The last time we experienced a Georgia wine tasting my choices didn’t include any local grape varietals. Many winemakers in Georgia only ship in grapes from California, or elsewhere, press, age, and bottle on location. As a purist when it comes to drinking local, I was admittedly just a little disappointed not to enjoy any true locally grown wines. That’s why I was very excited to try the tasting menu at Boutier Winery with eight traditional old-world style home grown options to choose from, among options that also included grapes grown elsewhere.
Boutier Winery is located in the Georgia countryside between Ila and Commerce, about half an hour’s drive from Athens. Incidentally, they are also a short drive from the nearby Tanger Outlets. The approach is undeniably scenic as you make your way past quaint farms, historic homesteads, rolling hills and mixed pine and hardwood forests. The dirt road turnoff immediately reminded me of the more secluded vineyards we’ve visited in Italy, as the driveway dips into a grove of trees, and emerges among meticulously manicured vines with a quintessential stone-facade tasting room and gravel parking-lot.
Owners Mary and Victor gave us a warm welcome as we came in and made our way to the long wooden bar. It wasn’t very busy on this Saturday afternoon, but traffic was pretty steady. A good mix of presumably regular local clients were greeted by name, and those from further afield were also greeted enthusiastically.
The tasting menu consists of a huge variety of 23 different options to choose from. The $10 tasting lets you taste any 6 wines on the menu, with additional tastings for just $1 extra per taste.
Being a truly local purist, I went straight for the Georgia Varietals, made of 100% Georgia grown grapes. With 8 to choose from, I could have tried all of them for just $12, but instead opted for just seven, with a dessert wine to finish. More on that later…
The first Georgia Varietal was the Villard Blanc – Madison County 2014. This wine is described as a nice light and dry French hybrid white aged in French oak. First impressions were noticeably acid and very citrusy. Honestly, I could hardly tell the oak was there.
Second was a very nice blend aptly named “Villardonnay” – 2014. This blend of 55% Villard Blanc and 45% Chardonnay came across as a much fruitier, less acidic, and highly viscous version of the Villard Blanc, no doubt from the addition of the Chardonnay. The menu description of a “balanced layer of French oak” proved subtle.
Next up was the 100% Chardonnay from their 2013 vintage. First whiff immediately reminded me of dried apricots, very strong on the nose, but only a subtle hint of French oak. Not dry at all, this wine is very unique, with a silky viscosity, and very interesting to drink. The best of the three Georgia whites, for sure.
On to the reds. First up, the award winning 2013 “Caberana.” A unique blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and American Norton grapes, this wine is described as medium to full bodied. My experience with this wine the best of the day. A surprising but unmistakable nose of peanuts and lilies, and incredibly smooth. I would describe this wine as medium rather than full bodied, and well balanced. This wine finishes very smooth without any sensation of dryness.
The Cynthinana is a new vintage, not my favorite of the reds, made from 100% Norton grapes, an American varietal. This wine tastes and smells just like jam. Despite being barrel aged for 14 months you can’t really tell on tasting, but it has a nice smooth finish.
Next up, the exceptionally smooth 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is complex, but light and airy to drink, with a distinct whiff of strawberry jam on the nose. The flavor profile of this wine takes me directly to blackcurrant berries, with a very subtle hit of oak coming from the aging process which takes place in French oak barrels. Such a smooth finish coating the tongue, this wine is definitely for savouring while you drink.
The final red of this flight was the much anticipated “Geordeaux” – a play on Georgia and Bordeaux, although I was unable to conjure up any comparison between this wine and its French inspiration. Honestly this is the wine I was most excited about, so it is only fair to say that it was probably my expectation, not the wine itself, which left me more disappointed. The result of this 2012 vintage comes from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. It pours a nice deep ruby red with a very strong hint of strawberry jam on the nose. Acidity is much more noticeable on this wine than any of the previous reds which probably overpowered any of the other subtle nuances one might expect. A unique wine worth tasting again.
My final victim was a playful dessert wine aptly named “Rich Bitch.” This new release is a nontraditional blueberry port wine aged in French oak and fortified with grape brandy. The blueberry scent is unmistakable as it wafts from your glass, as is the port base as you take your first sip. The french oak does not fall victim to other aspects of the wine as with some of the reds described earlier, but remains subtle. The sharp taste of brandy is also immediately recognizable on the tip of the tongue, but otherwise balances out nicely with the rest of the experience.
These 8 wines represent just a third of the available tasting options at Boutier Winery & Vineyard. The overall tasting combined with personal and friendly service places Boutier at the top of our list when it comes to Georgia wine experiences. You get a lot of bang for your buck, and for just $10 you get to sample a great selection of handcrafted and award winning wines poured by the winemakers themselves.
We left with a bottle of “Caberana” – my clear favorite from the experience – and look forward to returning and experiencing even more of what Boutier Winery has to offer. Check them out on the web, book a stay at their bed and breakfast, or come by for one of their many special events! We’ll be back for sure.