Thanksgiving Sipping in the Peach State
While visiting my mother over the Thanksgiving holiday in Georgia, or the Peachtree state as it is sometimes referred to, it was only appropriate that Dezel visit one of the states premier winery resorts, right? As much as I love a ripe juicy peach, I also have a hankering for ripe juicy grapes …preferably the healthy fermented beverage they produce.
The state of Georgia has about 20 or so operational wineries with some new ones on the horizon. Georgia has a rich history in growing wine grapes dating back to the late 19th century when immigrants began showing up with vine plantings and a thirst for fermented wine and spirits. Like a number of states, including Virginia, prohibition somewhat put an end to the early Georgia farm wineries and vineyards. Georgia now finds itself on the rebound, and since I only had a few hours to get a winery visit in, I paid a visit to what several reliable sources told me was the cream of the crop and largest producer in the state.
So off we were on a sunny, yet nippy Saturday morning, to visit Chateau Élan, the popular 4 diamond winery and resort located in the North Georgia foothills, just on the outskirts of Atlanta. The resort is spitting distance from interstate 85, however, once you make the turn into the Chateau, it’s a pleasant transition from traffic, office buildings, and more traffic, to a relaxed old world French setting.
The tasting room is housed in a spacious building that boasts an expansive gift shop, a cozy and quaint café, and a more intimate fine dining restaurant. There are two tasting bars to accommodate the large crowds drawn to this popular resort. Château Élan has nearly 75 acres of French-American hybrid and vinifera vine plantings on the estate and offers about 20 wines. There is something for every palate preference – dry, off-dry, sweet, red, white and blush. Several of their wines titled “Founder’s Reserve
My Mother and I at the Tasting Bar
What I found to be the best bang for the buck is a $6 Founder’s Reserve Georgia Chambourcin. Although, light in body, this smooth wine has nice subtle flavors with good balance. This is a good wine to pair with an assortment of food dishes since the flavors are not overwhelming and there is a good level of acidity. Another reasonably priced selection is the American Sauvignon Blanc, which is light bodied with good stone fruit flavors and priced right at $9. Unfortunately, their Viognier, which is made from Georgia grapes and retails for $13 was sold out. I really wanted to taste a Georgia example to compare it to some of the local Virginia examples I have locked in memory. Oddly enough, I was informed that the Viognier grape variety is quite a challenge for the winery to grow, due to unpredictable yields and ripeness levels, as well as the weather. The latter does not improve conditions and needless to say, they may stop carrying this varietal all together that does so well here in Virginia. The winery also produces an “American” and “Founder’s” example of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay. These wines are light to medium in body offering soft and neutral flavors with little complexity, but albeit tasty wines. Also offered, is a port styled wine, a White Zinfandel, four differing sweet muscadine wines, Pinot Noir and a local Riesling. Oddly enough, when I attempted to mail a few bottles of Chambourcin to myVirginia address, I learned that GA law prohibits such sales. The majority of their sales are out of the tasting room. Another oddity is that we could not buy a bottle and enjoy it there at the winery unless we went to the restaurant where there would be a corkage fee. I cannot believe that during the spring and summer months that you cannot pack a picnic basket, buy a bottle of wine and waste the day away on the lovely manicured grounds. That is truly part of the fun in visiting the local Virginia wineries.
Long ago, beautiful women with delicate feet danced on grapes...
Overall, I had a good tasting experience at Château Élan, and some of their prices are very reasonable for the quality of the wines. The next time I visit my mother, I hope to get out to some of the smaller farm wineries in Georgia. If you are ever in the Peachtree state pay the Chateau a visit and enjoy their wines and fine dining. I would have enjoyed the fine dining myself, but we are from New Orleans, and my mother, the Cajun chef, kept us as stuffed as the turkey you had on your table. Gobble...Gobble!!!
- Stay tuned friends, I have a tasty Chambourcin recommendation and lots more!
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