Thursday, July 7, 2011

Frogtown Cellars

SP & I went on a mini vacation over the July 4 holiday weekend. We traveled south to north Georgia, specifically Dahlonega, to visit my brother & his family. We hadn't been to Dahlonega in 2+ years, so it was about time for a return trip. As you might expect for the southern US in July, it was steamy. Hot (90+ degrees every day!). Humid. Not my kind of weather! But I can handle, maybe not even notice, the HHH weather if I am doing something fun, like enjoying wine at a winery.
Winery? In Georgia? Yes indeed. There are several wineries in the north Georgia mountains. We decided to visit Frogtown Cellars - partly because I really like all things froggy and mostly because it seemed to be the only one open on the holiday itself. July 4 seemed to be the steamiest day of our stay, complete with sporadic rumbles of thunders and brief showers. Happily, our visit to Frogtown was breezy and dry. As soon as you see the Frogtown sign, you see the rows of grapes. We turned into the gravel parking lot and made our way into the wine house.Inside it was dark, and cool. There is a wood floor, wood beams, stone walls - very rustic and rural. We paused in the foyer to look at the tables of Frogtown shirts and read about Frogtown's history and then slowly walked around.In the middle of the main room is the tasting bar. It was very crowded!In fact, Dahlonega and north Georgia seemed especially crowded and touristy over the holiday weekend. We admired the many frog vases:And then the owner spied us and when we said we wanted to do a tasting, he seated us at a curved table to the left of the tasting bar. There were 4 tasting options. There is a 'flight' of white and a 'flight' of reds for $15 each (9 tastes) or $24 for both (18 tastes) plus 2 'mixed flights.' We decided to do both the red & white tastings and to share them.We started with the whites. Our pourer set a bowl of goldfish crackers on our table (to cleanse your palate between tastings), gave us a little pencil to take notes on the provided wine information sheets, and started pouring. I was especially excited to see that Frogtown makes a viognier. They also make a few white blends which include viognier. We got to taste an oaked chardonnay and a steel chardonnay (fermented in stainless steel instead of oak barrels). To my surprise, I liked the oak chardonnay better; usually I am not a huge fan of chardonnay but I really liked this one. My favorite white, and the one we ended up buying a bottle of, was the MRV, a Rhone style blend of marsanne, roussanne, and viognier.After tasting 8 of 9 whites (one of which was a rose, which I always want to like but somehow never do), we moved on to the reds. I really liked the reserve merlot ($49/bottle!) and was happy we got to try a tannat, a French grape I had not heard of, and a couple of blends of Russian River, Sonoma and Georgia grapes. There's some connection between Frogtown and Chalk Hill (I think that's what we were told) in CA. We also tried a wine called Frogtown Norton, which is made from the only red grape indigenous to the United States. Frogtown blended 15% petit verdot 5% cabernet sauvignon into the Norton wine.

After tasting 8 of 9 reds, we finished with a white dessert wine (the 9th white) and a red dessert wine (the 9th red). Both were yummy, sweet like ice wine.It probably wasn't the brightest idea to sample all that wine at 1 pm after eating just a yogurt and drinking a cup of tea for breakfast. The goldfish crackers helped a bit, but between the heat & humidity and all that tasting, I was feeling kind of... tipsy. And my tummy needed something to absorb the wine sloshing around in it! So we decided to move out to the deck and order some lunch.There are some great views of the mountains and the winery from the deck. There was a nice breeze, so it didn't feel too oppressive.SP was driving and those north Georgia mountain roads are quite twisty, so he decided to not enjoy any more wine. I ordered a glass of MRV to enjoy with my 'Alpine' panini (black forest ham, gruyere, and apple):The plates even had little frogs on them! So cute!SP ordered the Americano panini (house smoked turkey, muenster, tomato, and greens):Both panini came with a ramekin of chips and a small salad. The panini were tasty. I suppose $9.95/panini is a bit expensive, but I don't expect inexpensive when we go somewhere like this. I didn't think the price was too outrageous (I saw some winery reviews online that complained about Frogtown being totally over-priced).We had a really, really nice day. Our tasting wasn't rushed. We spent 3-4 hours at Frogtown! Our pourer was very friendly and knew about the wines. Our server on the deck was very friendly as well and chatted with us for a while. I read some negative reviews about the dogs at Frogtown and I will say this:

Yes, there are dogs. While tasting, we overheard some customers ask about bringing their dog inside, and they were told that Frogtown has several dogs, one of which is aggressive. I personally do not understand why anyone would think they could take their pet dog into a winery, but... whatever. I think of a winery/deck with food as being a bar/restaurant and pets aren't allowed inside restaurants.

Also, the dogs at Frogtown are to keep critters away from the grapes/winery, and our food server told us that they are the only winery in the region without a huge pest control issue. My brother and his wife's sister (who also lives in Dahlonega) keep their dogs outside a lot, as do many people in the area, because the dogs keep the mice and rabbits away, which keeps the snakes (some of which are poisonous) away, and the dogs keep other critters away.

There was a dog wandering around on the deck after we finished eating, but it was pretty mellow and reserved. It wasn't begging or jumping on people. However, I can't say how that particular dog or any other Frogtown dog would react to an outside dog since their purpose is to protect the winery.

Back to the winery: I liked that we got to try some grapes I'd never before tried (tannat) and some that I've heard of and enjoyed before but that I've not really tasted at winery tastings, like sangiovese. I seem to recall from my trip to Napa that I sampled a lot of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot grigio, merlot, pinot noir, cabernet, but not sangiovese or tannat or viognier.

We ended up splurging a bit and purchasing 3 bottles of wine: the MRV, First Convergence (66% cabernet & malbec from Sonoma, 34% Frogtown cabernet franc), and the Frogtown Norton.

It was a great way to spend the afternoon on Independence Day.

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