Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
For some, writing is a paycheck. For others, a passion. Others yet, an escape.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
Huge thanks to good neighbor Chris and chef Bart for the incredible vittles the other day...between the Greek roasted lamb, the dragonfruit sangria, the stuffed, fried zucchini blossoms, and the heirloom tomatoes (oh, and the tasty wine), I'd say the party was a resounding success. This is truly what good livin' in the 'burbs is all about:
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
At The Source: Wine Blogging Wednesday #61 (aka "Georgia Wines, part 3 of 3, but now with a part 4 because I suck at brevity")
Been building up to this for a while; a little too difficult to condense my experiences of Georgia wine into one post (another big thanks to Lenn Thompson at Lenn Devours for putting together Wine Blogging Wednesdays and hosting #61!). And I know, I've come off as pandering. I get it. Talking about "beautiful grounds" and "great people" and "unforgettable experiences" in two previous posts: first about Montaluce Winery, then another about Wolf Mountain Vineyards, both on the Dahlonega Plateau in North Georgia. I've probably come off a sell-out advertiser for their businesses.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
How many of your most enjoyable wine experiences start this way?
Wake up in strange bed in strange house (fortunately, not with strange woman), hazy-headed, blurred-vision. Dry mouth, pounding headache, regret. Oh, the regret. And yet, it's unclear what I'm regretting.
Oh yeah. Beloved alma mater lost football game. Stupid other games didn't cover. Drowned sorrow in what may-have-been root beer-flavored vodka.
Wake wife. Get dressed. Stop by Wendy's, hoping that they're serving a chicken sandwich at 10 AM. Chicken sandwich and large Sprite perhaps saves life. "Why did I set up a meeting with a winery today," I continually question myself. "The last thing I want to see is anything remotely alcoholic, let alone an entire operation dedicated to it."
Not familiar? Perhaps you're not an Irish-blooded, football-crazy wine lover. It happens.
But upon reaching the beautiful grounds of Wolf Mountain Vineyards in nearby Dahlonega, GA (about an hour north of Atlanta), things start to turn around. Up a very steep driveway off a non-descript backroad in an unknown (to most) part of the world, one is greeted by Cabernet Sauvignon vines, picturesque grounds, and- on this day- a packed parking lot. Apparently, the secret's out. My wife and I amble into the inviting tasting room and we're quickly greeted by winemaker and owner, Karl Boegner. The friendly, Hawaiian-shirt clad Boegner, looking about in his mid-fifties, is the patriarch of the family-run operation, and has spent most of his life in the wine industry, including tours in Epernay and Reims, two strongholds of Champagne, France.
As we walk through the rows of ripe Cabernet vines- only a couple weeks away from harvest- Boegner regales me of the great challenges and opportunities of growing vitis vinifera in North Georgia. He tells me that the 1800' above-sea-level elevation of the Dahlonega Plateau is the critical factor allowing traditional wine grapes to grow in such an unforgiving climate (in fact, Boegner has been a relentless voice in pushing to make this region Georgia's first AVA, or American Viticultural Area, giving real creedence to the local terroir). We discuss the experimental nature of the industry. Besides Cabernet, Wolf Mountain is also growing Syrah, Malbec, Mourvèdre, Tannat (a brutally-tannic variety indiginous to Southwest France), and Touriga Nacional (one of Portugal's signature red grapes) on its southwest-facing slopes. We move on to viticulture, the advantages of rain-repellant clay soils in a rainy climate, and how vine fungal diseases are a constant threat where notorious high-humidity is the norm, rather than the exception. When not fighting downy and powdery mildew- spraying every 7 days until June- Pierce's disease is a constant threat to the vines. Trust me: when you talk to a Georgia winemaker, you gain a great deal of respect for amount of, well, crap, that he endures in pursuit of a passion.
One thing is for certain: if the wines are half as lovely as the surroundings in where they're poured, then Wolf Mountain has a very good chance of putting local wine on the national map. What comes next is state support, and both Karl Boegner and his son Brannon seem hopeful that future administrations will loosen their historically-strict regulations on the industry. Distribution laws have recently opened up a bit, but there's more work to do. Indeed, the positive economic impact of a burgeoning wine region- both for product sales and tourism- cannot be ignored. What will come out of full support can only be a good thing.
The final piece of the puzzle is local backing. Visit Wolf Mountain, as well as its neighbors. No, I'm not being compensated to say this, and I was not asked to do so. But I have a great deal of pride in where I'm from, and every place in the world has something unique about it. One of the greatest things about wine is that it can express that uniqueness unlike anything else.
