Thursday, January 27, 2011


Wine Country: Georgia

The West Coast of the United States gets most of the attention for domestic wine production, but wine is made in all 50 states.  The “Wine Country” series is my effort to taste wine from all the states.  The recent series on Norton wines got me started, with fine efforts from Missouri and Virginia - so fine, we may revisit those states along the way.  This isn’t an alphabetical journey, nor is it ordered geographically. 

Today, we kick off the official “Wine Country” trail where the Norton series ended - in the state of Georgia.

I sampled a Norton wine from Tiger Mountain Vineyards, in Tiger, Georgia.  You can see the article on their Norton wine for more on the vineyard.

Tiger, Georgia is a tiny burg of just over 300 people.  The town sits at about 2,000 feet above sea level at the foot of Tiger Mountain, a 2,856-ft peak in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Tiger is in Rabun County which has a slogan - "Where Spring Spends The Summer" - indicating a place where the average temperature in January is about 49F and just under 80F in August - very pleasant.  An annual rainfall of over 70 inches no doubt helps the flora along.

One of the treats I’m looking forward to in this series is the opportunity to sample grape varieties which are not readily available to me in California.  The Norton grape is a prime example.  Tiger Mountain also throws a little winemaker love on the Petit Manseng grape.

Tiger Mountain Petit MansengPetit Manseng 2008 

The white Petit Manseng grape originated in southwestern France.  It is said the wine of this grape was used to baptize Henry IV.  This particular Tiger Mountain wine was entered into the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, where it took a silver medal.  Tiger Mountain’s Petit Manseng has won 11 awards, 5 of them gold.  It sells for $35 from the winery.

Sitting in the glass with a rich, golden color, the smell of this Georgia white wine’s bouquet immediately put me in mind of Chardonnay, then Viognier, then AlbariƱo.  The aromas lean toward green apples, with a nudge toward some tropical fruit which is never fully realized.  There is also the scent of vanilla spice and a trace of nutmeg!  On the palate, a vegetal flavor comes forward first, with spiced apples following; a hint of pepper lingers on the finish.  It’s a full-bodied white wine, with a lively mouthfeel.  The 13.5% alcohol level is moderate and the nearly bracing acidity makes this a wine that pairs well with food.  I had it with a holiday feast of sweet, brown sugar ham, bourbon pecan mashed sweet potatoes and chestnuts on the side.  The Petit Manseng paired well with everything on the plate, especially the ham and the chestnuts.

The next scheduled stop on the Wine Country express is Alabama.  We’ll try some Muscadine from the Deep South.

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