Want to plan a fun weekend getaway in the North Georgia Mountains? I’ve got a couple of places I’d like to suggest to you.
Over the 4th of July weekend, Sandy and I decided to run up to Dahlonega, which is a short, 20-mile ride north of our home. Dahlonega was founded in 1828 and was the site of the first major gold rush in the United States. Now, it is a vibrant, little town of about 3,500. It’s full of great locally owned restaurants, neat little museums, eclectic shops of all sorts, and there is always a festival going on.
Sandy and I had heard about Frogtown Cellars from our daughter Callie, who’d visited several wineries a few weekends ago.
As we got closer to the winery, the number of wineries we saw surprised us. But Callie said that Frogtown was the best, so we passed the others up, stopping here and there along the way to take pictures.
In 1998, Frogtown was founded by Atlanta natives Craig and Cydney Kritzer in the “Frogtown District” of Lumpkin County. It’s a 57 acre vineyard and winery complex located at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains.
The contours of Frogtown’s hillside vineyards represent some of the steepest slopes of all viticultural areas in the eastern part of the United States. These also create some of the prettiest views in all of North Georgia as seen below.
The first thing you notice about Frogtown is the beautiful building atop a rise overlooking the vineyards. I’ve always been proud that for the past 27 years, I’ve been able to call Georgia home. But the beauty of this setting made me doubly pleased. It’s a place that gives you bragging rights.
We drove up the long drive and pulled into the parking lot, very close to the entrance. Walking in, you are greeted by a beautiful waterfall and Koi pool. Very tranquil… The winery itself has porches and places to sit on all sides of the main building, great to enjoy with friends, wine and their famous Panini sandwiches.
Sandy and I decided to go first into the tasting room, which was already quite full. We walked around looking for a spot to nudge in at the tasting bar, but couldn’t find any openings. That’s when we met Cydney Kritzer. We later found out she’s the owner, but all I know is her smile made us quickly feel at home. She very graciously found room for us, and left us in the very capable hands of Chauna Utterback, one of the folks who serves and explains the wines. I insist that when you visit Frogtown, you’ve got to ask for Chauna. I’m sure the others are great, but she did an outstanding job of taking care of us, and about 10 other people who were all at different places on their tastings. How she kept up, I have no idea. But she did—and she did it with a great deal of passion and enthusiasm.
(As you can see, Chauna has a beautiful smile too!)
About the wines:
For the whites, Sandy’s favorite was the 2008 Frogtown Viognier, which won a Silver Medal at the 2011 Dallas Morning Star Competition. Flavors of flowers, honey, peach, melon, and kiwi fruit were present.
My favorite was the 2008 Frogtown Chardonnay, which was the Gold Medal winner at the 2011 Dallas Morning Star Competition. It was awesome—very smooth. This one was fermented in 100% new oak (70% French and 30% tight grain North Central American.) I’d put it up against anything coming out of Napa or Sonoma these days.
For the reds, we both agreed that our favorite was the 2006 Frogtown Tannat, which was the Gold Medal winner of the 2011 California Critic Challenge Competition. As good as any red wine I’ve had in a long time.
Bottom line, the people were warm and welcoming and the wine was excellent! Plus the views from the porches were spectacular. This is a very worthwhile trip.
And when you go, please tell Cydney and Chauna that Robert and Sandy said hello!
(The beautiful lady at the end of the bar in the red shirt is Sandy!)
Now, on to dinner…
If you haven’t filled up at Frogtown, I’d suggest you head back to Dahlonega. There’s a place there called the Back Porch Oyster Bar. Check out the address, menu, and particulars on their website!
On our visit to the restaurant with our friends Elizabeth and David Umberson, we met the owner, Lee. At one point, he was a homebuilder in the Outer Banks, on the coast of North Carolina. He and his wife Trish visited Dahlonega and the North Georgia Mountains and fell in love with the place. He said they just couldn’t stand to leave and they also couldn’t find a good local seafood restaurant. So they took matters into their own hands and opened their own! It’s on the 2nd floor of a building, so you walk up stairs to the restaurant. You can see some of his old surfboards hanging on the walls from when he lived on the coast.
We’ve eaten there about four to five times now, and have always been very impressed with both the food and service. As a matter of fact, I always want to try other places, but their food is so good, I just keep coming back. That weekend, we both had their shrimp and grits for the first time. They do it a little differently than I’ve ever had before with pieces of bacon and green onion added to the mixture. After experiencing that, I believe it should be a law that ALL shrimp and grits have bacon added. When I’m governor…
Anyway, on a scale of 1 to 10, it was a solid 9. And the portions were more than generous.
A side note: I would suggest that during the summer, you sit inside, not on the porch during the heat of the day. But any other time, the porch is great—usually cool and refreshing with a neat little view.
So there are two fun places for you to try out when you get to our neck of the woods. Hope you enjoy them as much as we did!