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Wine without Pretense: Guide book to Georgia wineries a winner

POSTED: September 7, 2011 1:30 a.m.

Thanks, Warren Johnson, for your great little addition to my wine library. Now, readers, you may want to add "Georgia’s Wineries & Vineyards: A Wine Lover’s Guide," to your bookshelves.

Johnson, who lives in Dahlonega, just published his handy and well-structured guide to this state’s wine producers. A glossy paperback, this 73-page handbook is full of information about our state’s wine biz, which is growing annually in terms of quantity and quality.

"I’ve always enjoyed drinking wine, although I’m not a collector," Johnson told me recently. He’s been involved in wine books from the other side of the counter; the largest dealer in used wine books in the nation. He moved to this area about a year ago ... "hoping for a better life," he said with a chuckle.

He lived outside the Napa Valley as a book dealer and a journalist. When he got to North Georgia, Johnson poked around looking for a guide to the state’s wineries and could not find one.

"So I decided to write my own," he declared.

And he’s done a comprehensive and readable job. The book is full of maps and photos and just the right kind of information about who’s doing what with wine in Georgia. You will find directions, maps, phone numbers, websites, etc., to help you with your trip.

"Georgia’s Wineries & Vineyards" confirms that "serious" wine making is pretty much limited to North Georgia. No, I’m not being wine snobby, just realistic. Many producers in the southern part of the state make sweeter wines, wines from the native Muscadine grapes. And those are fine for the folks who like them.

When I say "serious" wines, I’m talking about drier table wines made from the classic European vitis vinifera grapes, such as merlot, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, or from French-American hybrid grapes, such as seyval blanc and vidal. These are considered "table wines," or wines served with meals.

Johnson says he was surprised to find so many producers in this area working with the vinifera grapes. "This really is an upcoming field and is having an impact in Georgia," he observed.

He quotes Cheryl Smith, Senior Regional Tourism Representative from the Georgia Department of Economic Development, as saying, "It’s the perfect easy-to-read guidebook to Georgia’s vineyards and wineries to help you discover the nuances of each winery and its wines."

I’ve learned some interesting facts about the history of wine in Georgia from Robinson’s book. For one thing, wine production goes back to the very birth of Georgia.

James Oglethorpe, founder of the 13th colony, required settlers here to grow grapes and mulberry trees. Why? So they could ship wine and silk back to Mother England.

Also, Prohibition, which began in the rest of the country in 1920, actually began in Georgia in 1907. And it lasted here until 1935, although national repeal rolled around in 1933.

Johnson happily reports he’s gone through most of his first edition books, and expects the second edition to appear any day. If you are interested in adding a copy to your library, for $17.99 a copy, here’s the contact information:

Warren R. Johnson

A Little Local Color

P.O. Box 1941

Dahlonega, GA 30533-1941,

Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. He welcomes questions or comments and can be contacted at


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