Greg Crumley used to construct houses. Now he constructs wines, very good wines.
Greg and his bubbly wife, Carol, have created a vineyard and winery just east of Cleveland. It is called CeNita Vineyards. The name comes from his late grandparents, Cecil Crumley — the “Ce” — and Juanita Crumley — the “Nita.”
Forced to change paths by the Great Recession, Greg turned to the farming he loves. After all, making wine begins with farming, and gifted winemakers know good wines are made in the vineyard as much as in the winery.
CeNita’s first vineyards were planted in the fields that were grazing land for Cecil and Juanita’s dairy farm.
“The ground was so fertile we had to drop grapes,” Greg said.
Dropping grapes is when vines overproduce fruit. So some bunches must be cut and dropped on the ground to ensure the rest of the crop is sound. Anyone who manages a vineyard hates to see fruit dropped, but they know it must be done.
Carol also pointed out a surprising bit of information about the soil.
“A couple years after we chose the name CeNita after Cecil and Juanita, I was doing some research and found that our soil was aptly named ‘Cecil soil.’ It was fitting,” she said.
At first the Crumleys sold their grapes to Sautee Nacoochee Vineyards, which has since gone out of business. Now, they are heavily into producing their own wines from the three acres of vineyards established in 2008 and 2009 just off Dock Dorsey Road. They are using some of the equipment they bought from the retired owners of Sautee Nacoochee.
“We had a business plan for this,” Carol said.
And that plan included the winery and tasting room, and an expansive venue for weddings and other events that embrace the peace, serenity and beauty of a vineyard setting.
But Greg takes refuge in the agricultural side of winemaking.
“Farming is the best part of it,” he told me recently. “It’s an escape. There’s a peace in the vineyards. This is just a different way of farming.”
In June, CeNita Winery was honored by having its 2013 cabernet franc selected to accompany one of the entrees in the June 9 James Beard Dinner Preview at the Vino Venue in Dunwoody.
The evening featured complex food offerings prepared by top-shelf regional chefs. All the wines poured for that sparkling event were from Northeast Georgia.
That cabernet franc was among CeNita’s first releases in 2013, which makes the selection of that wine for such a prestige event even more impressive.
“The Beard dinner was very nice,” Carol said.
Both conceded they were a bit overwhelmed by having one of their wines spotlighted that way.
At present CeNita is producing about 1,000 cases annually. In addition to the cabernet franc, a red grape with a Bordeaux heritage, you will find Chambourcin, a French-American hybrid red with dark fruit flavors; CeNita Red, a blend of barbera, chambourcin and cabernet franc; Vidal blanc, a white hybrid with a hint of citrus; Suavis (pronounced SWA vis), a light and fruity blend of vidal blanc and pinot blanc; and Rouge, a lightly sweet rose made from chambourcin and vidal blanc.
The pinot blanc grapes in Suavis are sourced from Lumpkin County, Carol said.
“We plan to plant pinot blanc this year or next,” she said.
Both the CeNita Red and Rouge from 2013 are sold out, but the new vintages are just around the corner.
Carol is looking forward to trying her hand at crafting a wine.
“I’ll get a barrel of vidal and I’ll make it buttery,” she said with a smile.
And to expand the family angle, their youngest child, Cayden, works in the vineyard and winery with his parents. He is learning about the farming aspects and the chemistry of winegrowing.
There are different wines on the horizon.
Acknowledging a truth in the wine biz, Greg said, “Probably 50 percent of wine drinkers like sweet wines.”
So the folks at CeNita will do something with the traminette grapes they grow and have previously crafted into dry and off-dry wines.
“The 2015 is being hand-bottled for sale and it’s sweet,” Carol told me in mid-July.
Carol and Greg Crumley, and their CeNita Winery and Vineyards, have added their names to a growing list of people and places dedicated to producing top-quality wine in Northeast Georgia.
Drop by for a visit someday. They would love to see you.
Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. Have a question about wine? He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on the first Wednesday of the month and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.