Coming Fall 2017

Bear Claw Vineyards

11 Fun Facts about Wine

 The simple glass of wine is not that simple. It     requires several years to grow the grapes, months to age, and a thorough understanding of all the various elements and nuances of taste and flavor profiles. Then, you add in aspects such as how to name the wine – after all, most wines are named for either their region or types of grapes – understanding how to serve and pair wine, and then knowing what type of glass to serve it in and the simple beverage can become quite complex.

But, moving beyond the science of the wine, there are many interesting facts – both historic and fun – that can be used to add to those boring business “parties” where conversation can be stilted and dull. So, to make your next dinner party conversation more fun, here are some wine facts collected from around the Web.

·         The Vatican with 74 liters per capita per year, which is about 99 bottles of 75cl per year!

·         The color of the wine tells you about its geographical origin. Darker shades of wine, namely the darkest reds and yellow whites come from warm climates. Lighter colors come from cooler climates and taste lighter and less lush.

·         Women get drunk faster from wine because of their water to fat ratio. This is because women have a higher fat content than men do and fat does not absorb any alcohol. The intoxicant therefore spreads to less liquid, leading to a higher BAC.

·          In an experiment conducted in 2001 at the University of Bordeaux, every one of the 54 undergraduates in wine making and tasting thought they were tasting a red wine while it was actually a dyed white wine.

·         The world’s oldest person attributed her ripe old age (122) to a diet of olive oil, port wine and 1kg of chocolate per week.

·         The ancient Greeks had a wine glass to ensure the drinker’s moderation. If wine was poured above a certain level, the cup spilled its entire contents out of the bottom.

·          Chinese people who want to display their wealth drink expensive red wines mixed with Coca-Cola and Sprite to make it taste more palatable. 

·         The custom of bumping glasses with a “cheers” greeting came from old Rome where they used this method to make sure no one is trying to poison the other (bumping glasses makes the drink spill from one cup to the other). This tradition started even earlier in ancient Greece – where the host was to drink the first cup of wine to show his guests he does not intend to poison them.

·         During the prohibition period in the United States, grape juice concentrate manufacturers took advantage of the big drinking lust Americans had and put a great warning sticker on their product saying “After you mix the concentrate with water, please do not keep the mix in a barrel for 20 days – as it will turn into wine.”

·         The world champion of recognizing wine by smell was crowned in 2003. Richard Juhlin, of Sweden, was able to recognize 43 wines out of 50. For comparison – second place was only able to recognize 4 of them.

·         If you own a collection of bottles – don’t keep them standing up – this can cause the cork to dry, shrink and oxygen\air might get in the bottle. Always keep the bottles lying down - unless it’s an artificial cork.


Wine – it’s much more than a delectable beverage enjoyed with a meal or as part of unwinding after a long day. It is a drink with a long and colorful history. So, raise a glass and enjoy your wine –after all, there’s more to wine than meets the eye or the palate! 

August 11, 2016

Posted in red wine, wine, wine tasting, winery

See, Swirl, Smell, Sip – How to Properly Taste Wine

If you have never been a part of a wine tasting, then you are missing out on a great deal of fun.  After all, whether you are venturing into the world of wine by going to a vineyard or if you are at home trying a new wine with friends, there’s something pleasurable about a wine tasting. However, if you want to do a wine tasting like a pro, then employing these basic steps will give you the confidence to walk to any type of wine tasting scenario and look like a coinsurer of wine.

The “S” Factors of Wine Tasting


When you are handed a glass of wine to taste, you should first look at its color and clarity. Like buying diamonds, a wine’s color says much about its quality. Before actually tasting the wine, hold the glass up to a white background in a well-lit room and note whether the wine is clear or cloudy, pale or dark, or perhaps the same color in the middle of the glass as it is at the top or bottom. Ideally, a white wine’s color will vary from clear to light green, all shades of yellow, or even a deep golden brown. A red wine’s color can range from red, ruby to purple, garnet and brick.

Swirl and Smell

Holding the stem or base of the cup, gently swirl the wine and note how the wine coats the glass. If it trickles down slowly it has more body, while wines with less body will slide down quickly.  Swirling the wine also exposes a larger surface area of the wine to the air, thus intensifying its aromas, also known as its nose or bouquet.

Aromas are broken into 3 types Primary which indicates the region the grapes were grown, Secondary aromas are a result of the fermentation process and can often be described as yeasty, and Tertiary bouquets are usually a result of the aging process and are created by the oxidation, the aging method and amount of aging time.  The most common tertiary nose is a vanilla smell, which is caused when a wine is aged in oak.


