Wine Tour at Home: Armenia

Vineyards of Armenia’s Vayots Dzor province (Photo credit: Kristin Cass)

Despite its relatively small geographic size, Armenia is a country that brings together an impressive history and an inspiring union of food and wine. Bordered by Turkey, Iran, Georgia and Azerbaijan, this small country calls itself the “birthplace of wine” and according to the bible it is the “Cradle of Viticulture and Winemaking.” The Bible also states that Noah planted a vine at the foot of Mount Ararat after the Flood and so began the traditional history of winemaking on the territory of modern Armenia. Although I would love to travel to this diverse and beautiful country someday, for now I am exploring the region at home with another Wine Tour at Home.

The earliest known winery, discovered in a cave located in Armenia’s mountainous Yeghegnadzor region. (Photo Credit: Kiwiodysee)

One of the cornerstones of Armenian people and their culture is this impressive history of viticulture and winemaking. During an excavation between 2007-2011, in the Areni Complex in Armenia, the world’s oldest winery dating back 6,100 years, was discovered. This site pre-dates previous neighboring locations in the bordering country of Georgia, which was originally thought to be home to the world’s oldest wine production. Archaeologists believe that the people who produced wine in this Cave Winery used it for ceremonial purposes. This discovery confirms that even back in 4,000 BC people had mastered the horticultural skills needed to maintain the vines and the viticultural knowledge to produce the wine.

Getting to know modern Armenian is a journey through historical milestones and a better understanding of the heart wrenching struggles the country and it’s people faced during the criminal Armenian Genocide that happened there in the early 20th Century. Today war and escalations continue in Armenia, it is a country that has seen more than its far share of upheaval and hardship, yet it strives to move forward and build its self back up, forging ahead to a better future.

Despite the struggles of the past, the last few years has brought momentous steps toward a brilliant future for Armenia. In November of 2017, a Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) broadened the scope of relations between Armenia and the European Union. In June of 2018, a provision based on CEPA was applied requiring all Geographic Indicators registered in the EU will be protected in Armenia.

Positive momentum in the CEPA agreement with Armenia continued in October of 2019 when “Both Parties underlined the positive dynamics of the Armenian economy and the importance of the bilateral trade relations between the EU and Armenia, with the EU continuing to be Armenia’s second trading partner, its main export market and its second most important source of imports.” (Quote Source) Building a sturdy platform on the EU relations, the Armenian Wine Industry is diligently working to demonstrate its much deserved place in the world wine markets.

On March 01, 2021 the Armenian-EU CEPA took effect. This agreement has led to successfully addressing the trade barriers that existed within the wine producing industry.

Photo Credit: Armenian Tour Information

During the Soviet period (from the 1930s through the early 90s) , Armenia’s wine grapes were designated primarily for brandy production, many vineyards and businesses were destroyed during this time as the Armenian wine industry fell into the shadows. It wasn’t until the late 1990s that winemakers started to breathe life back into the industry and since 2015 Armenian wines have seen a steady increase in the percentage of wines exported. In 2019 21% of wine produced in Armenia was exported to markets in 37 countries, which indicates a successful diversification of the country’s export markets. It is exciting to witness this Armenian wine culture rebirth after it was stifled for so many years.

The ‘Cradle of Viticulture’ Terroir

Armenian wines, in part, are distinguished by the countries exceptional terroir along with a collection of environmental elements that impact grape growing in the region. A compilation of high elevations and flat landscapes combined with diverse microclimates lend to an array of indigenous grape varietals being grown in Armenia. Add in the rich volcanic soils found in the area and it is no surprise that these local grapes along with some International varieties develop distinct flavors that are showcased in the wines.

Having cultivated grapes for thousands of years, the wines of Armenia are today an intricate merging of youthful and old grapes and styles. Within the five vinicultural regions in the country 400 indigenous grapes varieties are grown, yet only about 31 of these are used in wine making. Red wines are lead by Areni, often referred to as Areni Noir while common white grape varieties include Voskehat and Kangun.

Armenian free standing grape vines. Photo Credit: Zenith Photo Studio / Vine & Wine Association of Armenia.


