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North Georgia vineyards are ripe with promise

on 16/07/12 at 5:48 pm


Coming into this tiny Blue Ridge Mountain community of 350, you know exactly where you are. From the cool breeze that blows sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines in the surrounding Chattahoochee National Forest to the UGA Dawgs signage hanging off seemingly every other car or storefront, it looks and feels unmistakably like Georgia here.

Tastes like it, too. Much to many people’s pleasant surprise. One big reason why lies a couple of miles off U.S. 441 — past the volunteer fire department and the rustic market with the truth-in-advertising name “Goats on the Roof” — where Tiger Mountain Vineyards is producing wines that couldn’t have come from anywhere else.

“The most important thing about making good wine is right out there,” Tiger Mountain co-owner John Ezzard said recently, indicating the gently sloped terrain of his longtime family farm. Some 10 acres are planted with vineyards that work in harmony with the uniquely North Georgia “degenerated granite” soil underneath and the high humidity mountain air all around. “Georgia should grow something of quality that we become known for. Because there’s no mistaking it’s from here.”

As a maker of fine wines made from locally grown European vinifera grapes — including a widely lauded 2011 Petit Manseng — Tiger Mountain Vineyards is the easternmost outpost of a robust wine region that’s expanding across the top third of the state.