I live in a dry county, one of those darling “perks” that come with living in the Bible belt. For those of you who don’t know what that means, it means you can not buy liquor here – not in restaurants or stores – no bars, no cocktail hours, not even a simple glass of wine to accompany a fine dining experience (if you can call a night at Papa’s Pizza “fine dining” – not like we have many gourmet options in this quaint place.) Actually, you can buy beer and wine at the grocery store, but the check out girl usually lifts a “there’s one of them true sinners” eyebrow when you do so. And people wonder why I want to make my own!
I can (and do) drive 40 minutes to a town that has successfully lifted this ban. There, we can order a drink with dinner (as long as it isn’t Sunday) and can visit an honest to God, real live liquor store to buy brandy or vodka or what have you. We are not big drinkers, but I often need liquor for cooking, vodka to top off homemade wine or as a base for homemade cordials. On occation, I get a hanker’ in for a specialty drink to round out a meal. (I currently need Oriental Saki for a recipe for slow braised Chinese barbequed pork that I want to try.) When we entertain, we want a full bar available for guests, and on holidays or for parties I enjoy making a spiked punch. I guess years of being a bartender made me “drink of choice” conscious, even though I myself only like wine – preferably white. Mark rarely drinks at all.
The problem with living in a dry county and having too many non-drinking friends (because they were born in this world of serious eyebrow-lifters) is that it makes the used wine bottle a rare find. When you make wine at home, scrounging for wine bottles is the greatest challange. Most all home wine makers recycle. They collect wine bottles from friends (who often have a delightful “please fill one up for me” mentality) or from area restaurants. These bottles are soaked to remove labels, sterilized, and later, filed with homemade brew. You must buy new corks from a wine supply store because of bacteria issues, and you can actually buy the bottles too, but the shipping costs more than the bottles, and this drives up the cost of the hobby. Besides which, half the fun is the recycling part and having an eclectic arrangement of bottles holding your nectar of joy.
Every batch of wine makes 30 bottles, and I am making three batches this week. That means I’ll need 90 empty bottles by Christmas when I am done racking these big carboys and the liquid is ready to bottle so it can age another 8 months or so. I currently have 8 bottles. (I’m drinking as fast as I can – but it is a lonely pursuit around here.) I can’t even ask my drinking friends to save bottles for me, because they are all in Florida and I am here in dry county Georgia. It’s a dilemma, I tell ya.
I was complaining about this the other day, when Kent actually slipped downstairs to his room and came up with an empty wine bottle that he wanted to contribute to the cause. This time it was ME with the lifted “there’s one of them true sinner” eyebrows.
“Hummm…. Why do you have a wine bottle in your room, dear underage, innocent child?”
“It’s a souvenir from my last band field trip,” he said. “Fill ‘er up.”
Sometimes it is better not to ask, so I didn’t.
Mark and I went to a wine testing a month ago and we did cart home a box of empty bottles. The host of the program graciously told us to go ahead and take what we wanted, and as we were packing them up, a woman slipped up to us with a grin and said, “I bet you are a winemaker.”
“Actually, I’m just starting,” I said.
“Wish I’d known you sooner. My husband and I just threw out hundreds of bottles from our basement, and some were even great antiques. We always saved them for a friend who made wine, but she moved, so we finally decided it was time to get rid of them.”
I was jealous. Why can’t I find a friend like that!
Anyway, I am on a quest for wine bottles now, so if anyone comes to visit, pack up the trunk . . . . .
I have plenty of mason jars for pickles and such, but really, that won’t do for wine because presentation is everything, and they just don’t make corks 8 inches wide.
I think the only option I have to is force my husband to take me to more wine tastings and perhaps more trips into Atlanta to visit expensive restaurants with extensive wine lists, don’t you? It’s not that I’m indulgent. Just being practical.
I guess when your idea of a difficult life challenge is collecting wine bottles, you really have nothing to complain about. So I will stop whining about wine-ing. At the rate this area is growing and changing, it is only a matter of time until the ban is lifted. Who knows, I may even be sorry when that happens. There is something to be said about contrast, and being a wine maker in a liquor-free town can be fun – makes a surface “good” girl into a sexy “bad girl” in theory . . .and she doesn’t even have to pierce anything or dye her hair Goth black to get “the eyebrow” from Betty Jane at the Piggly Wiggly.
It is 7Am. Must go. The roar of the blackberries calling cannot be ignored. . .