learning from your local wineries

From 2011-09-07

While this hasn’t ever really been a wine blog, I think it’s a subject that’s worthy of discussion from time to time. Believe me, I’m far from an expert, but I know enough to know what I like, and more importantly, what I don’t. Look around, and you’re very likely to find some locally produced wine, and you might even be surprised to know that some it is actually pretty good! While I know there are those of you out there who have only been to Napa/Sonoma, for the rest of us with a little less disposable income, you might get more bang for your buck if you learn how to approach a winery and tasting room by checking out what’s in your neighborhood. Of course, if you can get there, this is the time of year to enjoy the mountains. Whether you know it or not, Dahlonega, GA has emerged as a leading wine producer in the state, and there are several wineries to choose from each with amazing scenery and incredibly drinkable wine. There are several wineries just outside of town:

Three Sisters
Wolf Mountain*
Cavender Creek
Yonah Mountain
Sautee Nacoochee

We happened to go to Blackstock during the Stomp the Grapes weekend. The grapes were pretty ripe and they had a bin set up to let you stomp the grapes, which of course I had to do. In white shorts, nonetheless. Somewhere, I’m sure, my mother is cringing.

As usual, watch out for annoying yellowjackets because they are attracted to the grapes and juice. I’m just thankful my grape stomping didn’t turn out like this…


1. Almost all of the wines are made from locally grown grapes. This differs from some vineyards that source from the Northwest and elsewhere.
2. All of this provides a great lesson in terroir. You can also do it by trying cabernet from France (Bourdeaux), California, Washington State, Chile, Australia, and noting how different the flavors are depending on region.
3. While the goal of the tasting room is to get you to buy a bottle, you can still learn a lot about different varietals and compare your experience there with what you’ve had at home. It also greatly helps you understand value, such that a $15 Rose’ from the local winery may not be as good as the $12 import and vice versa.
4. Go to the strength of the winery to see how they stack up against what you know you like. Ask what their best varietal is, and if possible try different versions (different areas of the vineyard, vintages, etc.)
5. Be patient. If you go during a popular time of year (harvest season in October), it’s going to be crowded as hell. Either go during off times (make sure they’re open!) or deal with it.
6. Remember that spitting out wine that you’ve tasted is totally acceptable, and it’s the only way to taste more than 3-4 different wines (unless you plan on getting plowed which is probably not a great idea.)
7. Above all else, enjoy with family and friends and realize that the more time you spend doing stuff like this locally, the more you’ll be able to enjoy your holy grail visit to Tuscany/Sonoma/Burgundy/etc.

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