Monday, March 29, 2010

Sense of Place (part 1 of 2)

Goût de Terroir (French): a taste of the earth

The only taste I have in my mouth now is that of stale gas station pizza and a $0.99 16 oz. can of Pepsi. It's 8:15 AM on a Saturday. Breakfast of champions, right? Perhaps my only option; waking up early on a weekend to hit the road leaves little time for the pleasantly lethargic ritual of a leisurely cup of coffee and a slow-simmered, comforting bowl of steel cut oatmeal. Nope; an empty tank of gas means an obligatory stop at the BP, and after several moments of internal struggle, out the door with a cold can of corn syrup and a pizza that would make even Chef Boyardee blush with shame.

As Jerry's haunting guitar melodies mingle with Phil Lesh's effortless bass riffs in a ethereal rendition of "Dark Star", I fall into the trance one only knows if on the road often. As city fades into countryside, my vehicle and myself have become one...anticipating the destination would only delay arrival, as a watched toaster never pops when one is hungry. The destination is Clayton, GA; practically an annex of North Carolina, as it's tucked into the furthest northeast reaches of the state, over 2 hours ride from metro Atlanta. Clayton, besides being one of the outposts of the Peach state, also happens to be home to one of its most cloistered vineyards: Persimmon Creek. I crest over a hill to face the imposing wall of the Appalachian mountains. Not far now.

Through winding mountain roads and country lanes, I meander closer to my destination. You know you're in another world when trout streams outnumber traffic lights and road names like "Slop Bucket Lane" manifest themselves. As I pull up on the gateway to the Persimmon Creek vineyards, I relish in the seclusion. It's very liberating to get away from the 4-lanes and soak in the crisp air and natural beauty of the North Georgia mountains.

Past the gate and beyond a row of Riesling vines (more on that later), I pull up to the house of Mary Ann Hardman, proprietor of Persimmon Creek. Hardman, an attractive yet understated woman in her early forties, greets me warmly in the kitchen of her on-property home, sporting a mild yet distiguishable accent- I'm not the only Georgia native here.

After a brief glance over the grounds from the upstairs porch, we head downstairs, through a barrel room full of French, American, and Hungarian oak barriques, and into a private tasting room, also redolent of the vanilla-and-toast aromas of wood-aging wine. In my mind, this is a detour. Usually, the vineyards and property are put on display first, and the wine tasting- always the climactic moment of any vineyard visit- ties up the experience. In the end, it's all about the wine, right? Alas, this was not shaping up to be a typical winery, nor a typical host...

To be continued

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