Last Saturday I revisited September Oaks Vineyards— a small but incredibly beautiful boutique winery in Ridgeland, SC. On my first trip to SOV about a year ago, I fell in love with the place–as well as the fun and friendly folks who work there, especially Nikki Davis …
… a kindred spirit, who at the time of my first trip (and the above pic) worked part-time at September Oaks and taught high school English in Ridgeland. Thus, we hit it off as fellow English teachers right from the start. Nikki has since become a faithful blog follower and happiness promoter.
For this second visit, good friends Robert and Edward (such strong, classical names–who names their child “Neal”? And with an “a”?) accompanied me along lazy U.S. 17 on the forty-five minute trip from Savannah.
The entrance to September Oaks is as beautiful as the place itself.
So I motored down the old oak-lined entryway and parked Skedaddler. (My little car’s name. What? You don’t name your vehicles? Well, why not? And, what? You think “motored” sounds a little silly and pretentious? Well, I would too under normal circumstances, but those ancient oaks and the incredible fall weather made me want to talk British-fancy.)
A special event was going on that day: A Novel Wine Tasting & Literary Festival, featuring readings and book signings from over two dozen authors. Such fun! (More about that later … with a Princess Diana twist.)
So we sauntered (there I go again) into the tasting room, paused just inside the door because the place was booming with folks at the counter, and glanced around. But not for long–because suddenly I heard a hooting and hollering, and saw Nikki rushing toward me and giving me a big hug, as if I were, oh I don’t know, a World Famous Blogger or something! It was so cool to see her again.
We waited our turn for the tasting and then belly-ed up to the beautiful new counter …
… which is made from crushed wine bottles poured in layers to give the appearance of a flowing river amid vineyards. WHO thinks to do creative stuff like that?! When I think of crushed bottles, I always remember the time as a kid when I stepped on a broken Coke bottle and had to have a terribly painful and tear-producing tetanus shot. And let’s be honest, nobody wants to see THAT scene worked into a wine tasting counter!
Anyway, we met our pourer Annette (delightful), who led us through three whites and three reds, from dry to sweet. We were asked to score each wine on a scale of 1-5 points. And I probably don’t need to tell you, but wine has alcohol in it! Edward and Robert were SO much better at the taste scoring than I. Really. They swirled the wine around, smelled it deeply, commented on its color, and even had exaggerated expressions on their faces after each tasting which somehow seemed to register their definite approval or casual dismissal. They even made comments such as, “Oh yes, I would serve this one with fruit and chocolate” or “This white would pair perfectly with fresh, local seafood.” Me? What was I doing? Well, before I answer, look at the picture below. Although the photo is a bit dark, here I am with Edward and Robert.
My biggest concern during our tasting was not wine aroma or pairing possibilities … but that woman in the right edge of the picture. See her? You can’t tell from the pic, but she’s really close (too close in my opinion) to the two heavenly smelling featured dishes at the tasting–southern seafood gumbo, and shrimp and grits–and she’s actually somewhat blocking my path to the food. All through the tasting I kept glancing over my shoulder and worrying about how I could get past her.
Here’s a lighter picture of Robert and Edward. I took it mainly to get a better perspective on how to get past that lady.
I did it!
Here’s Nikki with Evie Woods, wife of September Oaks owner Grady Woods:
And here I am with Evie:
And here’s Evie between two wine bottles:
And here’s Evie eating gumbo:
And here’s Evie feeding me gumbo:
After the wine (and food) tasting, Annette asked if we would like a tour of their new barrel room. Well, who’s gonna turn that down?
On your visit (and of course you’re going to visit soon), look closely and you’ll see my shadowy spirit protectively overseeing the oak barrels.
Oh my gosh. Look what showed up next in the warehouse area:
A set of drums! So of course I had to play a while.
It would have been so much more enjoyable for myself and the others if I knew how to play drums. Oh well, we moved on to the big steel barrels.
Next, we ventured outside to the vineyard and the literary reading.
Here’s Jack and Robin Firestone, authors of Chasing Diana. The Firestones were in Paris on the night of Diana’s fatal car crash sixteen years ago … and were in the tunnel … and saw the wreck! Chasing Diana is their fascinating story. Here they are reading excerpts from the book.
And here I am harassing them.
Evie and Grady, SOV’s gracious owners and hosts.
What a joyful Saturday afternoon. I hereby declare September Oaks to be the Official Winery of NealEnJoy.com!
A special thanks to Robert Smith for taking most of the pictures in this post.
Read the blog post about my first visit here: SOV 1.