Armenia’s top wines today include a selection of expressive whites, memorable reds, lovely rosés and stellar bubbly. In the last few years the government has begun a serious push to aid winemakers to market this ‘Sacred Land of Wine’ and this has helped with the somewhat challenging task of finding Armenian wines in stores or online. Storica Wines which is an Armenian wine import company in the U.S. is also working on making wines from Armenia more accessible and to “celebrate the soul, the history, and the song of Armenia.” One of the labels that Storica carries is Zulal, and I had the pleasure of trying three of their wines.

Meaning “pure” in Armenian, Zulal was founded by Aimee Keushguerian in 2017, daughter of Vahe Keushguerian who founded Keush in 2013 and who produces traditional method sparkling wines made with indigenous grape varieties. Zulal’s focus is on old own-rooted Armenia’s indigenous grape varieties to express the wines of the past but made with modern practices and techniques to blend the old world with the new world. Sourced from grape growers in the villages from numerous grape growing regions in Armenia Areni and Voskehat are the main grape varieties used in Zulal’s wines.


Named for its home village in Vayots Dzor where evidence of the world’s oldest known winery facility was discovered, Areni is said to be Armenia’s signature grape variety. These grapes come from vines at 1400-1750 meters elevation (wow!) were they grow in tight bunches. This dark thick-skinned varietal produces full bodied wines that are heady with red and dark brambly fruit aroma and intriguing herbal notes.

The Areni Reserve from Zulal has a structure similar to a Côte-Rôtie Syrah or a Burgenland Blaufrankisch with lovely velvety tannins and a delightfully prolonged finish. On the nose this reserve has hints of cassis with splashes of red and black fruits that intertwine with a dusting of spices. On the palate cherry flavors take the lead with a peppery plum note following closely behind.

With soft smoky notes and whispers of vanilla I knew this would be the perfect wine to pair with Lahmahjoon, a savory Armenian pizza that is bathed in a tomato and lamb topping. As noted in the recipe below it is best to make the topping and let it set overnight so that the flavors has a chance to blend.

Lahmahjoon (Armenian Pizza)

This delicious Armenian inspired crispy pizza is topped with a flavor-packed mixture of minced meat with onion, pepper, tomato, and fresh herbs. You can take a shortcut by using quality store-bought pizza dough. The secret to this pizza is in the spice mixture that is best if allowed to set overnight for the flavors to blend.


  • 1 pound ground lamb (or ground beef)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1 cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • ½ cup finely chopped green pepper
  • ½ cup finely chopped red pepper
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 14.5 ounce can peeled and diced tomatoes
  • 1 6 ounce can tomato paste
  • ½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh basil
  • tbsp chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 *par-baked pizza crust (see notes)


Pizza Topping *Prepare the night before

  • Place ground lamb in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add salt and pepper and break into small pieces, cook until mostly browned. Drain excess grease.
    Add the onion, green pepper, and garlic, cooking until onion is translucent.
    Add diced tomatoes and tomato paste, stir well.
    Add parsley, basil, mint, cumin, and if using, cayenne.
    Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and *refrigerate overnight to blend the flavors.

Pizza Crust

  • Prepare your favorite pizza dough or purchase already made pizza dough.
    Place a pizza stone or inverted rimmed baking sheet on the lower oven rack and preheat to 475 degrees F.
    Roll out or stretch the pizza dough to make a 12" round or oval. Using a giant spatula or pizza peel transfer the dough to hot oven stone; or place the dough on a pan, and place the pan on the middle rack of your oven.
    Bake for 3-4 minutes. Remove from oven.
  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F or prepare wood fired pizza oven to 700 degrees F
  • Distribute the lamb mixture evenly over the par-baked pizza crust, and spread out to the edges.
    Bake for about 20 minutes in the preheated oven. Bake 1-2 minutes in wood fired pizza oven.
    Cut into small wedges.
    Lahmahjoon can be served hot or cold.


This meat mixture is very heavy and moist, par-baking the pizza crust before adding the toppings will allow for a crisper and more evenly cooked pizza. 

Zulal 2018 Voskehat

50 year old un-grafted vines grown in volcanic rock at 5,000 feet above sea level is how this 100% Voskehat gets its start. This rare Armenian variety whose name translates to “golden berry” is late ripening which leads to more time maturing under the sun. Changes in the year to year growing conditions produce a wide range of aromatic profiles in this extremely vintage driven variety.

