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Vicard barrels

From the Archives: How Barrels are Made

Originally posted on August 29, 2011

A Tour Inside Vicard Cooperage

Oak barrels play an important role in the production of wine and eau de vie. Go inside Vicard Cooperage in Cognac, France for a look at how barrels are made.

The process of making a barrel starts with the oak tree. Seventy five percent of Vicard’s barrels are made with French oak; 20 percent are made with American oak and 5 percent are Hungarian or Romanian oak. Only thirty percent of the trunk is used for barrels.

The logs are sprayed with water to maintain the level of humidity and to keep bugs away.

To make the staves, the log is split into quarters. Following the natural lines of the wood, the oak is carefully cut into planks. The wood is laid in a pattern for aging and placed outdoors for two to three years. The exposure to sun, wind and rain seasons the wood and eliminates the undesirable tannins.

To assemble the barrel, the staves are placed inside a metal hoop. Using steam and force the wood is pulled into the recognizable shape of a barrel. More hoops are then placed on the wood to maintain the shape.

Toasting the barrel is very important as the amount of toast affects the flavor of the wine inside. Vicard uses computerized technology to monitor each barrel and to ensure the ideal toast profile.

As the finishing touches are put on the barrel, the metal hoops are adjusted or removed. The round ends are inserted and carefully fit into place. The wood is sanded and new metal hoops are placed on the barrel.

The final step is to add the logo. Using a computerized system and lasers the image is burned into the wood.

Vicard produces 55,000 barrels each year.

Taste of Atlanta 2013


Taste of Atlanta is now in its 12th year. What makes it the can’t miss event of the fall? The Amateur Gastronomer found out.

“This day is all about food,” said Chef Ron Eyester of Rosebud, The Family Dog and Timone’s. “I think Taste of Atlanta gives people the opportunity to kind of get hyped up about food.”

More than 100 restaurants participated in the three day festival that showcased the city’s vibrant dining scene. It truly was the “food lover’s food experience” — attendees could sample just about any cuisine, from international favorites like Italian, Indian and Japanese to Southern staples like fried chicken and barbecue.

“We’ve just found that this time of year, meat’s pretty popular,” said Matt Coggin of D.B.A. Barbecue. “Why have lentil soup when you can have meat on a stick?”

For festival attendees, Taste of Atlanta offered the chance to interact with the people who source, create and serve the food.

“We love doing the event because it definitely brings people throughout – not just from intown neighborhoods,” said Coggin. “It’s always a great event, we always make new friends.”

“It’s great seeing regular people get excited about food,” said Eyester.

Taste of Atlanta offered education too. Those who were less familiar with the ‘eat local’ movement were able to experience it and understand the importance of it. And at seminars and cooking demonstrations attendees learned new techniques and recipes.

Most of all, Taste of Atlanta showcased just how exceptional the city’s restaurants are.

“I welcome the opportunity to create an awareness about what restaurants in Atlanta are doing and how our dining scene in Atlanta is getting progressively better year after year,” said Eyester.

“Eat out every night!”

Related: Snapshots from Atlanta’s Taste Revival

Evening of Decadence at the Speakeasy Cocktail Festival


Pinstripes and pearls. Feathers and fedoras. Blackjack and burlesque. The 1920s came roaring back Saturday at the second Speakeasy Cocktail Festival.

The event was a celebration of the style and sips of the Prohibition era. Revelers enjoyed 1920s inspired cocktails, and tastes of rum, vodka, tequila, cognac and beyond.

Opera in Midtown provided the perfect location to see and be seen – or not. Guests could take in performances from three floors, or sneak off to side rooms for drinks or cigars.

For those who were feeling lucky, the casino offered poker, blackjack, roulette and craps.

With sensual performances and all the classic and creative cocktails you could imagine, the Speakeasy Cocktail festival was a true evening of decadence.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Health Education & Communication Center of Atlanta. Click here to read about the organizations supported.

Taste of Atlanta 2012


With delicious food, live music and a chance to mingle with some of Atlanta’s best chefs, Grills Gone Wild was the place to be Friday night. At this kickoff party for Taste of Atlanta guests enjoyed brisket, ribs, pork, shrimp and tacos, accompanied by wine, beer and cocktails.

In between sets of Yacht Rock Schooner’s cool ’70s music, the all chef band 5 Bone Rack took the stage. Chefs Jamie Adams (Veni Vidi Vici), Ford Fry (JCT and The Optimist), Ted Lahey (Table & Main), Gary Mennie (High Cotton), and Zeb Stevenson (Livingston Restaurant + Bar) demonstrated that their talents extend beyond the restaurant kitchen.

