Monday, March 31, 2014

The Annual Georgia Wine Highway Day 1; Friday March 21, 2014 WOOOOO

This year’s Georgia Wine Highway was hands down the best out of the three years my husband and I have gone. We look forward to going every year, not just because we get to hang out with our good friends B__ and R__ but because we get to hang out with them and drink wine. This year’s format was to be different from the last two. We were using a different itinerary than previous years. And the Wine Growers Association of Georgia decided that they had gotten too big for people to visit all the wineries in one weekend, so they split the tour up into two weekends. The previous two years we took the highway, the weekend was 3 days long, but this year it was broken up into two 2 day weekends. Luckily for us, a majority of the wineries decided to honor the wine highway passports on Friday this year. Otherwise we would have missed at least 4 wineries and our schedule would have to be radically altered.
Thursday we headed out from Mobile after Charles got off work to meet B__ and R__ in Cartersville, GA. We gassed up the car and grabbed some Hibachi from the drive thru place at Springhill Blvd and I-65 then got on the interstate. It was a good drive except for the seemingly permanent road construction on I-85 between Montgomery and Auburn. Due to the late start we didn’t get to Cartersville until 1:00 or so. Thankfully, B__ would be driving on Friday so lack of sleep wouldn’t be an issue.
Friday morning we were up at 8:00 and out the door by 10:00. There wasn’t much of a rush as the wineries didn’t start serving until 11:00. Three of our favorite wineries were on the schedule for Friday, so we knew it would be a good day. Our first stop of the day was Sharp Mountain Vineyards in Jasper, Georgia. We drove up just as the owner, Rob, was opening up shop. It was really great that they were on the tour this year. We purchased our Wine Highway passports, got our glasses, and started our tasting. We tried their Pinot Gris which was crisp and tasty, their Gewurztraminer which was a bit on the dry side for me, their Carrera which was really tasty, and finally their Etowah which is a delicious sweet red.

Our next stop was new to us, Monteluce Winery and Estates in Dahlonega, Georgia. We had our first cargument on the way there. Missing a turn is never fun when you are driving up a mountain. When we found drive to the estate my first thought was “this is what Falcon Crest would be like if it was set in North Georgia.” Our tasting there was the 2013 sparkling mead, their 2012 Montaluce Dolce, their 2010 Monteluce Risata, their 2009 Montaluce Risata and finally their 2008 Centurio. The Centurio was 100% merlot and was a beautiful wine. Unfortunately they only had the Centurio in a magnum, otherwise we would have went home with a bottle.

Our third stop on Friday was 3 Sisters Vineyards in Dahlonega, Georgia. 3 Sisters isn’t on the official wine highway, but they are another favorite venue and we were especially excited this year because we were going to get a Georgia Jug. The Georgia Jug is three litres of delicious wine that we can’t wait to share with our friends here in Mobile. Their fun low key atmosphere is highlighted by the superb wines they produce. This year they offered a dessert tasting for an additional $5, and you got to keep the glass. Their Cynthiana is one of the best, and the Blood Mountain Red pairs perfectly with Cheetos cheese curls. Don’t turn your nose up at that idea, just buy you a bottle and a bag of Cheetos and go to town. The dessert offerings were omg so very good. Their Dahlonega Gold is an “ice wine” style made from frozen vidal blanc grapes and it is a bit of divine sunshine in a glass. The Georgia Port is the other dessert wine and it is luscious, sweet, indulgent, delicious. The owners know Charles and I are from Mobile, Al and on our way out this year they jokingly asked for some shrimp, because Alabama Gulf Shrimp is the best shrimp. I wonder if they will be surprised when we walk up next year with a cooler of fresh gulf shrimp. Having a cousin who is a shrimper comes in handy, especially when there is wine involved.

Our final stop for Friday was at Cavender Creek Vineyards and Winery in Dahlonega. We barely made it in time too. The owner, Ray, was at the end of the drive when we pulled in. There was some good natured ribbing about getting lost, GPSs vs paper maps, and then we drove to the tasting room. All of the wines here are delicious but we were disappointed to learn that they were sold out of one of our favorites The Donkey Hotie red We took home a couple of bottles of their 2011 Norton instead. B__ and R__ chatted with Ray for a bit about making wines and then we headed into Dahlonega to find food.

We got into Dahlonega and drove through looking for a place to eat. When we travel we try to eat local if we can and when we spotted a little Italian place just off the main square called Piazza’s. It proved to be the only real disappointment of the day. Our party of four was seated in a small room with what looked like a party of 15 or so at another table. I hate to be rushed when I am ordering and it felt rushed here. The wait staff made sure to keep our tea glasses full but that was about the only time they were seen. B__ ordered the calamari and R__ ordered bruschetta. The calamari was tough and chewy and the bruschetta had some strange flavor on it that we isolated as possibly shallots. For our entrees, Charles and R__ ordered the cheese manicotti which was tiny, B__ ordered Chicken Parm with Fettuccini Alfredo. The bowl of fettuccini looked really good except for the odd shaped dark brown lumps covered in marina in the middle of the bowl. I ordered the Gorgonzola Crusted New York Strip with green beans and potatoes. When my steak came out there was no gorgonzola to be found and for an 8 oz steak it was very tiny. R__ got the waitress and we sent the steak back. The reason it wasn’t “gorgonzola crusted” was it was a new menu. The cook put a small pile of gorgonzola on the small steak and ran the plate under a salamander because when it came back out the green beans and potatoes had a nice char on them… which was actually an improvement. The only redeeming factor was the waitress took $4 of the $22 price of the tiny tiny steak. Needless to say, we will not be going back to this over priced, too proud of itself, shabby-chic hole.
After supper we were supposed to drive to Blue Ridge, Georgia to stage for the next days tasting, but after a day full of driving and a full belly, we were all just ready for a place to crash. We found a couple of cheap rooms at the Super8 then called it a night.

And the evening and the morning were the first day… of WineHighway2014WOOOOO