Georgia Wine Country: My Unexpected Love Affair
By: Larissa Dubose, Resident Wine Educator, The Lotus & The Vines
At the beginning of July my hubby took me to Chateau Elan for a Reserve Wine Tour. It gave us a deeper understanding of the winery’s offerings and winemaking journey. I’ll be honest with all of my Wine travels and unmatched wine encounters, I had low expectations of what I’d experience in Georgia’s Wine Country. But these expectations were quickly silenced. I appreciated the winery’s transparency about how they have evolved their viticulture and winemaking practices. It impressed me, and got my wheels turning. We’ve lived in Atlanta for five years and prior to this excursion, I was never compelled to explore Georgia Wine Country. Even with the new AVA (American Viticultural Area) designation for Dahlonega Plateau granted last year, it didn’t motivate me to take the hour plus trek up the road to learn more about Georgia Wines.
But Wine Friends, Chateau Elan converted me into a believer and I wanted to go back and learn more! So, I did what any Wine Lover would do. I reached out to another Wine Lover to plan a trip. My Wine Sister Sukari Bowman (@loveandvines) was down for another trip and within two days, we booked our spots on The Vino Van (@thevinovanllc) for the following weekend (Mama doesn’t play around). Our pick-up point was in East Point at 9:15 a.m. We were greeted with a sleek Mercedes Sprinter with all the bells and whistles, including plush seats, a big screen tv, outlets to charge your phone, Mimosas, and plenty of room to stretch out. We made our way to the second pick up spot in Brookhaven and made the hour and a half trek to North Georgia!
Our first stop was the Stonewall Creek Tasting Room. We were warmly greeted by Miss Penny and served lunch accompanied with a flight of four wines. All wines are Estate fruit, meaning that the grapes are grown on their property. We tried the 2018 Yukari Dry Rose (a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and Malbec), the 2017 Cabernet Franc, a 2016 Red Blend of Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Tannat, called Three Eagles. We also enjoyed a 2017 semi-sweet Petit Manseng called Whitehall. Yes…you are reading about more than the Muscadine grape growing and thriving in Georgia (Trust me, this was a pleasant surprise to me!).
Our second stop was Serenity Cellars. Here, is where I noticed Veraison happening in the vineyards—talk about a true Wine geek moment! I was surprised to see it and quickly let my inner Wine Geek have her moment, explaining this stage in the grape vine’s lifecycle to anyone who would listen. We were given a flight of 5 wines that all brought something unique to the table. This is also where I was introduced to the Traminette grape. Traminette is a crossing of Gewurztraminer and Joannes Seyve 23.416. Like its parent grape Gewurztraminer, this wine presents pronounced flavors and aromas. Gewurztraminer is a very aromatic wine that boasts aromas and flavors of Lychee. Serenity Cellars is also where I was surprised to find the vast amount of grape varieties that are thriving in North Georgia. For example, Italian grape varieties like Sangiovese and Barbera.
Next stop was CeNita Vineyards and Winery. The stunning views, live music, and respectable Wines did not disappoint! According to the vineyard owners whose family has been farming for four generations, CeNita Vines are planted on the site of their family’s first Dairy farm. The soil is perfect for growing balanced wines. Understanding the soil, climate and growing seasons is paramount in the making (growing) of wine.
I definitely agree with them that “Good wine must start with Good grapes!” Also, the pride and history shared vineyard/family wide resonated in our wine tasting. I chose the Dry Wine Flight that included Chardonnay, Traminette (estate grown), Chambourcin (a French American Hybrid grape), and an estate grown red blend of Cabernet Franc and Barbera named Rosie.
Our final stop of the day was at Kaya Vineyard and Winery. The scene here was LIVELY! Lots of people, live music, tasty appetizers, accompanied with a gorgeous mountain backdrop, and delightful Wines made this the perfect end to a perfect day. Here we learned that the unfortunate closing of Blackstock Vineyards in late 2012 paved the way for a complete renovation and revitalization of the property. Kaya’s Winery and Tasting Room are built atop a ridge that is sixteen-hundred feet above elevation and offers the most exquisite panoramic mountain view in North Georgia. Now being completely transparent, of the four tastings we were offered, I stopped at number 2 which was a Rosé of Sangioviese. Mama knows what she likes lol. As a group we elected to get a bottle of the Rosé and enjoyed the little bit of time we had left in the Georgia Mountains.
To say I was impressed with this trip is a complete understatement. What’s happening in North Georgia is farrrr beyond Muscadine, the traditional grape of the South. I readily admit to being ashamed that I had not made this trek sooner within the 5 years we’ve resided in Georgia, but I won’t make that mistake again! I say all that to say this. We often get so caught up in going to the major domestic wine regions like Napa and Sonoma, that we ignore what’s in our backyard. But the reality is that regions like the Finger Lakes, Virginia, and Texas to name a few are on the come up! If you’re a true Wine Lover, you should want to explore what’s happening in your local region. It’s a great way to continue to expand your palate and save your wallet from an expensive plane ticket. Cheers Y’all!