Hand sorted and fermented in stainless steel there is a distinct textural quality to this 2018 Zulal Voskehat that adds to its unique character. The interesting finish of this Voskehat is certainly an attention grabber, crisp and elegant. I really enjoyed the rich tropical, stone fruit and floral notes in this vibrant gold colored wine. A touch of herbs on the palate and a light sprinkling of minerality had me completely infatuated with this Armenian gem.

Zulal 2017 Areni Syrah *Sireni

*In doing research, I learned the grape variety Sireni, which is indigenous to Armenia is a late harvest selection that is hand sorted to ensure the elegance, depth and complexity of this varietal. Noted for it’s ripe red fruit intensity and silkiness I give Sireni the much deserved credit for this wines long sensational finish.

A blend of 70% Areni from Vayots Dzor, 20% Syrah from Armivir, 10% Sireni from Artsakh grown on volcanic rock, 3,000 to 4,300 feet above sea level this wine will have you secretly stashing the bottle to ensure that you get to enjoy the last glass.

Silky with velvety tannins I loved how the aromas of black and red fruits were softened by a subtle earthy stone fruit character. On the palate dark cherry and currant lingered with a touch of spice on the finish. I kept envisioning pairing this delightful wine with a roasted chicken dinner.

These Zulal wines were a fantastic introduction to the Armenian wine renaissance and I know that these first tastes are just the beginning. A wonderful way to remotely enjoy the flavors of Armenian wines at home.

Have you tried wines from Armenia? I’d love to hear your thoughts on them.

Images and content © Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

Drink In Life Book Club

Natures Connections with Author Barbara Kingsolver

To join the Book Club Live Chat on Sunday July 25th at 1:00 pm PST/4:00 EST make sure that you are signed up to receive email notifications from Drink In Life (Email Subscription on right hand of the page) and Comment on this story post. You will receive an email invite to join the discussion. You can also follow @drinkinlifebookclub on Instagram, comment on the July Book post and ask to join the discussion.

I first discovered author Barbara Kingsolver in the early 90’s when I came across a paperback in a used book store called The Bean Tree. I was instantly drawn in by this story about friendship and love, about abandonment and finding your place, and about discovering surprises in unexpected places. Honestly, the book touched me and I became an avid reader of Kingsolver. In her novels and works of non-fiction including Animal Dreams, High Tide in Tucson, The Poisonwood Bible, Prodigal Summer, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Small Wonders Kingsolver leads her readers into moments of transcendence. Kingsolver’s keen ability to be a storyteller/scientist/teacher in her architecturally designed fiction and her engagingly informative non-fiction forces the reader to never look at specific aspects of the world in quite the same way.

To this day one of my prized autographed books is The Bean Tree by Kingsolver who I met in Denver during a Book Conference in 1995.

Kingsolver’s fifth novel, Prodigal Summer, published in 2000, embraces the elements of wilderness and celebrates going to back to nature. If you have a spot in your heart reserved for the wonder of nature you can’t help but love this novel. Set in Appalachia Prodigal Summer paints in vivid detail Kingsolver’s appreciation for all living things. A former biologist and journalist, Kingsolver has a rare ability to communicate effortlessly what she knows as a scientist. Kingsolver’s words, paired with her impeccable knowledge of the biological behaviors of individual organisms, elevate this story into a fascinating read that delivers a valuable message about humans and nature to the reader.

About the Author…

Photo Credit: Barbara Kingsolver Website

Barbara Kingsolver’s fiction has achieved bestselling status in the US and as a celebrated author, there has been a lot written about Kingsolver and her life, instead of retelling her story I want to share a link to her website that highlights her background and more.

Prodigal Summer

“Solitude is a human presumption. Every quiet step is thunder to beetle life underfoot, a tug of impalpable thread on the web pulling mate to mate and predator to prey, a beginning or an end. Every choice is a world made new for the chosen.”
-Barbara Kingsolver, Prodigal Summer

Set in rural Virginia, Prodigal Summer details the life events of three central characters during the course of a summer. Each of the narratives has one central theme that can be identified through the chapter titles.

