Toast the fruits of the vine at these wineries north of Atlanta - Tiger Mountain Vineyards, Frogtown Cellars, and Three Sisters Vineyards & Winery.
Just imagine--fine wines now are made in Georgia. We know you'll be pleasantly surprised. Clusters of family-owned wineries grow across the back roads of North Georgia like vines, and they are open for visitors to commune with the spirit. This year's crop will be ready for picking soon, so come now to try flavors of past harvests.
Here are a few favorite wineries to start your journey. All offer tastings; call for hours and prices.
Tiger Mountain Vineyards
Inspired by winemakers in Virginia, John and Martha Ezzard began planting cuttings of the American Norton as well as French and Portuguese vinifera on John's fifth-generation farm near Clayton in 1995. Today, with partners Bill and Leckie Stack, they've cultivated 14 acres that produce Tannat, Norton, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and Touriga Naçional for the Tiger Mountain Vineyards label. We especially like the dry white Viognier with its soft honeysuckle and apricot bouquet that goes well with fish dishes. John and Bill claim that their winemaking is a "hobby run amok." We're so glad it did.
2592 Old Highway 441, Tiger, GA 30576; (706) 782-4777 or www.tigerwine.com.
While Frogtown Cellars just opened its tasting room to the public last year, the grapes have been growing there for years. The mortise-and-tenon timber-frame winery, designed by Craig Kritzer, sets a tone of beauty and craftsmanship that Frogtown wines match. Craig's winemaker daughter, Jordan, learned her craft at school and during apprenticeships in California and Italy. She grows 28 acres of more than 15 different grapes, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Chardonnay, and Viognier. Inclination, a full-bodied white, tempts even the strictest red drinker; we think it's the best blended white in the state.
3300 Damascus Church Road, Dahlonega, GA 30533; (706) 865-0687 or www.frogtownwine.com.
Three Sisters Vineyards & Winery
With a spectacular view of the mountains, Three Sisters Vineyards & Winery has almost 10,000 premium vines, featuring Cabernet Franc, Pinot Blanc, Touriga Naçional, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Cynthiana grapes. Owners Doug and Sharon Paul, as well as Sharon's brother Ken VanDusen, welcome you Thursday through Sunday to sample their best while checking out the gallery of folk art. The Cynthiana--an American grape grown by the Cherokee and early Virginia settlers--creates a memorable black cherry taste that goes perfect with dark chocolates.
439 Vineyard Way, Dahlonega, GA 30533; (706) 865-9463 or www.threesistersvineyards.com.
Can't Make It to the Mountains?
Wine shipping laws vary by state, so if you want to enjoy some bottles at home, you may have to carry them. Check with the individual wineries about shipping to your state, or look in wine shops and fine restaurants across Georgia for these labels.
Sipping and Spitting With Scott Jones
Our resident wine expert, Southern Living Executive Foods Editor Scott Jones, offers these tips to get the most out of your experience.
- Start by sampling lighter, chilled, younger wines, and then move up to the full-bodied ones and those with more age.
- First smell the bouquet; then take a sip and swish it around in your mouth. Close your eyes, and think about what flavor memories come to mind. Use your own vocabulary to describe it.
- Cleanse your palate between varietals with the bread or crackers and water most wineries provide.
- Don't get hung up on other people's ideals of lowbrow and highbrow wines. Decide whether you like the wine as you taste it. It's all about discovering.
- When you want to have fun trying lots of different wines but don't want to get loaded, simply don't swallow. Use the spittoon. It might seem awkward at first, but the winemakers expect it.
- For more details on Southern wines and pairings with meals, go to www.southernliving.com/foods, or read Scott's blog, Eating My Words.
Wining and Dining Weekends
Visit the Beechwood Inn, a bed and breakfast run by a Clayton couple who is passionate about fine wine; (706) 782-5485 or www.beechwoodinn.ws.