>Birthdays, grapes, pork belly and social media marketing

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Okay, let me start from the beginning of this story….
For that, I have to go back to my youth, growing up in Georgia and spending summers in Mississippi.  Meaning, I’m from the South.  Meaning, the extent of my experience with local alcohol of any kind extends to Moonshine, Muscadine Wine, and – if you’re lucky – Whiskey.
Fast forward quite a few years.  I start this little food blog, and I sign up with Foodbuzz as a Featured Publisher.  I start syncing my posts on Foodbuzz with my Twitter account.  Why?  I don’t know – I don’t “tweet” normally, but I thought (I guess) it might increase traffic, which might increase revenue
Every once in a while, I would get an email saying that someone was “following me” on Twitter (I have to admit that it creeped me out the first time it happened).  Anyway, one day I got an email saying that Montaluce Winery was “following me.”  What could that mean?  Of course, I clicked on over to their Twitter account, and from there to their website.  
It seemed interesting enough, but I was a little skeptical, being that my only experience with wine from Georgia was of the sweet Muscadine variety, and it certainly didn’t leave a positive impression.  However, I decided to “like” them on Facebook, and continued to receive updates about the winery, the vineyard, and the restaurant.
Over time, I started hearing, “through the grapevine” so to speak, really good things about the food at Le Vigne.  The chef, formerly of the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville, was offering interesting menus for their Sunday Suppers, and the Atlanta blog community was all “atwitter” about some conclave that they were invited to one weekend not long ago.
So, when my husband’s birthday rolled around this year, it seemed like the perfect occasion to try it out.  I visited their website once again to see what they had to offer, and I decided to book one of their Deluxe Vineyard and Winery Tours plus Tasting.  Afterward, we would dine at Le Vigne.
From the get-go, the staff was very helpful.  I’m not a fan of the phone, so I sent an email to their general information email address, and within a couple of hours, it had been forwarded to the restaurant manager who immediately responded and answered all of the questions I had in a very timely manner (I mainly wanted to know if the tasting consisted of substantial food pairings, or if it was more of an “amuse bouche” – she explained it was mainly local artisan cheeses and meats).  When I phoned the next day (yes, I had to actually use the phone), the young woman who helped me was very polite and knowledgeable and was able to take care of both my dinner reservation and my tour reservation.  She even explained that their Sommelier would be out of town, but that we would have a knowledgeable tour guide in his place.
My husband and I drove up on Saturday afternoon – it’s about an hour north of where we live in Roswell – and arrived a little early to the property.  We took those few extra minutes and enjoyed a tour through one of the open houses (which was gorgeous, by the way – way out of our price range, but still a girl can dream, right?).  
Upon arrival, we were greeted by a wall of wine, and a smiling tour guide.  She asked if we were celebrating anything special, and I told her it was D’s birthday.  She immediately opened a bottle of Proseco and poured us both a glass.
From there, our tour proceeded.  We began in the restaurant and moved to the patio (which provided lovely views of the vines).    
We then moved into a room which overlooked the production area.  Our guide explained the process by which the grapes are brought in, destemmed, sorted (bad from good) and put into stainless steel vats for fermentation.  Unfortunately, we were either too late or too early to see everything in action (although I hear that they will be harvesting soon, and would love to go back and see the process live).

From here, we moved outside to the vineyard proper. We wondered down through the vines, and my husband asked our guide (whose name I actually do remember, but I don’t want to name names without explicit permission) what the grapes would taste like if we were to eat them off the vine.  She looked around  and suggested that we do just that – so we did.  We each picked one and popped it in our mouths – they were so juicy and sweet – nothing like the grapes we get in the grocery store.  The skins were much tougher, but the flesh was almost non-existent – more juice than anything.  We were later told they were Malbec grapes.

At this point we moved inside for our tasting.  The list consisted of two Montaluce wines, and four others of the Sommelier’s choosing.  Our guide was kind enough, though, to bring us three more Montaluce wines to try.  We were pleased with all of the offerings, and of the Montaluce wines especially enjoyed the 2009 Risata, the 2008 Viogner, and the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (all of which we ended up purchasing).  I was pleasantly surprised at the level of complexity some of the wines had in their flavor profiles.  Of the other wines on the list, I particularly liked the Falanghina (which I had never heard of before, but will definitely be seeking out the next time I go to Total Wine).

