By Josette Keelor
Visitors to Wicked Oak Farms & Vineyard in Star Tannery this Saturday will get a taste of the holidays at the vineyard's first ever wine class.
Wicked Oak co-owner Russell Anderson said he hopes "Cooking with Wine," led by Middletown chef Melinda Bremmer, will be the first of many at the farm that opened its vineyard Oct. 12.
Bremmer has led other area cooking classes, but this will be her first for the holidays. She met Anderson in the valley's music community while performing with her band Wildflower and with the Johnny Cash tribute band, The Cash Express, and said the class could help differentiate Wicked Oak from other area vineyards.
Anderson said he's heard of vineyards pairing wine with foods, but "I don't think I've seen any cooking classes."
For $30, class attendees also can enjoy a wine tasting, a light snack, samples of everything demonstrated and a live performance by Wildflower -- also part of an effort to add music to the vineyard's event schedule, Bremmer said.
"I think it's awfully charming in here, and comfortable," she said.
On a recent December afternoon, the vineyard's tasting room was decorated in anticipation of Christmas. Holiday music played from a Sirius radio station, and a crackling fire in the wood stove kept out the cold. A ceiling-high Christmas tree stood ready to greet customers, and bottles of Chambourcin were dressed in their Christmas best -- little elf hats and beards.
It's the Chambourcin that Bremmer plans to feature in five recipes this Saturday.
"It made the absolute best jelly I have ever put in my mouth. It is so awesome, and I kid you not. I've made thousands of jars of jelly and it has tasted so good," she said.
"This is good for holiday gift giving and holiday hors d'oeuvres and just to eat," she said. She recommends spreading the wine jelly on thinly sliced artisan French bread, toasted with gouda.
Bremmer also plans to make mulled wine, cranberry orange wine relish, poached pears in wine and cranberry sauce and holiday wine cake and Bremmer's special wine jelly.
She and her boyfriend, fellow musician Justin Bickle, were successful in running the bakery and catering business Our Farms to Yours for two years before closing, but these days she mainly focuses on performing and on beefing up her cooking education repertoire.
She plans to feature classes on a YouTube channel this coming year, starting with this weekend's class.
Bremmer's cooking skills derive from her mother who was a baker, a nutritionist and a chef for many years.
"She just was passionate," Bremmer said. "She never made the same recipe pretty much twice."
Quality ingredients make her own cooking unique and are also what she admires about the products at Wicked Oak. Anderson sells organic pork, sausages, ground beef, chicken, eggs and seasonal produce. He grows grapes on one acre of farmland but plans to begin expanding next year.
In her cooking, Bremmer uses heirloom recipes and organic products when possible.
"You'll never find me using Crisco or corn syrup or anything like that," she said. "I try to use everything that's real," she said. "I only use real food."
Melinda Bremmer's "Cooking with Wine" class will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Wicked Oak Farms & Vineyard, 2121 S. Pifer Road, Star Tannery. The fee is $30 per person and includes a complimentary wine tasting, a light snack and a sample of all recipes demonstrated. Live music by the band Wildflower will follow. For more information, call Bremmer at 703-507-7604 or Wicked Oak at 571-201-2963 or visit www.wickedoakfarms.com.
Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org