This is where the taste buds get involved! Take a sip of wine into your mouth and allow it to “rest” on your tongue, as each part of your tongue will register a different element of the wine’s flavor. Roll the wine across your taste buds and note the nuances of the wine. As you do, you will be able to perceive wines crispness (acidity), the amount of bitterness (a.k.a. tannin), its sweetness, and the fruitiness. After noting these elements, you can swallow, taking a moment to note any aftertaste or finish.

As you think about the wine you just tasted ask yourself -

  • Did you like it? Why or why not?
  • What did you notice about the body?
  • How long did the impression/flavor linger?
  • Was it sweet? Acidic? Tannic? Fruity?

Keep in mind there are no correct or incorrect answers, because wine is personal. In fact, the simple answer regarding wine is - if you like a particular wine, drink it.

Wine tastings are a great deal of fun. They can be had at a home gathering, as part of a local business gathering, or at the vineyard itself. At Bear Claw Vineyards, we look forward to your coming to see us for a wine tasting of our own varieties. 

July 29, 2016

Posted in red wine, wine, wine glasses, winery

The Rules of Wine

Wine - it has been around for centuries and like any things with a long history, rules have been developed about the right- and wrong- way it should be handled. After all, ask any wine coinsurer about wine, and you can count on getting answer that can be backed up with a long history. But, as times have changed, how wine is paired, what type of glass is used, how it should be stored, and many other elements once thought to be correct have changed.

And while for some this change may be unwelcomed, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t helpful to understand the new rules of wine. As producers of wine, the Bear Claw Vineyards team is happy to share some of the rules – both old and new- of wine drinking. So, pour yourself a glass, and take note of the rules of wine.

8 Rules of Wine

·         Hold your glass of wine by the stem and not the bowl. This isn’t about appearance but rather because it allows you to see the wine’s true color as well as keeps your body heat from warming the wine.  The only time you may wish to warm the wine by cupping the bowl is if the red wine you are drinking is significantly cooler than the temperature of the room.  Ideally, though, red wine should be served at 62 to 68 degrees.

·         Be sure your glass is not over-filled. You need to be able to swirl the wine easily in the cup without fear of it spilling or sloshing. A rule of thumb for drinking in public is to not fill the glass any higher than ½ full. (Hey, in private, fill your glass as high as you want!)

·         Remember that a bottle of wine doesn’t have to cost a fortune to taste good. Just because it cost more, doesn’t mean you will like it any better. There are many wines available that cost between $12 and $20 that taste exceptional.

·         You don’t have to be wine dictionary to enjoy wine. Rather, know what flavors you like, how you plan to use – drinking, cooking, as a gift, etc. – and buy accordingly. And, don’t be afraid to ask questions. There are a lot of knowledgeable people out there who are happy to answer your wine questions!

·         Remember that “dry” doesn’t mean a lack of flavor. Rather it means that it has less sugar.

·         You don’t have to have wine cooler or cellar to store wine. In fact, wine can be stored in a closet right next to your shoes. Simply put, wine needs to be kept in a dark place, where there is no dramatic change in temperature or risk of the bottle(s) being vibrated. Then, about an hour before you need to serve it, place it in the fridge.

·         When you swirl your wine, it is not necessary to create a tornado. A simple, slow swirl is all it takes to release the smell.

·         Don’t be afraid to try new wines. You never know when you will discover a new flavor!

Drinking wine is not mysterious. Sure, there are basic things to keep in mind, but in the long run the best part of wine is, well, drinking it. At Bear Claw Vineyards, we love sharing our passion for wine and look forward to many glasses raised in salute to the wines of Georgia. So come see us sometime. We can’t wait to meet you!

Common Wine Terms You Should Know

When it comes to wine, there is more to know than that it comes from grapes, is stored in barrels and can be dry, sweet or a range in between.  In fact, just spend a bit of time in a winery or wine store and you will quickly discover that wine has a language all its own. After all, wine has a long lineage in the world of food, and as such it has a vocabulary and lingo that goes with it. So, when you understand the lingo you will find that wine tasting, buying wine, and knowing how to pair wines become much easier and significantly more pleasurable than it already is!

Common Wine Terms

Acidity - A naturally occurring component of every wine; the level of perceived sharpness; a key element to a wine's longevity; a leading determinant of balance

Aftertaste –A tasting term for the taste left on the palate after wine has been swallowed; ” finish" is a synonym.

