The drive from North Atlanta to Frogtown, the old Cherokee community near Dahlonega, is almost a National Geographic experience.

The countryside showcases North Georgia in all her stunning array of colors and rural life. Frogtown communityalso is home to one of the best wineries in the region, Three Sisters Vineyards, owned and managed by longtime Atlanta residents and business successes, Doug and Sharon Paul. Three Sisters, named after the trio of mountain peaks that glisten on a divine horizon bordering the vineyard, is the product of the couple’s hard work and vision, “a labor of love,” according to Doug Paul.

Entering Three Sisters Vineyards is an advance glimpse of the Promised Land. The acreage is cultivated, manicured and productive. A beautiful gazebo sits atop the highest point on the premises, with a spring-fed, crystal clear lake below. There is a large white tent pitched near the lake for wine festivals, special events and weddings. The mountain air is clean and therapeutic.

Three Sisters is about wine, and the Pauls hasten to emphasize that their winemaking mission is to consistently produce high quality wine that merits recognition by consumers and critics while inspiring others to establish vineyards with equally high standards. “My dream,” revealed Doug Paul, “is someday soon to see great vineyards from Savannah to Young Harris.”

Doug and Sharon Paul exude optimism and are justifiably proud of their wines and high winemaking standards. Along with my friend, Atlanta lawyer Tom Chason, I journeyed with Doug through Three Sisters’ wine production from beginning to end observing huge stainless steel fermentation tanks and French and American oak barrels filled with still-developing noble wine destined for bottling, labeling and a dinner table. The fermentation and aging environment speaks volumes for care and concern for quality. We sampled from the tanks and barrels. I heard angels singing.

One genuine delight is Cynthiana, an almost indescribably delicious red wine. Once described by pioneer American winemaker and importer Thomason Jefferson as “the American Claret,” it becomes a magic potion when poured and consumed. Some fascinating research, which Doug Paul confirmed, revealed that Cynthiana was the wine of the Cherokee. New Echota, the ancient national capitol of the Cherokee is also in the north Georgia Mountains, and likely hosted many feasts where Cynthiana was served.

Sharon Paul is part Cherokee and eight years ago when the winery was founded, she wanted the land, which was once Cherokee property, blessed by appropriate Cherokee officials. “They told us the land was already blessed,” according to Doug. “Spiritual officials in traditional dress participated in the opening ceremonies and once again blessed the land. We will always honor the integrity and traditions of the Cherokee.”

In addition to Three Sisters, wine is produced under Chestatee, Crane Creek and Walasiyi, part of the Pauls’ business umbrella. Walasiyi White is a traditional southern-style wine. The unreleased Blood Mountain Red will also be under the Walasiyi label. It is named after the great mountain outside Blairsville where the Cherokee gold was hidden by Cherokee tribal officials to avoid confiscation by U.S. soldiers during the unconscionable “Trail of Tears” imprisonment and removal of Cherokee citizens to Oklahoma in the 19th century.

Three Sisters produces wines that are easily the equal of many heralded wines from the west coast, Virginia and New York. The styles range from Bordeaux-like reds, to popular Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc, Three Sisters’ answer to the great white wine from Alsace. Because of limited yield and hands-on production, these are not lower end wines destined for the bottom shelf of grocery stores. Instead, they are ready to be consumed immediately and are very food friendly. Cynthiana, Meritage, Merlot and Cabernet Franc may be confidently cellared.

We sat down in the comfortable tasting room near the painting, “Winged Elvis,” by Rev. Howard Finster, and tasted an array of wines accompanied by Thomasville Tomme, one of the great cheeses from Sweet Grass Dairy, the acclaimed cheese maker near the Florida border. It was an all-Georgia moment. Doug and Sharon Paul are visionaries who see great Georgia wines and cheeses as the wave of the future. “We will always make great wines,” said Doug, “others will make great Georgia cheeses. They truly taste wonderful together and need only more exposure and promotion to take off.”

Three Sisters is off the beaten path but still quite accessible from Atlanta. The vineyard attracts wine enthusiasts and those who just long for a bucolic escape. During our visit, guests were dropping in for tasting, touring and purchase from California and beyond, a testament for the good efforts and hard work of Doug and Sharon Paul.
Doug Paul enjoys sharing stories about other wine makers. “Jimmy Carter makes wine and I understand it’s very good. We’d love to have a bottle signed by him and permanently show it in a display case.”

Three Sisters Vineyards is a multi-faceted Georgia marvel. Doug and Sharon Paul are trendsetters who have established wine making as a major force in the state’s future. Spend a renewing day at Three Sisters. It’s an act of self-love. For directions, visit their website at www.threesistersvineyards.com.

Even better, I’ll meet you there for some North Georgia wine and South Georgia cheese.

 

Follow the arrow to learn more about the wonderful cheeses of Sweet Grass Dairy . . .

 

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