Suburban Wino 2: The Wordpress Experiment

Don’t Hassle Me, I’m Local (Georgia Wine, part 1 of 3) | September 9, 2009

“We’re not trying to make California wine. If you want California wine, go to California. What we are doing is making Georgia wine…and Georgia wine is good wine.”

-Rob Beecham, Montaluce Vineyards

An obvious statement on the surface, but one profoundly rooted in the European concept of terroir– the concept that a wine is so much more than the fruit itself. The soil, the climate, the orientation of the slopes, the training of the vine, the care of the grower and the mastery of the winemaker; all culminating in the glass as so much more: a truly unique expression that can only be found in certain parts of the world.

I’d expect this talk from a Frenchman or Italian vintner. Yet Beecham is certainly neither. The hip, forty-something, boundless ball of energy and enthusiasm, builder, developer, family man, and obvious wine-fanatic hails from Decatur, GA – just east of downtown Atlanta, attended Roswell High School in the suburbs, and now resides in the hills an hour north of the city.

Yep, I found my kindred spirit: the other Atlanta native. Seriously, it seems NO ONE living here is from here originally.

But what’s happening in those hills- namely, Dahlonega, GA- is incredibly exciting. When faced with a burning desire to move west and settle down in wine country, grow old with his friends and family with a cigar in one hand and a glass of wine in another, Beecham, along with brother Brent, decided to build something close to home. The result: Montaluce, a community of homes, vineyards, a beautiful winery, restaurant, and event facilities. And it’s all a stone’s throw from the 8th largest metropolitan area in the States. And, as their vines hit the magic 3-4 year birthday, they’re making wine with their own grapes. “Why can’t we have wine country in our home state?” questions Rob. “Georgia used to be the sixth largest producer of wine in the union, but we’re having to learn the process again.”

Another dubious feather-in-the-cap of Prohibition. But the notorious 18th amendment is only part of the story. A growing temperance movement (that just sounds lame) that manifested in the early 1800’s reached a head in 1908, and the Georgia legislature ratified a statewide ban on alcohol that even outlasted the national Prohibition that ended in 1933. Georgia wised up in 1935, but the damage had been done…most vineyards were abandoned and neglected.

But enough with the history lesson. More on that can be found at

And now, where America’s first gold rush began, another treasure trove- first reemerging in the 70’s- is firmly establishing itself: quality wine produced from vitis vinifera (traditional European wine grapes), all in an area naysayers would criticize as too humid and rainy to produce great vino. Are there challenges? Huge ones. Peronospera and oidium, among other fungal diseases to the vine, are combatted weekly. Pierce’s disease runs rampant. Furthermore, economies of scale, global reputation, and awareness are a constant threat: how will a consumer choose a $20+ wine from a fledgling growing region over internationally-renowned regions’ products at half the price?

I think the “locavore” movement will play a critical part. As forward-thinking restauranteurs and consumers look to support local farmers, ranches, and fisheries, providing local wineries seems the next logical step to me. And if there’s not a golden goose sitting on the locavore nest (what does that even mean?), then tourism can play its role. Anyone as wine -nerdy as me daydreams about trips to the west coast, France, Italy. What we all need to understand is that there’s a pretty damn good time only an hour away.

But even more promising to the success of Montaluce and wineries like it is the incredible passion of the folks backing it. Rarely have I known tireless visionaries to fail in their endeavors, and if I can say one thing about Rob Beecham in the short time I spoke with him, it’s crystal-clear that he’s putting everything he’s got into his dream, and it resonates in the product; whether that be the homes, the tasting room decor, or the surprising wine.

I’ll be talking about some of the wines in greater detail next Wednesday for “Wine Blogging Wednesday #61” (a brainchild of Lenn Thompson, head honcho at, a read definitely worth your glance). In the meantime, take a look at, or even better, hop in your car, leave your preconceptions cellared with your Mondavi and Opus One, and prepare yourself for a great time. You’ll not just be helping the local economy, you be participating in a wine culture that can literally be called home-grown.

As I proudly raise a glass of unique, Georgia wine, I say to you Cheers, Sláinte, L’Chaim, Salud, Prost, Skål, Konbe, and Kampai!


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