Aging barrel - A barrel, often made of oak, used to age wine or distilled spirits.

Appellation of origin- You might see this phrase on a wine label. It denotes the place where most of the grapes used in the wine were grown. An appellation of origin can be the name of a country, state, county, or geographic region. Federal regulations require that at least 75 percent of the grapes must be grown in the named appellation of origin.

Aroma- The smell of a wine; generally applied to younger wines, while the term bouquet is reserved for more aged wines.

Astringency- The degree of astringency (how much a wine makes your mouth pucker) depends upon the amount of tannin a wine has absorbed from the skins and seeds of the grapes. A moderate amount of astringency is desirable-it creates a lovely flavor-in many red wine types.

Baumé- A measure of the sugar concentration in the juice or wine

Blending- The mixing of two or more different parcels of wine together by winemakers to produce a consistent finished wine that is ready for bottling. Laws generally dictate what wines can be blended together, and what is subsequently printed on the wine label.

Body -It’s all about how thin or thick the wine feels in your mouth; “light body” connotes a thin feeling in your mouth; “medium body” means that a wine is full-flavored, without being too heavy; “heavy body” means the wine has a robust, round, and very rich feel.

Bouquet- Smells that result from a wine’s aging process. Bouquet can also describe a wine’s overall smell.

Bright- Describes a wine that has high clarity, very low levels of suspended solids.

Brix- A standardized scale to measure the sugar content in grapes before fermentation. Most table wines are harvested between 19 degrees and 25 degrees brix.

Brut- A French term for a very dry champagne or sparkling wine. Drier than extra dry.

Canopy- The parts of the grape vine above ground, in particular the shoots and leaves.

Chaptalization- A winemaking process where sugar is added to the must to increase the alcohol content in the fermented wine. This is often done when grapes have not ripened adequately.

Crackling- Semi-sparkling wine; slightly effervescent. Also called frizzante.

Cuvée- A wine blended from several vats or batches, or from a selected vat. Also used in champagne to denote the juice from the first pressing of a batch of grapes.

Decanting- The process of pouring wine from its bottle into a decanter to separate the sediment from the wine.

Dégorgement- The disgorging or removal of sediment from bottles resulting from secondary fermentation.

Demi-sec- Moderately sweet to medium sweet sparkling wines.

Dessert wine- Varies by region. In the UK, a very sweet, low alcohol wine. In the US by law, any wine containing over 15% alcohol.

Devatting- The process of separating red must from pomace, which can happen before or after fermentation.

Dry - Wines with zero or very low levels of residual sugar. The opposite of sweet, except in sparkling wines, where dry means sweet.

Enology- American English spelling of oenology, the study of wine

Estate winery - A United States winery license allowing farms to produce and sell wine on-site, sometimes known as a farm winery.

Green harvest -The harvesting of green (unripe) grapes in an attempt to increase the yield of quality grapes.

Hard- A tasting term for a wine that contains too much tannin and is therefore unpleasant. Hard wines often take a long time to mature.

Late harvest wine -Also known as late picked, wine made from grapes that have been left on the vine longer than usual. Usually an indicator for a very sweet or dessert wine.

Legs- You’ve seen them-the drops of wine that creep down the side of the wine glass. A higher alcohol content means thinner legs flow back into the wine after you swirl the glass.

Mead -A wine-like alcoholic beverage made of fermented honey and water rather than grape juice.

Must weight- The level of fermentable sugars in the must and the resultant alcohol content if all the sugar was converted to ethanol.

Proof-Refers to the alcohol content of a beverage. In the United States, proof represents twice the alcohol content as a percentage of volume. Thus, a 100 proof beverage is 50% alcohol by volume and a 150 proof beverage is 75% alcohol. In the Imperial system, proof, (or 100% proof), equals 57.06% ethanol by volume, or 48.24% by weight. Absolute or pure ethanol is 75.25 over proof, or 175.25 proof.

Residual Sugar -  Often referred to as RS, it is a measure of the amount of sugar remaining in the wine after fermentation stops. RS is usually measured in grams of sugar per liter or milliliter of wine, and it indicates how sweet or dry a wine is.

Secondary fermentation - Most commonly the term is used to refer to the continuation of fermentation in a second vessel - e.g. moving the wine from a stainless steel tank to an oak barrel.