 From our tasting (which was very enjoyable, by the way) we moved on to dinner.  The menu was prix fixe, and there were no apparent suggested wine pairings.  Our server came around to ask if we’d like to start with a drink, and we let her know that we’d like to take a look at the menu prior to making a decision.

In the meantime, the restaurant manager (with whom I’d corresponded on a number of occasions during this process) came around and offered us a complimentary glass of her favorite white wine on the menu – a 2007 Feudi San Gregorio Fiano – and wished D a happy birthday.  The wine was very much to our liking, and it actually went quite well with our entree selections.

We decided to each choose a different selection from each course so that we could try a number of different dishes. 

Me, appetizer: Pork belly with creamed corn and smoked blueberries.  Um, this may have been the most delectable thing I’ve put in my mouth in years.  In fact, you can see that I dove right in before taking a photo I was so excited about it.  Oh. My. God.  Seriously.  I didn’t want to share it, but D liked it as much as I did, so I let him have a good bit of it.  Believe you me – if I’d been at home, I would have slapped his hand out of the way (birthday or not) and licked the plate when I was done.

D, appetizer: Heirloom tomato salad with fennel, arugula and extra virgin olive oil.  This was good, but unfortunately next to my lovely pork belly, it was overshadowed.  The tomatoes were perfectly ripe little jewels of summery goodness, and the fennel and arugula provided a nice contrast.

Me, etnree: trout with parsnip puree, lentils and orange emulsion.  Very good – the trout was very mild, and so it tended to get lost amid the nutty lentils and perfume-y orange emulsion, but all of the flavors together were excellent.  The skin on the fish was perfectly crispy, by the way.

D entree: chicken with summer squash and foraged mushrooms.  There’s something about moist roast chicken with perfectly crispy skin – and this was just that – very flavorful, and the squash and mushrooms were nicely complimented by the chicken jus.

Me, dessert: vanilla egg custard with burnt orange caramel and pecan sandy.  Yum.  Unfortunately, I was so full from all the wine and excellent pork belly in my belly, that I couldn’t finish it.  But the pecan sandy was the butteriest, sandiest shortbread I’ve had (outside my own) in a long time.

D, dessert: Chocolate silk pie with mint ice cream and raspberry coulis (and a candle, for good measure).  Also yum, but much too rich for my blood at that point in the night.

If you live in Georgia, or even if you don’t, I suggest you experience Montaluce for yourself.  Unfortunately, their wines are not available anywhere but on the property (although I do believe you can purchase them online from their website).  The wine is good, the food is excellent, and the service is superb.  In a way, I’d like to keep it a secret, since once they gain in popularity I’ll no longer be able to afford it.  However, I do hope for their sake that the word will spread and that many more people will have a chance to experience this wonderful Georgia winery.  Obviously, their social-media marketing efforts are working, so I’m sure it won’t be long now before they’re completely overrun with tourists and food and wine connoisseurs.

Le Vigne at Monteluce Winery on Urbanspoon

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4 Comments on “>Birthdays, grapes, pork belly and social media marketing”

  1. 25 August 2010 at 12:05 pm #

    >lovely post :)

  2. 25 August 2010 at 10:59 pm #

    >You've captured the essence of my favorite winery & restaurant perfectly…like you this girl will dream of a house at Montaluce one day too.

  3. 26 August 2010 at 2:17 pm #

    >Beautiful pictures. We went to Monteluce in July and toured the beautiful houses (which we too dream about) and had lunch. Oh my, seriously the best food we have had in a loooooong time! I had an amazing mushroom soup that was out of this world. I did NOT want to share it with my hubby. I had the egg custard as well and it was good but the homemade pecan sandie was melt-in-your-mouth delicious!If we had the money, we'd buy one of those beautiful homes and live on property. The restaurant would be second home!

  4. 26 August 2010 at 3:55 pm #

    >You are so correct in your thoughts on the pork belly. I'd have it for an app and again for dessert.You won't find better food anywhere in North Georgia. @hogballs is fantastic.

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