About The Author:

"Roger, The Wine Guy" is Roger Yazell, CWS. He is a member of the International Wine Guild and has had a long time admiration of wine. After careers in broadcasting, advertising and marketing account management, he explored his love of wine in hospitality, wholesale and retail sales. The intent of Roger's Grapevine is to share stories, history and information that will add to the reader's love, enjoyment and appreciation of wine and sake'.

Questions, requests for topics and comments are always welcome via email: rogerthewineguy@gmail.com.

(Note: The Wine Guy is currently undergoing chemotherapy and this blog will be on hiatus for the duration and into a recovery period. The Wine Guy is planning to celebrate his recovery with a trip to the two wine producing regions in Argentina and that should provide for some interesting new blogs. Meanwhile please enjoy the archives and feel free to email in the interim.)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Georgia On My Mind

Forgive The Wine Guy for skipping Roger’s Grapevine last week but I took some time to celebrate another milestone (my birthday) with a visit to my son. As I’ve mentioned before, he resides in the Castleberry Hill neighborhood of Atlanta. In what has become almost a ritual, our arrival there was followed with an excursion to two Castleberry Hill mainstays: The Wine Shoe and the Elliot Street Pub & Deli (see blog” The Wine Shoe…because it fits” from 8/26/09).

After exchanging greetings with Wine Shoe proprietor Shannon Wiley and the ever-present Baron, I selected a Domino de Taras Baltos Mencia to enjoy later in the evening. Since first having a Bierzo on the recommendation of Brent Karlich from Postino’s in Phoenix, Az. (see Bierzo, A Great Little Wine from Spain 12/30/09), The Wine Guy has become a great fan of this northwestern Spanish D.O. This dark ruby red beauty lived up to my expectations and it made a wonderful wine to celebrate completion of another year. It was only after my return that I discovered the Baltos has regularly earned very favorable ratings scoring 90 pts in consecutive vintages from Wine Spectator, International Wine Cellar and Wine Advocate and also landing a spot on the WS annual top 100 list. Nora & Shannon Wiley’s knack for always having great selections to choose from is one of the reasons I always try to visit The Wine Shoe when I’m in Atlanta.

The subsequent visit to Elliott street resulted in another of my favorite things: satisfying a growing hunger by pairing a well brewed La Fin du Monde (yes, The Wine Guy also enjoys an occasional good beer!) with the wondrous roasted turkey and bleu cheese sandwich the guys at Elliot Street call “The Dirty Bird”. Good food, good wine, good times with family and getting to wear green (yes, The Wine Guy was born on St. Patrick’s Day!)…it was a good birthday, indeed.
One of my presents was a subsequent excursion hosted by my son to visit wineries in Lumpkin County, North Georgia on Saturday. (see photo of The Wine Guy birthday celebrants at one of the vineyards).

Georgia has an interesting wine history. It’s founder, James Oglethorpe, wanted to build the economy of his colony on the production of fine silk and fine wines. Toward that end, he initiated the planting of many Mulberry trees as well as European wine grapes. Alas, silkworms did not take either to the variety of the selected trees nor the Georgia climate. The imported vines did not fair well either, succumbing to plant disease and insect pests. Georgia’s agricultural mainstays had to be shifted to rice and indigo. They later became cotton, fruit and peanuts. Wine production also managed to redevelop later, but was based largely on the native muscadine grape. In the 1800’s new agriculture techniques, including the utilization of grafting, cloning and hybrids overcame the difficulties Oglethorpe had in growing European varietals in Georgia. In 1890 a large number of Hungarian refugees established multiple vineyards near Bremen and by 1900, Georgia ranked 6th in U.S. wine production. The highly restrictive Georgia Prohibition Act of 1907, however, virtually wiped out all wine production in the state for more than half a century.

