Saturday 21 March 2015
Day two of the Georgia Wine Highway started bright and early. We had seven wineries to visit and we knew it was going to be a busy hectic day. We decided to break our fast at Huddle House. Sooo much good food. I am always surprised at how much B_ can put away when he tucks in to grub. The Huddle House was on Ga Hwy 76, which was the road we needed to get to our next cluster of vineyards in the Hiawassee/Cleveland area. With bellies full of food, we headed out to our first winery.
We jumped on Hwy 76 and headed north toward Crane Creek Vineyards in Young Harris, Ga. When we were outside Young Harris, R_ noticed that the jeep needed gas. Since it looked like we were going to be extremely (at least an hour) early we decided to find a gas station. B_ remembered there being a gas station on the road to Crane Creek, so when we got to Young Harris, Ga we turned onto Hwy 66. The gas station was there, but it looked like it had been closed for a while. Since we still had time, we decided to just keep going. We followed 66 north into North Carolina and found another gas station just across the border. When we pulled in we noticed the pumps handles were covered with plastic bags. B_ hopped out of the jeep to ask about gas. He came out of the store laughing, the attendant at the store had asked him how far he had to go for gas. Turns out they didn’t have any gas but were “expecting some any day now”. Luckily, a gas station with gas to sell was just a little further north. So, we headed out towards what we hoped was an open gas station.
We pulled into Big D’s gas station, stifling a giggle at the name, and B_ went in to pay for gas. This place was an old school, no pay at the pump station. It looked like one of the sketchy gas stations you see at the beginning of a horror movie. You know, the one with the attendant with the creepy warning that everyone ignores. B_ took care of gas and got back in the jeep. He told us that was the most cheerful time he had been threatened in his life. He had asked the attendant if she wanted his license to hold while he filled up. She told him that if he tried to drive off, he would be shot before he made it out of the parking lot. Yup. Totally not a horror movie script.
Gas tank full, we headed back to Georgia to get the wine highway underway. Even with the side trips and detours, we still made it to Crane Creek Vineyards ten minutes early. We all got out, stretched our legs, and I took some pictures. As soon as it was 11:00, we headed in to get started tasting. We started out with the Zusa. Zusa is a crisp, dry blend of the gruner veltliner, riesling, and traminette grapes. The second tasting was the Mountain Harvest white. The third tasting was the Villard Noir, a crisp rose’. Our final wine to taste was the Hellbender Red. The Hellbender is a dark red, made from the norton grape and Crane Creek really knows how to make a norton sing. Knowing that I am not a dry red wine fan, the Crane Creek Hellbender Red is a fantastic wine and a great way to finish off a tasting.
From Crane Creek Vineyards, we left Young Harris and headed to Hiawassee, Ga. to visit Hightower Creek Vineyards. Our first wine at Hightower was their Epiphany. The Epiphany is a blend of seyval, vidal, pinot gris and vignole grapes that is a light, crisp white. Our next wine was the 2011 Red Clay Rose’. The Hightower Red Clay Rose’ is a crisp, semi sweet rose’. The third wine in our tasting was the Deliverance. The Deliverance is a big bold blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc grapes. The final tasting from Hightower Creek was the Chatuga Red. The Chatuga Red is a sweeter version of the Deliverance, a great way to show how different processes with the same grapes can achieve different results.
After finishing our tasting at Hightower Creek, we headed to Rabun Gap, Ga to visit 12 Spies Vineyards and Farm. I really love 12 Spies. Not just because they make good wine, but also because the owner is a University of Alabama fan. Being an Auburn University fan, I naturally had to wear one of my Auburn T-shirts. After some good natured rivalry talk, and mutual commiseration at how disappointing last season’s football was for both our teams, we got down to tasting wine. The first tasting in the flight was their Chardonnay. The second tasting was the Temptation Traminette. The traminette grape is a graft of gewurztraminer and seyval blanc grapes and it makes a tasty white wine. The third tasting in the flight was Samson’s Signature Rose’. The rose’ is a blend of mouvedre and merlot grapes. This one was so tasty. The final tasting on the flight was the Sinful Syrah. All of 12 Spies wines are delicious and I can’t wait until next year to see them again.