Grills Gone Wild offered a taste of the food-filled weekend to come. On Saturday and Sunday hundreds of people packed Tech Square where they sampled small bites from more than 80 restaurants. At seminars and cooking demonstrations, guests learned techniques to use in their own kitchens.

Now in its 11th year, Taste of Atlanta continues to show why it is the city’s premier food, wine, beer and cocktail festival.

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A Sip of the Past at the Speakeasy Cocktail Festival


Atlantans were transported back in time Labor Day Weekend at the Speakeasy Cocktail Festival. The Georgia World Congress Center was transformed into a 1920s-inspired underground club, complete with classic and modern cocktails, cigars, a poker tournament and live entertainment.

Moonshine was one of the main attractions — all legal of course. Straight, flavored or mixed in a drink, moonshine demonstrated just how versatile (and tasty) it can be.

Guests also had the chance to taste vodka, rum, whiskey and cider. In between sips they could play pool, cornhole and bocce ball.

For the causal cigar fan, there was a chance to learn about and sample a variety of cigars.

The Speakeasy Cocktail Festival was a celebration of the Prohibition era and its influence on the beer, spirits and cocktails of today.

All proceeds from the Speakeasy Cocktail Festival benefited The Health Education & Communication Center of Atlanta, a 501(c)(3) organization that works to build awareness to improve health literacy and positively impact health outcomes throughout the state.

Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

Atlanta Food & Wine Festival Celebrates the South


How do you dispel the myth that southern cuisine is not as sophisticated as other regional fine dining? You bring together chefs, educators and plenty of food and wine fans for the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, a celebration of the South’s rich culinary traditions.

“The Southern food experience can be so so different depending on what region of the south you’re in, what influences you have,” said Chef Kevin Gillespie of Atlanta’s Woodfire Grill. “People think that it’s just fried chicken and gravy – and it is that, it’s just so, so much more.”

fried chicken and okra

There was plenty of fried chicken at the tasting tents, the festival’s main draw. Local and regional chefs shared their version of the southern staple.

Festival attendees got to taste much more than just chicken. Restaurants visiting from as far west as Texas and far north as Virginia offered barbecue, pork, seafood, tacos and beyond. Plus there were plenty of Georgia peaches, pecans and Vidalia onions – and beer, bourbon, whiskey and wine to wash it all down.

whole pig

Learning experiences offered an in depth look at both the comfort and gourmet aspects of southern food and drink. While sharing standout wines produced in Georgia, Texas and Virginia, winemakers demonstrated that the west coast has some competition.

wine seminar

Said Mary Ann Hardman, owner of Persimmon Creek Vineyards, “I think it is very very important for restaurants, who especially espouse a fork to plate, or a local sort of push in their food . . . how can you say you are serving food that is local when you don’t have one wine that’s from Georgia on your list?”

For both chefs and festival attendees, the weekend was more than just a chance to eat great food and sip a variety of wine and spirits – it was a way to honor the South’s unique culinary heritage while getting a taste of the dining trends to come.

mussels at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

Said Chef Gillespie, “we have cultures from the entire globe coming together and we want to show people that southern cuisine is a modern, moving, evolving cuisine and hopefully this festival will show that.”


tasting tents

short rib

fried chicken livers

food at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

wine seminar

gnocci wine at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival tasting tents chicken and waffles

chicken at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival tasting tents Atlanta Food & Wine Festival Patron bar

Taste of Atlanta Showcases the City’s Best Chefs & Restaurants


Hundreds of food fans came to Tech Square in Midtown for Taste of Atlanta last weekend. The festival showcased the best in the city’s thriving food, wine, beer and cocktail scene.

A highlight was getting to taste food from more than 80 local restaurants all in one area. From barbecue to burgers, tacos to Thai, Italian to Ethiopian, plus plenty of desserts to satisfy a sweet craving, Taste of Atlanta offered a bite of everything.

“It raises awareness of Atlanta and the amount of great restaurants that we have,” said Chef Kevin Rathbun. “I think with all the younger kids, people going to college and just the in-town vibe, it’s a great venue. And I think it brings awareness to great food and what’s in the city, what’s out there.”

“What I do is a labor of love, and I wish I could actually spend more time cooking,” said Chef Ron Eyester. “[I’m] really excited about where our food is going as a city.”

Chef Eyester of Rosebud and the Family Dog was one of the chefs who entertained guests with demonstrations. At the “Inside the Food Studio” stage Chef Eyester was joined by singer Francine Reed to mix up his famous Bloody Mary. Later he teamed up with Chef Nick Melvin to battle against Chefs Drew Belline and Ford Fry on the main stage.

For VIP ticket holders, Taste of Atlanta offered the chance to learn about wine, beer and spirits at educational seminars, then taste more inside the VIP tasting tent.

