Destination Dahlonega – The Heartbeat of Georgia’s Wine Country
August 2009 – Georgia has wine country? I can hear the snickering now. It’s hot and humid here. We just grow muscadines, right? This may be the “Peach State” but Georgia is becoming nationally recognized for its fine wines. I don’t mean “moonshine” or “white lightning” or just muscadines either. Some very interesting varietals find themselves right at home and flourishing in our red clay, known to winemakers as “terra rossa.” Georgia is having success with Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Viognier, Sangiovesse, Tannat, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Touriga, Marsanne, Roussanne, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscat to name a few. Being a wine lover and educator, I was skeptical so I set out to explore these wines of Georgia and see for myself. What a wonderful surprise was in store for me.
As I planned my trip from West Cobb, it was apparent that I would not be able to visit all the wineries in one day. The concentration seemed to be in Dahlonega so I decided to venture there and make it a day trip. My plan was to visit Wolf Mountain Vineyards, Frogtown Cellars, Three Sisters Vineyards and finally, Blackstock Vineyards. Let me share with you what I discovered about these wineries, their winemaker/owners, the wines and why you should plan a visit soon.
Wolf Mountain Vineyards. Wow! This was a beautiful place. This European style winery is owned by Karl Boegner who worked in the hospitality industry for 40 years. Carl understands that food and wine make a perfect marriage. The wines produced here are all blends in a European style. Translation: food friendly. The 2008 Plentitude, a blend of 75% Chardonnay and 25% Viognier was a wonderfully refreshing, light styled blend that would be perfect with light seafood or poultry dishes or as an aperitif. Also, I found the 2006 Instinct, a full bodied Rhone-Style wine exceptional. His vision was to create a place to experience quality food and wine. He has succeeded. Wolf Mountain also boasts North Georgia’s first traditional Methode Champenoise sparkling wines. That means the bubbly is made in the traditional method like they do in Champagne, France. The results are outstanding. Refined and elegant sparkling wines with beautiful notes of brioche. Impressive. Wolf Mountain understands hospitality and fine wine. www.wolfmountainvineyards.com.
Frogtown Cellars. A little over 14 miles down the road from Wolf Mountain, this Georgia winery named after the “Frogtown District” of Lumpkin County has won Silver and Gold medals in California wine competitions. Seriously, that is something to brag about. This unique and elegant timber frame facility overlooks a four acre lake, 40 acres of grapevines and the North Georgia Mountains. Craig and Cydney Kritzer, Owners, invited me to the see their tri-level gravity flow winery and taste from the barrels. I enjoyed a bistro-style lunch on their porch and tried more of their wines. Craig explained that Frogtown produces fine wines that are much like French wine but with more fruit! Because of the climate here in Georgia the grapes get approximately three to four weeks longer on the vine being ripened by the sun. The wines produced here have a lot of fruit but are also elegant, refined and food friendly. Usually used as a blending grape because of its strength and high tannins, they bottle Tannat as a varietal! I was expecting it to grab me by the throat and choke me but it was surprisingly soft and approachable. I was especially impressed with the 2006 Merlot Reserve and 2006 Cabernet Franc. www.frogtownwine.com
Three Sisters Winery: Right up the hill and down a gravel road from Frogtown’s beautiful estate is an unassuming winery called Three Sisters. While you are in the area, you should stop by. They tout themselves as a “Down to Earth Winery” and feature wines that range from “Dry” to “Sorta Sweet” to “Dang Sweet”. “Fat Boy Red,” an off-dry Cynthiana, Cab, Merlot blend is their most popular selection and they will even serve it up with some Cheetos! I promise. www.threesistersvineyards.com
Blackstock Vineyards: About 2 ½ miles from Frogtown Cellars is Blackstock Vineyards. The winemaker there is formally trained David Harris. David graduated from Fresno State University with an Oenology and Viticultrue degree and brought his expertise back home. Blackstock is one of the largest growing areas in the Southeast and in addition to making their own wines, sell their grapes to wineries in Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia. I enjoyed a glass of their 2008 Reserve Viognier while talking to David about his wines and enjoying the music and view from the vineyard deck. In the tasting room, my favorites were the 2005 Merlot – supple and round dark fruit, but not cooked and the 2007 Sangiovese. It was Pinot-like, earthy. Georgia earthy. www.bsvw.com
I thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful scenery, the genuine hospitality and the caliber of wines that I discovered from grapes grown right here in the terra rossa of Georgia. At the end of the day, I found myself intrigued, pleasantly surprised and more than anything else, impressed by my visit to the heart of Georgia Wine Country. I am eagerly anticipating another wine adventure as I explore the remaining wineries on the North Georgia Wine Trail.
Until next month,
Come back in September and read all about Part II of The North Georgia Wine Highway in my Tour of North Georgia’s best wineries. Please feel free to email me any questions about wines or any suggestions for future columns.
About the Author: Lisa Poole, Certified Specialist of Wine through the Society of Wine Educators and Owner of The Vine Intervention, lives in Cartersville, Georgia. She conducts wine tasting seminars, both private and corporate, in the metro Atlanta and North Georgia areas. You can visit her website at www.thevineintervention.net or contact her at email@example.com or 704-689-2549.