  • PredatorsDeanne Wolfe: Stationed in the wilderness of Zebulon Mountain in an isolated cabin, Deanne is a lone park ranger and wildlife biologist who lives a solitary life that follows the seasonal changes and rhythms of nature and wildlife. As the Appalachian summer unfolds, her attention is on a den of coyotes that have migrated recently into the region. Deanne’s solitude is abruptly interrupted when a young hunter, Eddie Bondo shows up and invades her private spaces. Although a romance blossoms, Deanna wants to protect all the forest creatures and Eddie is a hunter, resulting in built up tensions.
  • Moth LoveLusa Landowski: On a farm in the foothills of the Zebulon Mountain, bugologist, Lusa soon finds herself in charge of a huge farm after the untimely death of her husband Cole Widener. Raised as a city girl, Lusa’s dreams of farm life and eagerness to learn collide with her inexperience and the Widener family who question her upbringing and religious beliefs. Marooned in this unfamiliar place Lusa must come to a decision on how deep her attachment to the land runs.
  • Old ChestnutsGarnett Walker III: A few miles down the road from the Widener farm, a feud between elderly neighbors Garnett Walker and Nannie Rawley escalates as the two tend to their respective farms in very different ways. Garnett, who is trying to revive a breed of American Chestnuts that his ancestors once used heavily for lumber that is on the verge of extinction due to blight. Wrangling about pesticides and God, Garrett and Nannie find themselves helping each other at times despite their disagreements and when they least expect it.

Over the course of one Appalachian summer, these three characters find a connection of love to the shared natural world that surrounds them, and to one another. This title is a sensuous observation of the natural world and how it reveals to us the unexpected beauty of life, both around us and inside ourselves. This story reminds us that as a community we have a relationship with our local environment and that there is a world of connections out there just waiting to be made with others and with nature.

While Prodigal Summer makes you realize the fragility of each and every inhabitant on earth, and the role we all play in this dance called life, her non-fiction book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle shares how each of us can work toward food sustainability in our every days lives.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, chronicles her family’s transition to complete consumption of only locally grown food (the only thing given a pass was coffee). This book completely transformed my thinking about food, cooking, where our food comes from and the things we bond over with our family. This title teaches you how to be thoughtful and mindful about agriculture and sustainability, for this reason and because it is one of my all time favorite books, I wanted to add it as a suggested supplemental title to this months book club. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this book!

April is the cruelest month, T.S. Eliot wrote, by which I think he meant (among other things) that springtime makes people crazy. We expect too much, the world burgeons with promises it can’t keep, all passion is really a setup, and we’re doomed to get our hearts broken yet again. I agree, and would further add: Who cares? Every spring I go out there anyway, around the bend, unconditionally. … Come the end of the dark days, I am more than joyful. I’m nuts. ”
― Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

A Nod to Appalachian Cuisine

If you ask most people what they think Appalachian cuisine is, their answer (if they have any idea at all) will most likely be pinto beans and corn. Yet, there is so much more to this regions culinary offerings which becomes increasingly apparent when you realize that Appalachia is a 200,000 square mile region. This area follows the spine of the Appalachian mountains from southern New York to northern Mississippi. Included in this expansive region is all of West Virginia and a part of twelve other states including Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and New York.

Like many other regions in the United States, Appalachia is a melting pot of local and international cuisines. The Southern Appalachians was originally inhabited by the Cherokee more than a thousand years ago and they are noted as being the original cultivators of corn in this region. When settlers began to arrive they brought with them the food cultures of their countries, the earliest arrivals included the English, Germans, Scotch-Irish, Hungarians and Italians. This part of the country was also one of the few places that freed slaves were permitted to live and as they settled into this area their heritage and food cultures blended with the other foodways in the Appalachians.

Derived as much from the culture of the mountains as from its ingredients, Appalachian cuisine not only combines the large number of heirloom varieties, like apples, pears and corn from the region but includes foraged ingredients as well. Appalachian locals are able to cultivate the bounty from the land and woods around them since there is plenty available to be foraged like wild mushrooms, ramps, sumac and wild ginger. Food preservation is also an important part of Appalachian cuisine, in the mountains the growing season can be short so a focus is put on preservation. Putting up the harvest means having an ample supply of smoked meats, pickled vegetables, fruits, as well as jams and jellies available for the cold winter months.

Taking all of this heritage and food traditions into account Jill and I have come up with some recipes that we feel compliment both Prodigal Summer and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. We hope that these recipes paired with the Organic wines from Badger Mountain Organic Winery inspire you to recreate them for your own book club or to enjoy when you have finished reading the books.

I would like to thank our July Drink In Life Book Club wine sponsor Badger Mountain Organic Winery for sharing their incredible wines with us. You can read more about this Organic Washington Winery on my previous post.