The modern Georgia wine industry restarted itself in the 1970’s and 80’s. However, it was almost entirely based on fruit wines and the muscadine grape. Other varietals only gained some commercial inroads after the establishment of the Chateau Elan Resort and Winery in Hazelton in the 1980’s. Today, Georgia remains number one in the production of muscadine wines but there are now over 5-dozen vineyards and wineries producing a broader variety of wines. The Three Sisters Vineyards became Lumpkin County’s first in 1996 and since then a plethora of vineyards and wineries have continued to open in the region. The north Georgia mountain area is becoming renown for wine tourism and will be a wine producing area to watch in the coming decade.

Our Saturday excursion occurred during a Wine Tour weekend event and I heartily recommend taking advantage of the multiple winery tour passes available if you elect to visit the area during such events. They typically offer select tastings of 2-3 wines plus food at multiple wineries and are a great way to get an overall view of what the region has to offer. As we have visited the area before and were only stopping at two select wineries, we opted to do the standard wine tasting. This offered the opportunity to approach the wines I wanted to sample that weren’t on the tour selections. Here’s a recap of The Wine Guy’s favorites from our visit:

Frogtown Cellars:
This family-run winery has a great venue and is located directly adjacent to aforementioned Three Sisters Vineyards. Local native Nettie assisted us in a tasting that covered most of Frogtown’s whites and reds. The whites were fair but tended to be slightly off balance showing a tendency to be either acidic or hot. Their first impressive effort came with a saignee style rose’ blend.

Frogtown Vineaux Rose’:
This is a light, dry, crisp rose’ blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Sangiovese that has nice well-balanced fruit overtones.

Frogtown Touché:
This is one of this winery's best reds. It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Tannat. It has aromatic notes of both red and black fruit with some spicy hints and just a light note of moist tobacco on the nose. There is a nice lingering finish you won’t find in a lot of the fruitier Georgia wines.

Frogtown Shotgun – First Reload:
I’m not sure (wished I had asked) but suspect the First Reload designation comes from the fact that Cabernet Franc and Touriga Nacional of one vintage are blended into a Tannat of a different vintage. In any case, it produces a soft, yet full-flavored wine that expresses great aromas and good dark fruit flavors.

Blackstock Vineyards Winery: (see photo with Justin, Blackstock’s tasting steward)
Just down the road from Frogtown is a winery that is one of The Wine Guy’s favorites in Georgia. (see earlier blog: “A Winery Treat in North Georgia” 7/109) Due to the wine tour activities in another part of the building I didn’t get to visit with winemaker David Harris but enjoyed the service offered by Justin who first got “bit” by the wine bug working in tasting rooms in Florida. Among the best tastes of the day were:

Blackstock Viognier:
Viognier is not uncommon in North Georgia but this is the first I found worthy of remembrance. A bright golden yellow appearance is followed by light floral hints, then good stone fruit and a solid finish.

Blackstone Rocking Chair Rose’:
This is a nice and solid rose’ of Mourvedre. It seems that many rose’s fair well in this region.

Blackstock /Sangiovese Rose’:
Both Frogtown and Blackstock make a Sangiovese and A Sangiovese Rose’. As a long time lover of Italian wines, I just can’t get excited about the type of Sangiovese I find in Georgia but am thusly surprised at the light flavorful goodness of the Sangiovese Rose’s there. Something about the terrior (could it be the Georgia clay??) that seems to make the regular Sangiovese musty on the palate is somehow complimentary to the rose.

Blackstock ACE Family Reserve:
Named for the first initials of the three Harris children, this full-flavored, age-able red wine remains one of Blackstock’s flagship brands.

Blackstock Touriga Dulce:

Touriga Nacional is the Touriga varietal here and if I’m not mistaken David was the first to grow it in Georgia. He does the sweeter version but Frogtown also utilizes the grape in their drier Shotgun blend. It seems to do well in this region.

Georgia wineries wrote the book on fruity Muscadine wines and most of their other varietals tend to follow a more fruit forward style but a good deal of diversity is being shown (and appreciated) in other wines. I like that the growers and winemakers here are turning to such varietals as Touriga and Tannat in order to find grapes that offer a signature taste and style to dry Georgia wines. I hope you have a chance to enjoy them and the opportunity to visit what surely is to become a developing wine region.

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