Sulfites –Compounds such as potassium metabisulfite or sodium metabisulfite which are added to wine to prevent oxidation, microbial spoilage, and further fermentation by the yeast.

Terroir - French for "soil", the physical and geographical characteristics of a particular vineyard site that give the resultant wine its unique properties

Transparency - The ability of a wine to clearly portray all unique aspects of its flavor--fruit, floral, and mineral notes. The opposite would be a wine where flavors are diffused and thoroughly integrated.

Varietal -The varieties of grape from which the wine was made. You might be familiar with many of these: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Shiraz.

Vertical and horizontal wine tasting -In a vertical tasting, different vintages of the same wine type from the same winery are tasted. This emphasizes differences between various vintages. In a horizontal tasting, the wines are all from the same vintage but are from different wineries. Keeping wine variety or type and wine region the same helps emphasize differences in winery styles.

Viniculture -The art and science of making wine. Also called enology (or oenology).

Viticulture -The cultivation of grapes; not to be confused with viniculture

Young -Wine that is not matured and usually bottled and sold within a year of its vintage.

Zymology -The science of fermentation.

This list is far from being all inclusive of the things to know about wine. However, now that you have a better understanding of wine terms, how to read the labels, or perhaps get more from a description given at a tasting, you can enjoy wine even more. And who knows, you may even have that unique bit of information to make small talk at that next company dinner a bit more interesting.

The Bear Claw Vineyard team is always happy to answer your questions about wine, and to raise a glass or two with you as you learn more about Georgia wines, as well as those from around the globe. We look forward to meeting you and being able to serve you our own wines. Remember our whites will be ready in Fall of 2017 and reds in 2018. Salute!

The Grapes of Georgia: Wine Southern Style

The state of Georgia has a long history of growing grapes and making wine. In fact, grapes and wine were first introduced by General Oglethorpe in the early years of the state’s beginnings.  The success of Georgia wines is a result of the climate and soil, as well as an understanding of what types of grapes do best in Georgia.

For those familiar with Georgia’s legendary red clay and hot summers, it might seem strange to think of growing grapes successfully in our beautiful state. However, these very features make it perfect. It turns out that the red clay we have can be compared to that which can be found in the Piedmont wine region of Italy, which is the home of some of the most expensive Italian red wines. Our red clay retains water well, and when combined with our sandy soil makes the perfect place to plant grapes.

As for the temperatures, though often quite warm, it is perfect for cultivating the grapes and producing beautiful, luscious fruit, perfect for creating delightfully tasting wine. Consequently, more than 400 acres and over 40 wineries comprise the Georgia wine scene.

Grapes of Georgia

While there are some states where multiple varieties of grapes will be successful, the most common wine grapes in Georgia are those in the muscadine family. These include bunch grapes like the Lenoir or black Spanish grapes, Blanc du Bois, and Cynthiana (Norton), as well as varieties like the Noble muscadine, the Ison muscadine, Carlos muscadine, the Tara muscadine, the Magnolia muscadine and the Dixie red muscadine.

The muscadine is a hearty grape that is resistant to many diseases, can handle high heat and humidity, but need the mild winters of the South.  

Consequently, you will typically find muscadines  growing  in the Southeastern region of the US, with Georgia being home to nearly 500 acres of bunch grapes growing vineyards, in backyards and even growing wild along the Southern Blue Ridge as well as the Southern Piedmont which includes counties west and south of Atlanta up through Alabama and Virginia.

A Brief Overview of Muscadines

·         The Noble – This is the most commonly grown grape in the Southeastern US. It is a mild flavored grape, but produces a pure red color similar to that of Merlot or Cabernet.

·         Ison Muscadine - This is a fairly new variety to the wine industry, but has rapidly become a favorite. It is not as bold in color, but has a rich flavor that is often combined with milder flavored Noble.

·         Carlos Muscadine – This is the standard in white muscadine wines as it has a light pinkish hue, and a smooth, slightly sweet flavor.

·         Tara Muscadine – Tara muscadines are known for their honey gold color, combined with a strong smell of muscadines. They are often used in white wine blends to produce an impressive wine.

·         Magnolia Muscadine – Along with the Carlos, this is one of the most widely cultivated muscadine in the South. It is traditionally used for white wines, as it contains only 15% sugar.

·         Dixie Red –This grape will produce a rich red wine perfect for any occasion. These vines produce many grapes, and have 17% sugar.

·         The Norton – These bunch grapes are typically black in color and are used to create wines such as merlot and cabernet.