On Wednesday, I'll focus on the wine, touching on the highlights of Wolf Mountain's many offerings. I hope to find something in the glass that cannot be found anywhere else, much like what I've found in the foothills just north of my beloved city.
Oh, I'll also be staying away from root beer vodka, as I raise my glass of Pepto Bismol: Cheers, Sláinte, L'Chaim, Salud, Prost, Skål, Konbe, and Kampai!
Friday, September 11, 2009
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
"We're not trying to make California wine. If you want California wine, go to California. What we are doing is making Georgia wine...and Georgia wine is good wine."
-Rob Beecham, Montaluce Vineyards
An obvious statement on the surface, but one profoundly rooted in the European concept of terroir- the concept that a wine is so much more than the fruit itself. The soil, the climate, the orientation of the slopes, the training of the vine, the care of the grower and the mastery of the winemaker; all culminating in the glass as so much more: a truly unique expression that can only be found in certain parts of the world.
I'd expect this talk from a Frenchman or Italian vintner. Yet Beecham is certainly neither. The hip, forty-something, boundless ball of energy and enthusiasm, builder, developer, family man, and obvious wine-fanatic hails from Decatur, GA - just east of downtown Atlanta, attended Roswell High School in the suburbs, and now resides in the hills an hour north of the city.
Yep, I found my kindred spirit: the other Atlanta native. Seriously, it seems NO ONE living here is from here originally.
But what's happening in those hills- namely, Dahlonega, GA- is incredibly exciting. When faced with a burning desire to move west and settle down in wine country, grow old with his friends and family with a cigar in one hand and a glass of wine in another, Beecham, along with brother Brent, decided to build something close to home. The result: Montaluce, a community of homes, vineyards, a beautiful winery, restaurant, and event facilities. And it's all a stone's throw from the 8th largest metropolitan area in the States. And, as their vines hit the magic 3-4 year birthday, they're making wine with their own grapes. "Why can't we have wine country in our home state?" questions Rob. "Georgia used to be the sixth largest producer of wine in the union, but we're having to learn the process again."
Another dubious feather-in-the-cap of Prohibition. But the notorious 18th amendment is only part of the story. A growing temperance movement (that just sounds lame) that manifested in the early 1800's reached a head in 1908, and the Georgia legislature ratified a statewide ban on alcohol that even outlasted the national Prohibition that ended in 1933. Georgia wised up in 1935, but the damage had been done...most vineyards were abandoned and neglected.
But enough with the history lesson. More on that can be found at http://www.georgiawinecountry.com/
And now, where America's first gold rush began, another treasure trove- first reemerging in the 70's- is firmly establishing itself: quality wine produced from vitis vinifera (traditional European wine grapes), all in an area naysayers would criticize as too humid and rainy to produce great vino. Are there challenges? Huge ones. Peronospera and oidium, among other fungal diseases to the vine, are combatted weekly. Pierce's disease runs rampant. Furthermore, economies of scale, global reputation, and awareness are a constant threat: how will a consumer choose a $20+ wine from a fledgling growing region over internationally-renowned regions' products at half the price?
I think the "locavore" movement will play a critical part. As forward-thinking restauranteurs and consumers look to support local farmers, ranches, and fisheries, providing local wineries seems the next logical step to me. And if there's not a golden goose sitting on the locavore nest (what does that even mean?), then tourism can play its role. Anyone as wine -nerdy as me daydreams about trips to the west coast, France, Italy. What we all need to understand is that there's a pretty damn good time only an hour away.
But even more promising to the success of Montaluce and wineries like it is the incredible passion of the folks backing it. Rarely have I known tireless visionaries to fail in their endeavors, and if I can say one thing about Rob Beecham in the short time I spoke with him, it's crystal-clear that he's putting everything he's got into his dream, and it resonates in the product; whether that be the homes, the tasting room decor, or the surprising wine.
I'll be talking about some of the wines in greater detail next Wednesday for "Wine Blogging Wednesday #61" (a brainchild of Lenn Thompson, head honcho at lenndevours.com, a read definitely worth your glance). In the meantime, take a look at montalucewinery.com, or even better, hop in your car, leave your preconceptions cellared with your Mondavi and Opus One, and prepare yourself for a great time. You'll not just be helping the local economy, you be participating in a wine culture that can literally be called home-grown.
As I proudly raise a glass of unique, Georgia wine, I say to you Cheers, Sláinte, L'Chaim, Salud, Prost, Skål, Konbe, and Kampai!