Appalachian Withered Breakfast Greens with Sunny Egg and Apple Cinnamon Skillet Cornbread

I created this unique breakfast salad recipe to expand the thinking of what breakfast is or should be. Eating this nutrient packed “killed” salad as the Appalachian natives called it, gives the body time to break down and absorb the much-needed vitamins, minerals, and fiber for health and energy. This is so important at the beginning of each day, whether working hard physically in our busy lives, or tending to the many needs of the sprawling pastures of the Appalachia.” -Jill Sonlin

Recipes and Photos by Jill Sonlin of Jill’s Gourmet Dreams. Badger Mountain Organic Chardonnay sponsored wine.

Badger Mountain Chardonnay Pickled Farm Green Beans

Enjoy these Chardonnay Pickled Green Beans as accompaniments with salads and sandwiches! They are so addicting! Such a great upscale version using this incredible organic white wine, and are ready to eat within hours of making.
If time allows make the Badger Mountain Chardonnay Pickled Farm Green Beans the day before you would like to prepare the Appalachian Withered Breakfast Greens, so that they have time to set in the fridge overnight.
Recipe by Jill Sonlin, Jill’s Gourmet Dreams


  • 2 cup cleaned trimmed fresh Green Beans
  • cup Badger Mountain Organic Chardonnay
  • 2 cups Water
  • cups White Vinegar
  • ¼ cup Salt
  • ¼ cup fresh Dill sprigs, whole
  • 3 large Garlic cloves, halved and peeled
  • Pinch Cayenne
  • ¼ tsp Red Pepper Flakes
  • 3 Bay Leaves
  • ¼ tsp Black Peppercorns, whole
  • ½ tsp Juniper Berries, whole


  • In a glass bowl, place all ingredients except green beans together. Mix well.
    Add green beans and press down into the pickling liquid until fully submerged under vinegar liquid. Cover tightly and refrigerate 2 hours to overnight. Keep stored in refrigerator up to 1 month. Enjoy!

Withered Green Salad & Badger Mountain Chardonnay Warm Vinaigrette

Try this unique Appalachian withered (or “killed”) loaded salad, packed with farm fresh fruit and veggies, homemade pickled beans, and a fried egg topper! Let your eyes be dazzled and your body nourished! Enjoy this beautiful Badger Mountain Chardonnay Vinaigrette dressing served warm over your chilled salad greens for a unique twist. Taste the gorgeous combination of flavors of ripe apples and honey, tartness from apple cider vinegar, and a touch of elegance with Badger Mountain Chardonnay wine added!
Recipe by Jill Sonlin, Jill’s Gourmet Dreams
Servings 2


Withered Green Salad

  • 2 cups Organic Mixed Leaf Lettuce (like Spring mix)
  • 12 Badger Mountain Chardonnay Pickled Green Beans, whole (recipe above)
  • 4 slices cooked uncured pork Bacon, crispy, bite-sized pieces, *save 4 tbsp bacon grease for dressing
  • 1 Red Gala Apple, sliced, skins on
  • ¼ cup Walnuts, raw, rough chopped (large pieces)
  • 3 Chives, chopped small (chive blossoms can be included too if spring season)
  • 2 large Eggs

Badger Mountain Chardonnay Warm Vinaigrette

  • ½ cup Badger Mountain Chardonnay
  • ½ cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 4 tbsp liquid Bacon grease (from frying bacon)
  • 1 Shallot, thinly sliced rings
  • 3 tbsp Honey, organic
  • 3 tbsp Dijon Mustard
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • ¼ tsp Black Pepper


  • Prepare the wilted salad by placing the fresh lettuce in a large serving style bowl.
    Then layer with pickled green beans, bacon, apples, and walnuts on top of the lettuce.
  • Next, make the vinaigrette by placing the 4 Tbsp bacon grease into a nonstick frying pan with the sliced shallots and a pinch of salt. Cook lightly until translucent, 1-2 mins on low heat.
    In a medium saucepan, whisk together the Chardonnay wine, vinegar, honey, mustard, salt and pepper. Add to it the sautéed shallots and remaining bacon fat from the frying pan. Whisk to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning.
    Heat the vinaigrette until warmed through on low heat, 3-4 mins. Keep hot and simmered on low until ready to use.
    Pan-fry the eggs to your preference (pictured: fried, sunny side up).
    Drizzle the heated Chardonnay Vinaigrette over the prepared salad. This causes the lettuce to “wilt”. Then top salad with the egg and sprinkle with chopped chives. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately!