“I have found, and I still believe this, that wine drinkers in Georgia are some of the most fun to be with,” said Certified Wine Educator Gil Kulers who led the wine seminars. “What they have in common is that they’re all very interested in all aspects of wine.”

This year marked the 10th anniversary of Taste of Atlanta as the city’s premier food, wine beer and cocktail event.

Click here for more photos from Taste of Atlanta 2011

A Taste of Finger Lakes Riesling

With its cool climate and the influence of lakes and hills, the Finger Lakes region in New York is well suited for Riesling. This AVA (American Viticultural Area) is located in the western part of the state, about a five hour drive from New York City.

The 2010 Finger Lakes Rieslings are available now and are examples of the high quality wines being produced in New York state.

According to the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance, the 2010 harvest was the warmest growing season in nearly 40 years and the wettest since 1973.

Join the Amateur Gastronomer in the video below for a tasting of four 2010 Finger Lakes Rieslings.

Wines tasted:

Anthony Road Wine Company 2010 Dry Riesling

Anthony Road Wine Company opened in 1990 and is located on the west side of Seneca Lake.
Tasting notes: Crisp flavors of apple, honeydew and lemon with a clean finish that has a hint of lemongrass.
alcohol 12.1% by volume

Lucas Vineyards 2010 Dry Riesling

Lucas Vineyards was established in 1980 and is located on the west side of Cayuga Lake.
Tasting notes: A refreshing mix of floral and citrus with notes of white flowers, jasmine, apricot and ripe lemon.
alcohol 11.7% by volume

Keuka Spring Vineyards 2010 Riesling

Keuka Spring Vineyards was founded in 1985 and is located on the east side of Keuka Lake.
Tasting Notes: This off-dry Riesling is a nice balance between dry and sweet. Flavors of Meyer lemon, tangerine and orange blossom with good acidity and a smooth finish.
alcohol 11.5% by volume

Rooster Hill Vineyards 2010 Medium Sweet Riesling

Rooster Hill Vineyards was founded in 2002 and is located on the east side of Keuka Lake.
Tasting notes: Ripe flavors of peach, apricot and lemon culminate in a tangy finish with a hint of tangerine.
alcohol 12.1% volume

If you can’t find Finger Lakes Riesling in your local wine shop you can order directly from the wineries via their websites. Shipping varies by state.

Party at Ponce: A Celebration for Ponce City Market


More than 2,000 people joined some of Atlanta’s favorite chefs on October 1st at Party at Ponce, a celebration at the future home of Ponce City Market.

The former Sears, Roebuck and Co. distribution center on Ponce De Leon Avenue Northeast is set to undergo a massive overhaul, transforming the 2 million square foot structure into Atlanta’s next premiere shopping and dining destination.

The open area where guests feasted will one day be restaurant and retail space.

Ponce City Market will house an indoor food hall and stores on the lower levels, and office and residential space above.

For Chef Jay Swift, whose restaurant 4th and Swift is across the street on North Avenue, the Ponce City Market will be a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

“This is the renaissance of the Old 4th Ward, this is what we were waiting for,” said Chef Swift.  “I’m sure there will be lots of great businesses in here, there’s going to be jobs, and lots of opportunities in the neighborhood, and it’s just great.”

Ponce City Market is being developed by Jamestown and Green Street Properties, whose past projects have included Chelsea Market in New York City and White Provision on the west side of Atlanta.

Chef Ford Fry of JCT Kitchen has been a part of the revitalized Westside district.

“The Westside has been huge, it’s really turned that area,” said Chef Fry.  “Now as far as here, I mean it’s just going to be amazing.  This is the biggest development I think the city has seen in I don’t know how long.  It’s just going to be incredible.”

Cooler temperatures didn’t deter people from enjoying food trucks parked outdoors or performances by the Indigo Girls, Shawn Mullins and Francine Reed.

Party at Ponce was a chance to tour the Sears building before it is shut for renovation – and to imagine what the Ponce City Market will look like.

The development of Ponce City Market is expected to be complete in early 2014.

Saturday’s event benefited the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership and Georgia Organics and raised $80,000 for the two organizations.

Harvest in Jura

The month of September brings splashes of color to the vineyards in the Jura. The grape leaves start to turn orange and brown. Large yellow and purple grape clusters wait to be harvested. Men and women move up and down the rows picking fruit while red tractors wait nearby to transport it.

Jura is a department in eastern France in the province of Franche-Comté which is east of Burgundy and west of Switzerland.Burgundian grapes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are grown in the Jura, along with local varieties Savagnin (white), Poulsard and Trousseau (red).

In the video below take a look at the beginning of the harvest in Jura, filmed during the second week in September 2011.

Return to the main page of The Amateur Gastronomer in Jura