Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sustainable Sunday: South Stage Cellars

When visiting House Alive! a few months ago, we dropped in on a local landmark that houses the South State Cellars' wine tasting room. What we ended up with was a chance to support winemakers who practice sustainability, make good wine, and support local business!

Built in 1865, the then private residence of Patrick Ryan has been host to more local businesses than any other building in town. Currently it is the home of South Stage Cellars, a vineyard-based tasting room and wine garden. We sat in the old-world style tasting room and talked with the others there while sampling a series of award-winning wines, and eventually walked away with a bottle of their 2009 Early Muscat, sold on the promise from the woman in the tasting room that it served both as a delightful dessert wine as well as an aromatic white. It felt like a big claim to me and so was intrigued. I was impressed with the quaint, cozy feel of the tasting room along with the rows of medals and awards that lined the wall behind the bar. The 2008 incarnation of the Early Muscat won Best of Show at the 2009 World of Wine Festival.

We were also excited to see how committed South Stage is to supporting the local economy and community. The grapes come from owners Don and Traute Moore’s vineyard, Quail Run, a local 300 acre operation that utilizes no insecticides and utilizes cover crops as a means to enrich the soils. We noted that there were several events aimed at locals providing discounts and entertainment. Our friend Coenraad had been there just the night before performing at a local’s night.

Some weeks later we decided to give our southern belle a try. A pale straw color, I expected something touted as a potential dessert wine to be more syrupy, but it seemed more like an aromatic in the glass. The nose consisted of honey and a tropical fruitiness that we were initially unable to identify along with hints of clove. I found the taste to be powerfully sweet on the tongue with a slight sparkling texture and a lightly bitter finish, almost like grapefruit. Jason noted that he found a “zing” at the top of his palette that was just as much texture as it was flavor. After exploring this further we decided that this was the tropical fruit we’d gotten on the nose – guava. The whole experience was threaded with the light spiciness of clove that carried through from start to finish.

We decided that the claim that this wine could be either a dessert wine or enjoyed by the glass with food stood up to the test. The Early Muscat provided more than enough complexity and crispness to drink chilled with a citrusy piece of fish or a mild Thai curry. However, its bold sweetness and bitterness would make it an excellent complement to dark chocolate or summer fruits. I definitely enjoyed this versatile wine and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys sweet wine with a kick.

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