Apple Cinnamon Skillet Cornbread

Family kitchens in the Appalachia Mountains often have smells of fresh made cornbread filling the air, making use of the high yield of corn from the crops that abound throughout the region. Try this sweet and savory version, using apples and spice to brighten up traditional cornbread.
Recipe by Jill Sonlin, Jill’s Gourmet Dreams


  • 4 tbsp organic Canola Oil
  • cups fine ground yellow Cornmeal
  • ½ cup peeled and small diced Red Apple (like Gala)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ tsp organic Cinnamon
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp Salt, plus additional pinch at end of cooking
  • 2 large Eggs
  • 2 cups organic Whole Milk
  • 2 tsp Lemon Juice


  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
    In a 10 inch cast iron skillet, place 2 Tbsp canola oil and place in hot oven to heat.
    Whisk together cornmeal, apple, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, mix together the milk and lemon juice, and allow to sit for 5 minutes at room temp to sour.
    In a third bowl, whisk together eggs, milk mixture, and 2 Tbsp of oil.
    Add all liquid ingredients to dry cornmeal mix, and stir gently to combine.
    Remove hot skillet from oven, and pour cornmeal mixture into hot pan. *BE EXTRA CAREFUL pouring the batter into hot oil in the pan. Be cautious it does not splatter! Bake until golden in color and toothpick inserted comes out clean. Bake time approx. 20 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle top of cornbread with a light pinch of salt. Slice and serve warm, fresh out of the oven!

“Dessert is like a feel good song, and the best ones make you dance.”

Chef Edward lee

Vanilla Riesling Peach Cobbler with Cinnamon Whipped Cream

Nothing so beautiful than a dessert made from fresh sun-ripened peaches enveloped in vanilla, buttery cake, and a generous splash of Badger Mountain Riesling wine! Divine!
Recipe by Jill Sonlin, Jill’s Gourmet Dreams


  • 1 cup fresh slightly ripe Peaches, sliced thick, with skins on
  • ¼ cup Badger Mountain Riesling
  • tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 cup Whole Milk, organic
  • 1 cup plus 1 Tbsp Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • ¼ tsp Salt
  • 1 stick Butter


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
    In a two-quart Dutch oven pot or baking dish, place the stick of butter in it, then place baking dish into heated oven to melt.
    Mix together all ingredients except peaches. Don’t over stir batter!
    Remove heated baking dish from oven, and add batter on top of the hot butter. *Be careful it doesn’t splatter!
    Then add peaches on top the batter in clumps. Allow the peaches to sink down into the batter, or use spoon to press them gently into batter. Cover dish with foil or lid.
    Bake for 50-60 mins covered until cobbler cake is light and fluffy and lightly golden.
    Top with Homemade Cinnamon Whipped Cream (recipe below) and serve!

A Dollop of Whipped Cream…

Homemade Cinnamon Whipped Cream


1 cup cold Heavy Cream

2 Tbsp Powdered Sugar

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

1/8 tsp organic ground Cinnamon

Recipe and Photo by Jill Sonlin, Jill’s Gourmet Dreams


Whip the cream, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon in a chilled bowl using a hand mixer or a standing mixer fitted with a wire whisk attachment.

Beat on low at first, then gradually increase the speed to high until soft peaks form. DO NOT OVER WHIP! Keep a close eye on it. Whip time varies, but generally a few minutes from start to finish. Use cinnamon whipped cream immediately or store in refrigerator for up to one week.

This month’s collection of recipes from my friend Chef Jill Sonlin of Jill’s Gourmet Dreams is a true example of her culinary talents. Thank you Jill for collaborating with me and sharing some of your amazing original recipes.

A Wine Infused Appetizer

Food preservation is a valuable skill, after all that hard work planning, planting, tending and harvesting, the last thing you want is for your bounty to go to waste. Canning is a big part of my summer routine, although we eat fresh from the garden as the fruits and produce ripen I also strive to ‘put up’ some of the harvest for the winter and early spring months. My Recipe for the Kingsolver books includes refrigerated Merlot Pickled Beets and an appetizer that incorporates them on a herby goat cheese bruschetta. A nod to my love of gardening, preserving and Appalachian cuisine. -Elaine

Merlot Pickled Beets

With intriguing notes of spice, these Merlot Pickled Beets are tangy, aromatic and slightly sweet with tons of earthy flavor. These refrigerator Merlot Pickled Beets can last up to 6 weeks, so you will have extra available for another helping of Bruschetta or to add to a salad!


