wine.  In case you were wondering, my favorites are the Marsanne and the Reserve Merlot.

Filling up the bins with Norton

Taking a break in the shade

Gorgeous reflection on a picture perfect day

After we were done picking, we convened on the covered patio for lunch.  We were quite a sight.  Most people get a little dressed up when visiting a tasting room, so our group stood out like a bunch of ragamuffins.  We were dressed like scrubs and most of us were pretty dirty.  I had grape stains on my arms and clothes, and my hair had bits of vine and leaves in it.  The Norton grape has a low canopy that we had to get under to pick the grapes and I got caught in the vines quite a few times.  And I was the only one to cut myself with the super sharp shears but I recovered.

Learning more about winemaking, harvesting and Frogtown over lunch

Craig Kritzer, the owner and winemaker, sat with us over lunch and answered a long list of questions about the history of the winery and his philosophies around making wine.  It was so interesting and informative – I could have sat there forever.  But the Norton was sitting down in the winery waiting to be crushed.

Norton grapes getting ready for the de-stemmer

And up they go….

Picking out the jacks (little pieces of stem and other non-grape materials)

Working the line at the destemmer was exciting and a little stressful.  I wanted to make sure we got all of the bits and pieces of non-grape material out before the grapes went into the big steel vat for the cold soak.  It was fun though and a great experience for wine lovers who want to learn more about the wine making process.

Post crush wine tasting with snacks

After all that hard work, we got to taste the full portfolio of Frogtown wines (there are quite a few) with Craig and learned more about each of them.

The tasting room was hopping in the afternoon

Pre-dinner view from the patio

We took a break and met back at the winery at 7 pm for an al fresco dinner.  The view from the back patio is worth the trip up there alone.  The harvest group had become very friendly during our picking and winemaking activities so we rearranged all the tables so that we would sit together as one big group.  The dinner was a lot of fun, the wines were great and the food was delicious.  Craig’s wife Cydney is the chef and consistently prepares wonderful dinners with many courses.  This is not easy to do for a big group which makes it even more impressive.

Dinner Menu

Gazpacho

I flip flop on tomato based soups but this gazpacho was excellent.  I would have had seconds if they offered them.

Seared scallops over arugula

I think this was my favorite dish of the night because I just love scallops and they were prepared perfectly.  I paired shrimp fritters with the Vineaux Blanc earlier this summer.  It is a lovely seafood wine.

This course was followed by a pasta dish but I was so wrapped up with dinner and chit-chatting that I forgot to take a photo.

Filet with sinfully delicious gruyere potatoes

I did not save nearly enough room for this wonderful meat and potatoes course.  The potatoes were quite possibly the best potatoes I have ever had in my entire life.

Tiramisu

Yum.  dessert.  But I was so full at this point that I barely made a dent in dessert.  All in all a great meal.

If you ever get a change to participate in a harvest, do it.  It was great fun and I hope to participate again next year.

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