Two thousand feet up, in the Blue Ridge Mountains around Dahlonega, Georgia, you will find wineries, lots of them. There are still the quaint and unassuming, but also the large and expansive outfits you would expect to see in Sonoma or Oregon.
They grow a lot of common grapes known to everyone such as Chardonnay, Cabernet, and Merlot but they also work with Tannat, Touriga, Seyval Blanc, Vidal Blanc, Traminette, Norton, and more. These varietals may sound a little foreign to you but the wine they make isn’t. They also do a good job with Rhone grapes like Marsanne, Rousanne, and Viognier. The rosés are some of the best I’ve had, along with some mighty fine fruity wines too. Once you have had a good Muscadine chilled very cold, your picnic on a hot summer afternoon under the cottonwood tree won’t be the same without it. It may take a little bit of looking to find these wines in some parts of the country and they aren’t cheap, but they would be a fun addition to any wine list and offer diversity with Southern charm.
Encompasses a 57-acre vineyard that is home to over 22,000 grape vines. The Frogtown winery itself, constructed on a hillside overlooking the vineyards, is an underground, tri-level, gravity-flow winemaking facility specifically designed to produce the unique wines made from Frogtown grapes. Using gravity in place of pumps allows for gentle vilification and treatment of the grape must, juice, and wine, from start to finish. In 1998, native Atlantans Craig and Cydney Kritzer founded Frogtown Cellars in the Frogtown District of Lumpkin County, a viticultural area carefully selected for quality wine grape production and outstanding mountain views. The winery produces wines under the Frogtown label, Thirteenth Colony label, Talking Rock label, and Southern Charm label. On Frogtown’s 44 acres of North Georgia vineyards, 25 different wine grape varieties are planted. At Frogtown’s Helen Vineyards established in 2010, the Italian white wine grapes Vernaccia and Greco di Tufo and the Italian red wine grape Teroldego are grown. Frogtown’s portfolio includes a line of Merlots, a Super-Tuscan blend of premium Sangiovese, a Cabernet called Audacity, and the rich Bordeaux blend of Merlot and Cabernet called Propaganda, to name a few.
Wolf Mountain Vineyards and Winery
Sits atop Wolf Mountain at 1800 feet with a spectacular view in all directions. The fieldstone-encased winery has 8,000 square feet of function space including a restaurant, an antique bar, early French winemaking artifacts, and striking fireplaces. The tasting experience features an expansive four-sided stone and cedar bar adjacent to the cask room, wine cellar, and veranda.
WMV’s wines include two blends of Chardonnay and Viognier, Plentitude and Chanteloup, a dry Sunset Rosé, and several reds comprising their still wine forte. They include Coupage, Howling Wolf Red, Instinct, Claret, and Boegner Family Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Perhaps the big surprise lies in the sparkling wine facility down the path from the winery. There they produce wonderful Method Champenoise, hand-riddled sparkling wines that include Blanc de Blanc Brut, which is to die for by the way, Brut Rose, Blanc de Syrah Brut, and a Sparkling Demi-Sec. This winery has a nice stable of wines with an impressive portfolio of awards.
Persimmon Creek Vineyards
Sits at 2100 feet elevation on 110 acres in Clayton, Georgia. It is privately owned by Dr. William “Sonny” and Mary Ann Hardman. At 2000 cases per year, the operation remains a boutique, family-run operation with planting, picking, crushing, bottling, corking, and labeling all done by hand. Each year, they have sold out of all their varieties, which include Persimmon Creek Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Seyval Blanc, and Merlot. They also make an ice wine when possible. PCV wines have made their way onto many fine wine lists at restaurants and hotels around the country. The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead in Atlanta was among the first to feature Persimmon Creek on its wine list; other notables include Quince, a leading restaurant in San Francisco, and Apropos in New York City. Whole Foods Market selected Persimmon Creek’s Riesling as a “Top 10” summer wine. The wines have garnered notice from international critics including Jancis Robinson, editor of The Oxford Companion to Wine, Roger Dial, founder of Appellation America, Wine Spectator’s John Mariani, and Lettie Teague, Wine Editor of Food & Wine.
Crane Creek Vineyards
Is the quaint and unassuming I was talking about in the intro. The northernmost of the group, it is close to the Brasstown Valley Resort and scenic Lake Chatuge, which is split by the state boundary line between Georgia and North Carolina. While it’s not a big place by any means, it’s worth the stop. Crane Creek’s tasting room is in an old farmhouse; lovely. I’ve been drinking CCV wines for years and stop in to say hello several times a year. They have good wines, beautiful views, and a great lawn to have a sit with a good bottle of Hellbender and watch Crane Creek work its way through the property’s edge.
As unique as its namesake, the Hellbender salamander is the largest in the western hemisphere. This big bold red, named after it, is a single varietal wine produced from the Native American grape Norton. Other Crane Creek labels include Barn Swallow, Enotah, Brasstown, Mountain Harvest, and Sweet Sally.
North Georgia’s wine country is about an hour and a half north of Atlanta. I suggest you start by looking at the Wine Growers Association of Georgia website, www.georgiawine.com. Try their wines and give them a visit the next time you’re in Atlanta. It is a beautiful day trip drive north past Lake Lanier and into the Blue Ridge Mountains. You might just find some gems like I did.