  • 2 pounds trimmed Red Beets (about 5 medium)
  • 1 cup Badger Mountain Organic Merlot
  • ¾ cup Red Wine Vinegar
  • ½ cup Water
  • ¼ cup Raw Honey
  • 2 tbsp Brown Sugar
  • 1 tsp Kosher Salt
  • Pinch of Nutmeg
  • 1 small Cinnamon Stick broken into pieces
  • 6 Whole Allspice Berries
  • 6 Whole Juniper Berries
  • 6 Whole Cloves
  • 6 Whole Peppercorns


  • Put the beets in a 4-quart pot, add water to cover, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer until the beets are tender but still crisp, about 25 to 40 minutes (time can vary depending on the size of the beets). Drain and set aside until cool enough to handle.
    Peel and trim the tops and bottoms off of the beets. Cut beets into 1 inch squares and evenly place the beets in three 1-pint jars (you can use any sealable nonreactive containers). To each jar add 2 small pieces broken cinnamon stick, 2 whole allspice berries, 2 whole juniper berries and 2 whole peppercorns.
    In a 2- to 3-quart nonreactive saucepan, bring the wine, vinegar, water, honey, brown sugar, kosher salt and pinch of nutmeg to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until the sugar and honey are dissolved, about 3 to 5 minutes.
    Evenly pour the pickling liquid over the beets to cover. Let the jars sit, uncovered, at room temperature for 2 hours to pickle the beets and cool. At this point you can serve, or cover and refrigerate overnight.

Merlot Pickled Beet & Herb Goat Cheese Bruschetta

A combination of simple flavors come together deliciously with this Merlot Pickled Beet and Herb Goat Cheese Bruschetta. The herby cream base of goat cheese gives a little extra lusciousness to this earthy appetizer. A perfect bite to enjoy alone while reading a great book or for your next book club gathering.


Herbed Goat Cheese

  • 1 8 oz log plain Goat Cheese
  • 2 tsp fresh Lemon zest *Reserve 1 tsp
  • 2 tsp finely minced fresh Thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp finely minced fresh Rosemary
  • 1 tsp finely minced fresh Sage leaves
  • ¼ tsp Sea Salt


  • 1 Baguette diagonal cuts into 1/2 inch slices
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tbsp Garlic Olive Oil
  • Herbed Goat Cheese
  • Merlot Pickled Beets, drained and semi dry
  • 1 tsp * Reserved fresh Lemon Zest


Herbed Goat Cheese

  • In a small bowl combine first 6 ingredients, stirring well. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours to allow flavors to blend.
    Remove from refrigerate 20 minutes before you are ready to prepare the Bruschetta to allow cheese to come to room temperature making it easier to spread on bread slices.


  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. or Prepare indoor grill skillet on medium high.
    Combine the olive oil and garlic olive oil.
    Arrange the bread slices on heavy baking sheet. Brush 3 tablespoons of combined olive oils on the bread slices. Bake until the crostini are pale golden and crisp, about 10 minutes or grill until for 3-5 minutes.
    Spread a little herbed goat cheese mixture on each bruschetta creating a “trough” ( to hold pickled beets in place) and top with a 2 heaping tablespoons Merlot Pickled Beets. Garnish with reserved fresh Lemon zest.

Jill and I hope that we have inspired you to make some of these recipes to enjoy while you read The Prodigal Summer and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. We would love to hear your thoughts on these recipes and the book. Cheers everyone and we hope to see you soon at the next Virtual Drink In Life Book Club discussion.

Remember to join the Book Club Video Chat on Sunday July 25th at 1:00 pm PST/4:00 EST make sure that you are signed up to receive email notifications from Drink In Life (Email Subscription on right hand of the page) and Comment on this story post or comment on the @drinkinlifebookclub Instagram post that you would like to join in. You will receive an email invite to join the discussion.

“Thanks for this day, for all birds safe in their nests, for whatever this is, for life.”
― Barbara Kingsolver, Prodigal Summer

Images, content and recipes © of Drink In Nature Photography/Drink In Life Blog and/or Jill’s Gourmet Dreams.