Our next stop on the wine highway was Stonewall Creek Vineyards in Tiger, Georgia. The four of us were really excited to visit Stonewall Creek. This was their first official year on the highway. Stonewall Creek has put out some excellent wines in the past. We were very glad to see that they were officially part of the wine highway this year. We started off with the 2013 Boriana, made from their petit manseng grapes. Its a really well made dry white, nice and crisp with a good flavor. The second tasting in the flight was the 2013 Glassy Red. The Glassy Red is made from cabernet franc grapes and stainless steel aged. The third tasting in our flight was the 2013 Three Eagles, a dry blend of malbec, petit verdot and tannat grapes. And the final wine for our tasting was the NV Buck Red. The Buck Red is a non-vintage red blend from 2011 and 2012 cabernet sauvignon and norton grapes. The Buck Red would go well with a nice steak.
After we finished out our tasting flight at Stonewall Creek, and let B_ talk shop with the owners, we headed off to B_’s favorite stop. B_ loves big, bold, dry red wines. If there is one thing that Tiger Mountain Vineyards does very well, it’s red wine. I can appreciate the craftsmanship, but dry wines just are not my favorite. That being said, I love the dry reds from Tiger. For our tasting we had their Burton Blanc, their Viognier a dry white, their Rabun Red a blend of 5 grapes, and their Norton. All the wines on the tasting were good, but Tiger does exceptional things with their Norton. Every year it is a temptation to buy a bottle.
We finished up our wine highway tasting and since B_ is a Tiger Taster, he got his tasting and purchased his case for the year. While B_ was tasting, the husband and I walked up the hill to the Red Barn to lay out the lunch R_ had packed for us. Cheese, R_made hummus, crackers, tasty salami and tons of those little seedless oranges that are so good this time of year. When B_ was finished, we all sat and enjoyed the beautiful view of the Georgia Mountains, snacked on good food.
Bellies full, we were ready for our next venue. Sautee Nacoochee Vineyards was always one of our favorite places to visit. Not so much for their wines, but because they have always had
a really fun atmosphere. Every year we have gone, they have had live music and wine slushies. This year though, they brought out their library wines for the wine highway. Boy were we impressed. I think they made B_ look at them in a totally different light. I started off my tasting with their 2006 Cabernet, a delicious red wine. The second wine I tried was the
2007 Nacoochee Red, a 50/50 blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot. The third wine was their 2008 Merlot. If you are a merlot lover then this wine is for you. The final wine of the tasting was the 2009 Celebration, a tasty chambourcin wine. Library wines are always a treat. If you are ever offered a library wine tasting, do it.
After our tasting at Sautee Nacoochee, we sat in their amphitheater and listened to the jazz trio, enjoyed some more nibbles and then headed out to our last tasting of the day.
We were really looking forward to Yonah Mountain Vineyards this year. Last year they moved into their new tasting room at their vineyard and it was beautiful. This year the beauty was marred by poor decision making on the part of the event staff. As soon as we walked into the tasting room, we were brusquely pointed to a side door as a server yelled that the wine highway was out that door. Walking out the side door, we found a tiny pop up tent with a make shift bar underneath it. The bar was crowded with other patrons and it was hard to hear the pourer describe the wines she was pouring for us. Taken altogether, it felt like we were being treated like poor country cousins come to visit. The Georgia wine highway is a big deal for my husband and I. We drive 500 miles to visit your winery, your vineyards and you are going to throw us out a side door like you are ashamed of us. I was so mad that I couldn’t even taste the wine. We didn’t finish our tasting. R_ went inside and asked one of the servers in the main bar if there was a rationale behind shoving the Wine Highway patrons outside. The server told R_ that with the new tasting room, they were hosting wine tours and that there were “different tastings for tours and the wine highway and didn’t want the pourers to be confused.” It’s such a shame to end a glorious day being treated like trash, but that is the way we felt.
Disappointed with the last winery, we headed to Cleveland, Georgia to spend the night and get ready for Day 3 of the Bangin Georgia Wine Highway 2015. On the way, we spotted a creamery that had ice cream... Ice cream makes everything better.
After ice cream, we got a super cheap hotel in Cleveland and we spent the night eating cheap pizza and playing Cards Against Humanity. I can’t remember who won that game, but we are all awful awful people.
Crane Creek Vineyards
Hightower Creek Vineyards