Yonah Mountain Vineyards

11 Sep

Over Labor Day weekend, P and I escaped to North Georgia for a winery tour. I actually purchased the tour for P’s birthday back in June, and we just now had a moment to take advantage. Our first anniversary was celebrated at Chateau Elan, so we hold a special place in our hearts for wine [tours].

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It was an absolutely perfect day. At 83 degrees some would call it hot–but to my cold blooded self it was paradise. When we pulled down the winding drive to the tasting room, the vines rose up to greet us.

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Vineyards are actually quite common in North Georgia. I could never figure out why–I mean, any of you guys that are not from this state, have you ever heard of Georgia wine? But I learned on the tour that the composition of the soil is almost identical to Napa Valley. I have trouble imagining it, but I guess it makes sense. Why else would there be four vineyards (and a Cabbage Patch, HA) in Cleveland alone?

Yonah Mountain Vineyards (named after the eponymous mountain looming in the background–more on that later) is pretty new, only seven years old. They have a unique octagonal tasting room that is, in a word, fancy.

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The oak in the middle distance is more than 100 years old. Normally you wouldn’t have a tree so close to the vines, but the owner couldn’t bear to cut it down.

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Inside the octogonal tasting room, even the bar is octogonal.

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Murals and a set up for live music (alas, not playing at 1:30 on a Sunday)

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The trademark nautilus bear made many an appearance. As did stone fireplaces.

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Art for purchase adorned the hallway.

This was my favorite piece. I know jack-all about fine art, but I think that, like wine, it's fine if you think it is. Also this was painted by somebody name Patrice Young, which made me laugh. (Patrice is one of P's many strange nicknames).

This was my favorite piece. I know jack-all about fine art, but I think that, like wine, it’s fine if you think it is. Also this was painted by somebody name Patrice Young, which made me laugh. (Patrice is one of P’s many strange nicknames).

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Even the bathrooms were swank, including a bowl of bespoke salt scrub.

We arrived early (P drives like a bat out of hell when we’re on a schedule), so we had time to make the acquaintance of some of the locals.

Yonah means

Yonah means “bear” in the language of the native tribes of this area.

And to plan our retirement.

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Muffy, shall we tee off at 4?

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I simply cahn’t dahling, I’m off to the spa.

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Our tour guide was the owner of the vineyard himself, which was really cool. He started us out with a taste of wine before we even stepped foot out the door. My kinda guy.

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He reminded me a little of my late grandfather. Personable, quick with a cheesy joke, and not hesitant at all to talk about how much things cost–from the $110 bottle of reserve to the $23,000 loading dock to the $450,000 in total expenses last fiscal year. It made me a bit awkward, to be honest, but whatever. The owner was a retired financier, after all, so he was doubtless just speaking his language.

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He told us that Yonah Mountain, that wave-looking bump back there, was the oldest mountain on earth, citing a geologist that told him something about its being the very bottom of the Appalachian chain. Sure, why not?

One of the most unique things about YMV, and the reason I got us this tour in the first place, was that the wine was aged in caves, supposedly the only one in the state. There were many things on the property, according to our guide, that were “the only/largest/best one in the state.”

Like this press, originally purchased by another vineyard to make that Southern classic: muscodine wine, and resold to YMV when it didn’t work on the muscondine’s thick skins.

Another “only” not pictured here is the only stiletto-proof floor grate, put in at extra expense. Not sure if I believe that one.

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An anti-mildew machine that allegedly came from some kind of NASA outlet store. (Where is that and how can I be invited?)

I was imagining a cave as in like, stalactites and bats. But no–in reality it was basically a basement. Although he did, as he said, have the walls painted brown to lend to the authenticity. I about died laughing, I couldn’t even be mad at the bait n’ switch.

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The barrels are made from French forest wood, which is apparently superior to American forest wood for aging wines (and comes at great expense, of course). After their short life at the winery is done, they are resold to a brewery to hold beer. Yay for recycling!

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I don’t always drink rose, but when I do, it’s in a faux cave.

The second, larger cave was a bit more legit. It still wasn’t an actual cave, but it did have, as our guide put it, “Disney lighting.” My photo of the grand effect didn’t turn out and there were too many people on the tour to set up another shot, but here are a couple of the entrance and the barrels that lined both sides of the tube-shaped cave.

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A dark, secret tasting room rounded out the downstairs tour. That’s where all the good bottles were kept.

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The hand-painted frescoes and lighting fixtures were really something. Three hidden Mickey Mouses were somewhere in the paintings, but we couldn’t find them.

Although this tour was perhaps not as polished as a place like Chateau Elan, I learned many more interesting things. For instance, the primary issue grape growers in Georgia experience is an overabundance of rain. You’d think rain would be good for vines, which are after all, plants. But evidently it makes the leaves rot. At YMV they* actually hand-sift through overwatered plants to find those that are still usable.

*they being everyone–all vineyard employees do literally every job, from picking to pouring to [event] planning. 

The last part of the tour was the enormous and brand-new event facility, where you can have your wedding or bar mitzvah beneath authentic “Dancing with the Stars” lighting and sound systems. I didn’t take any pictures because by then we were enjoying our 7th pour of wine.

Suffice it to say, I highly recommend this tour for all those who like a bit of sass with their class–some cheese with their wine, so to speak. Which, honestly, don’t we all?

Although they produce a nice Bordeaux-style table red, Chardonnay is the primary grape grown on their own fields (some of their wines are made from grapes they ship in from Cali). So that’s the bottle we went home with. We wanted to be as gen-yoo-wine as possible.

GET IT!?!

The 411: Yonah Mountain Vineyard tours are $30 per person and are offered three times on Saturday and once on Sunday. Tours include 8 tastings and a wine glass. Menu tastings are $6-$16. Bottles range from $40-$150 and can be purchased online.

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