07 October 2008

Pooles Picks: Top Four North Georgia Wineries

The staff and I recently took a tour bus of customers up into the North Georgia mountains for a tour of some of our state's premier wineries.  I picked out 4 facilities that I think are great examples of what Georgia wine has to offer, and we worked out the long day of touring with our guide Keith of Hargrave Motor Coach.  Lots of planning, tons of phone calls, and a few months later, we were finally ready to go for our second ever tour. . .

Mama's Boy prepared a delicious breakfast for us, and we armed ourselves for the long drive with strawberry lemonade mimosas and bloody marys with our special skewers we sell at Shiraz. We handed out bags with the itineraries, notepads, and snacks. We had quite a cheerful group as we headed up the road toward Dahlonega, our first major stop.

We've gone to Wolf Mountain twice with customers now, and Karl Boegner never fails to impress. His family is so hospitable, and the winery was compared to a European chateau by many of the guests we had with us.  The Boegners set us up in their patio below the dining room, and Karl's son Brannon, the assistant winemaker, guided us through a tour, later to come back and discuss the wines.  We also had our own buffet lunch station set up for us inside of the barrel room, along with a wine tasting as we ate lunch.  Some of the customers climbed up to see and smell Chardonnay fermenting, and we also tried the first vintage of their sparkling wine.

We hopped back into the bus again to head over to Blackstock Vineyards and Winery, where we were greeted by winemaker David Harris.  We clustered within their tasting room and together went through a lineup of wines while David told us about Blackstock's history in Georgia winemaking. We also tasted 5 different cheeses offered in their gift shop, and I was impressed to see that 4 of the 5 we had were creameries that we carry at Shiraz.  We have 3 of those cheeses in stock at the store right now, in fact.  David also walked the group out to the vines and let them take a look at them up close.

Next we went to a big highlight of the trip, a trip up to Tiger Mountain Vineyards' owners Bill and Leckie Stack's house for a tasting in their orchard (last trip, Bill and Leckie's partners, Martha and John Ezzard, tasted the wines with us at their winery)

We had arranged to have the tasting there, but even I was impressed and surprised at how well it turned out.  Not only did mother nature cooperate superbly with the weather, but the Stacks had bags for our guests with asian pears to enjoy, and they let them roam the property and pick apples. The orchard also borders on part of the vineyard, and we could pick and try some of the grapes. I actually picked some of the concord grapes growing on the edge of the Viognier rows, which were probably the single best-tasting grapes (as in, to eat!) I've ever had.  Not only did everyone enjoy the wines, but we loved exploring everything else there.

One more stop, and definitely not the least of the visits, was Persimmon Creek.  Mary Ann Hardman and her crew split us into groups and took us all on a tour of the winery, along with tasting the wines near the rows where the grapes were grown.  Then we moved into the tasting room, where dinner was ready for us.  We enjoyed a low country boil and salad with Riesling and Merlot, and then moved on to their winery-only Icewine, made in the traditional method and without shortcuts.

It was the end of a very long day as we rolled back into the parking lot here in Athens, but everyone agreed that it was an enjoyable, informative, and tasty trip!  Cheers to all of you who went--and we'll see the rest of you in a couple of years!

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