Free-range birds and farmer fizz

Turkey image via Shutterstock

This week begins a month (more or less) of eating—and drinking. Thanksgiving looms large, but after that there is also a continual round of work parties, holiday dinners, cookie-making parties, and excuses to drink Tom & Jerrys. The gift-buying part of Christmas might be a drag, but I like the food and booze part. Especially now that there are so many more interesting choices.  I live in a city, but I can pick from ten different local farms offering pasture-raised and heritage breed turkeys, or I can just get an organic, free-range bird through a local grocery store. So far, we’ve been sticking with the traditional breeds; we’re not ready for a gamey tasting bird on Thanksgiving.

I’ll brine the bird because it’s fun and I think it does make the white meat better. And while I’m making it, I might be drinking grower champagne. For as long as I can remember, buying champagne was all about the name. If you wanted to impress, you bought Veuve, Moet, Perrier, etc. I’ve been trying to break away from this as I’ve discovered France’s small-house champagnes, which are more like wineries than factories, and the grapes for the champagne are grown right on the property rather than shipped in. So far, three favorites are Henri Billiot, Pierre Gimmonet, and L. Aubry. Anyone who wants to learn more about grower champagne must read Terry Thiese’s delightful rant on this, which can be found on the Skurnik Wines site.

You should drink grower-Champagne if the individually distinctive flavors of terroir-driven wines matter more than the lowest-common denominator pap served up by the mega conglomerates in the “luxury goods” business.

You should drink it because it’s honest REAL wine grown and made by a vintner—by a FAMILY  just like yours—by a “him,” not by an “it.” You should drink it because it’s better to buy wine from a person than from a company.

You should drink it because its price is honestly based on what it costs to produce, not manipulated to account for massive PR and ad budgets, or to hold on to market-share.

You should drink grower-Champagne because, like all hand-crafted estate-bottled wines, it is not a mere Thing but is indeed a BEING , expressive of where it grew and who raised it. In drinking it you help protect DIVERSITY , and diversity leads to VITALITY . And if you’d rather eat a local field-ripened summer tomatorapturous with sweetness instead of some January tomato you buy at the supermarket hard as a stone and tasting of nothing, then you should be drinking farmer-fizz!

This rhetoric should sound familiar. I don’t go so far as to insist that all the wine I drink needs to be made less than 100 miles away—that’s just too limiting, and unnecessary. But I like the idea of it being harvested and produced with the same kind of care that goes into the locally-raised birds and produce we’ll be enjoying as we drink it.

Previous articleExactly what wildlife do we want overwintering in our beds?
Next articleGet a Job: Emma Alpaugh, Garden Book Publicist
Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. Love the term “grower Champagne”! Even though I’m in the wine industry, I’ve never heard it before. I may have to borrow it to describe our wines as “grower wines”! Here in Oregon there are a lot of “virtual wineries”–negociants who buy grapes and then have them made at a custom-crush facility for them. It’s a legitimate way to be in the business, but it’s also very confusing to customers, who think that because the word “winery” or “vineyard” is in the brand name, there is an actual winery or vineyard involved. This would be a great way to distinguish those of us who grow and make our wines from those who don’t, in one small phrase!

    • Anne,

      What about “grower vintages”? Or you could describe yourself as a “grower-vintner” or “grower-winemaker” (kind of like a singer songwriter).

      • Thanks, those are great suggestions! We often refer to ourselves as “winegrowers” (an established term), but that says nothing about those of us who make wine as well as grow grapes. I particularly like “grower-winemaker”.

Comments are closed.