Food Issue - Craig and Cydney Kritzer, Frogtown Cellars, Dahlonega, Ga.

OK, I'm not going to sugarcoat it: There are a lot of overripe, flat tasting, or stickily sweet Georgia wines. I should know — I spent my week on the Georgia diet valiantly drinking my way through the state.

But there were exceptions, most notably Frogtown Cellars. Not only are its wines highly drinkable – some even downright delicious – the winery also represents the potential the state has to produce world-class wines.

Frogtown's potential lies in its youth – the winery was established only 10 years ago. The wines being produced now show signs of immaturity, but they exhibit characteristics that bode well for the future. It often takes years for vines to yield usable fruit and for winemakers to figure out exactly which grapes grow well in a certain climate or soil. The fact that Frogtown is making elegant, balanced and complex wines at such an early stage means we can expect more refined and intense wines in the future.

"It's the terroir," co-owner Cydney Kritzer says. "In the Georgia mountains here, we have the ability to ripen red fruit. If you look along the East Coast, they can make pretty good white wine. But they don't have enough growing season to ripen red fruit. Here we do. And because of the elevation, we have a differentiation of temperature between day and night, which is what you need."

While other Southeastern wineries produce wines that might appeal to the largest market (big, oaky whites, and easy drinking reds), Frogtown has gone for subtlety, focusing on French styles and varietals.

"Our wines are very French," Cydney says. "Which is why I have to love the name Frogtown." (The name represents the Frogtown district of Lumpkin County where the winery is located, as well as the winemakers' Francophile natures.)

Cydney's husband, Craig, practiced law in Atlanta for more than 30 years before he decided he wanted to start a winery. "My husband has done this the way he practiced law: detail by detail by detail," Cydney explains. "He studied every aspect of it. He surveyed and designed the slopes, planted the vineyard, and designed the building and the winery."

As it happens, Craig has plans to give his wines an even more impressive Georgia pedigree. Frogtown has contracted with a cooper to make barrels from Georgia oak. In 2009, some Frogtown bottles will be produced using the barrels.

Kritzer also plans to play Henry Higgins to the native Georgia grape, the muscadine. He's planted specific varieties of muscadine on some land in South Georgia, which he'll blend with traditional European varietals to make something totally new – an elegant, grown-up muscadine wine.

I'll drink to that.

Frogtown wines can be found at select local retailers. The winery also hosts regular tours, tastings and dinners. 706-865-0687. www.frogtownwine.com.

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