Crane Creek Winery, Young Harris:
Why we like winter winery visits (thanks to the Wine Rescue Squad)
A nice crowd gathers off the main wine tasting area at Crane Creek Vineyards in Young Harris on New Year's Eve afternoon. A steady stream of customers made their way to the country winery even as a winter storm was starting to move in that afternoon.
New Year's Eve "weekend" meant a trip to the Blue Ridge-Elijay-Young Harris area which also means a stop by our favorite country winery, Crane Creek Vineyards. An Earth Day event brought us to Crane Creek last April. While almost all the events were outdoors that time, everyone was inside huddled up as the coldest part of the storm was still coming in that afternoon.
But first we had to park and that's where trouble began. It was a busy New Year's Eve Day (3 p.m.) so we opted for a spot just off the parking area. Wrong move. No sooner did we pull in than we noticed a wheel or two already spinning where grass once grew.
As we exited to investigate, several couples leaving Crane Creek came right to our rescue without even a word spoken. One young lady directed the "rescue" attempt, coordinating a tow chain and a four-wheel drive. One clamp and quick pull later, and we were on our way. The "director" refused payment -- in cash or wine. So first we salute you, the Wine Rescue Crew on New Year's Eve. It is just another example of why we like wine people: friendly, helpful and funny.
Once inside the farm house, we beelined to the tasting bar only to be greeted by Catawba, the winery dog. In the past, we'd seen Sally sleeping behind the tasting bar but our pourer said the big old lab had passed several months ago. Sally is the namesake of some of the wine at Crane Creek. So, too, is Catawba (more for the grape but . . . ) and the pup did her best to make us feel at home by collapsing at our feet.
Properly stationed with Catawba's help, we got down to the tasting--a bargain at $3 per person, by the way, especially on New Year's Eve afternoon. The pouring list included:
- Seyval Blanc: A crisp, dry white, it immediately earned a 7-plus in our 10-point scoring.
- Etowah White was next, described as an "oaky off dry" white. Crafted from a hybrid grape, this probably was our favorite wine of the tasting. We'd purchased a few bottles during our earlier visit.
- Apfelwein: This is a different wine, a relative new release. It is an apple wine with some German stylings. It might work as a dessert wine in a pinch or a pleasant pause between courses. Give it a sample next time you're in Young Harris; we don't know if its available at Naturally Georgia in Dahlonega.
- We closed the white wine flite with Mountain Harvest White. Again on the sweet side, they recommend it for a picnic wine and we agree. Tasty
- The Rose/Blush tour included Mountain Harvest Blush. Again sweet, it was a different experience. We were anxious to move to . . . the reds.
- Brasstown Red earned a solid 7. It is a Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend that had a bit of a Malbec taste. It is said to be best paired with classic Italian or even Middle Eastern dishes.
- Another specialty wine was the Christmas Catawba. We liked it as a fruity-tasting libation, perhaps again reserved for after dinner.
- The final wine was Sweet Sally, another favorite we picked up last time. It was named early on for the wine dog that just passed. A fine way to end the tasting and a holiday visit.
One side note on our trip: Ten days earlier, Crane Creek hosted a winter solstice tasting from 6 to 8 p.m. In the past, perhaps 20 to 40 people came out on the longest night of the year to sample wine and food. This year, the count topped 100, says our pourer. The turnout surprised the hosts. Chalk it up to the friendly folks at the winery and the growing appeal of North Georgia wine.
-If you go: You'll find some special deals at nearby Brasstown Valley Resort for Valentine's Weekend and during the winter months. This Saturday, Jan. 16, Brasstown is hosting a special wine education seminar followed by a wine-paired dinner. Details> Click
This picture is from the rear tasting bar at Crane Creek, overlooking some of the novelty items on sale and the back deck. You can see the moisture on the decking and the mist outside that Thursday afternoon, the last day of 2009.
News from the wineries:
-Friday, Jan. 15: Chateau Elan Winery and Resort is offering a "Wine Tasting Experience Package: for two, $199 plus tax. Includes: wine tasting with the Winemaker, this month's theme is "Top Value Wines" both national and international wines. Coming up: Dessert wines on Feb. 26 and Wines of Italy on March 19> Details
-Saturday, Jan. 30: Montaluce Winery and Estates to host food, wine conclave: The Dahlonega winery is hosting it's first Wine and Food Conclave. Food and wine writers and bloggers from all around the Southeast are invited for a day of winery and vineyard tours, wine tasting, kitchen tour, chef demonstrations and more. If you're interested in attending, please contact email@example.com for more details.
-Now-Jan. 31: Tiger Mountain Vineyards in Rabun County. also features a "20-10" special on January weekends. 20 percent off and 10 percent off two wines every weekend. We're not telling which wines. Tasting room open Friday and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
-Feb. 13, 14: Frogtown Cellars offering special Valentine's Day meals. A wine taster's dinner is available that Saturday at 7 p.m. for $45 per person. On Sunday, a 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. wine taster's brunch is served fro $35 each. Reservations required.
-March 20, 21: Spring Wine Highway Weekend dates set: Save the date for the fifth annual Wine Highway Weekend. The 2009 edition was a huge hit . Details
Check your favorite wineries before visiting in January: Web sites for some of the wineries show down time in January, from reduced hours to no tastings. We'll assemble a list of closings for next week. Wineries can send us updates by clicking e-mail.
-Three Sisters Vineyards to take a break, reopening Feb. 1 as part of the three-weekend-long Wine & Chocolate Lovers Celebration.
- Wolf Mountain Vineyards: Closed through January, reopening Sunday, Feb. 7.