·         Black Spanish – Though the juice from these grapes can be used as a stand-alone for a very dry wine, it is better known as a blending grape.

·         Blanc du Bois – This grape is known for being used to create a spicy fruity white wine similar to those produced in Europe.


Enjoying Georgia wines is not only delicious, but a great way to invest in your state. The team here at Bear Claw Vineyards looks forward to serving you our wines and can’t wait for you to come see the vineyards and stay in the Blue Ridge Tree House. Our white wines will be ready in 2017, and red wines in 2018. Come for a visit- Cheers!

Choosing the Perfect Wine Glass

It’s been said that the best glass for wine, is the one from which you are drinking. However, a walk through a kitchen store or even just the glasses aisle at a big box store can quickly reveal that there is a multitude of wine glasses from which to choose. With just a quick perusal, you will find stemmed glasses and stemless glasses, those with narrow bowls and those that are wide, glass that have thick edges and those with thin, and the list and styles go on.  So, with a plethora of wine glasses from which to choose, it can seem somewhat intimidating if you are attempting to select glasses for a gift or a special occasion.

Thankfully, the selection of wine glasses doesn’t have to be a stressful activity. There are some basic rules of thumb to keep in mind.

Types of Wine Glasses

Wide – Wine glasses with a wider bowl increase how much of the wine is exposed to the air and allows more the aroma of the wine to release more. Since so much of what is tasted is based on what we smell, a wider bowl means more of the aroma is released into the air. This is especially true with red wines, which is why many wine connoisseurs use wide bowl glasses when drinking red wine.

Narrow – These are best for lighter tasting wines such as white wines or champagne as there is less of a surface area exposed to the air. A narrow wine glass will also preserve the chill and delicacy of the wine.

Stemmed – The purpose of a stemmed glass is to keep your hands away from the bowl of the glass, because the temperature of your hand can warm the wine and thus affect the flavor. Also, from a space perspective, it is easier to store stemmed glasses.

Stemless – Sometimes referred to as tumblers, these are perfect for everyday usage, as well as casual events and outdoor parties. These glasses also work well as a water glass for more formal events where wine will be served in a taller glass.

Tapered – These glasses help prevent spills that may result from swirling, but also suspends the wine’s aroma at the top of the glass and prevents it from wafting away when swirled.

Flared – This type of glass will taper and then flare slightly. It will hold the wine toward the front of one’s palate, and highlight the flavors of the wine but temper the acidity.

When it comes to wine glasses, the bottom line is that it is the wine that matters, not the glass. But, if you feel the need to have some variety, then you only need two sets – a set of sparkling wine flutes and a set of all-purpose stemmed glasses that can be used for both white and red wine. So, grab a glass and get ready to enjoy the flavors of the wine. At Bear Claw Vineyards, we look forward to raising a glass with you.

Have You Heard of Red Blotch Disease?

I love Lucy stomping grapesWhen one thinks of the wine industry and owning a vineyard, chances are one thinks of the classic I Love Lucy sketch with Lucy and Ethel stomping grapes. Or for a younger generation, perhaps movies such as A Walk in the Clouds comes to mind. But, there is much more to a vineyard than the romance of grapes being stomped and sunsets.

For the average vineyard owner there are a variety of obstacles and challenges that they often face – being it equipment needs or concerns due to nature. It is these natural challenges that can be the most frustrating! Currently, there are some Georgia vineyards that are dealing with a challenge due to nature: Red Blotch Disease.

While Red Blotch Disease began in vineyards on the West Coast, it has begun to make its presence known here on the opposite side of the country. So far, there have been more than 65 strains of the viruses identified in grapes, and it is affecting anywhere from 15 to 25% of the vines. And, while Red Blotch Disease (also referred to as GRBaV) seems to be predominantly in red grape varieties, it is also affecting some white. It is identified by red blotches on the leaves, while the veins remain green.

To add insult to injury, identifying Red Blotch Disease can be difficult, as it looks similar to other viruses vineyard owners must watch for. However, indicators of GRBaV are irregular blotches in the leaves, a reddening of the leaf while the veins stay green, and the rolling down of the leaves.

 On the website, Salinas Valley Agriculture, a grape expert states the following regarding the effects of Red Blotch Disease:

“Research has shown that when comparing GRBaV infected vines to ones that have no known GRBaV, leafroll-associated viruses, vitiviruses, or Nepoviruses that Brix were lower and malic acid in the juice were higher at harvest for Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay but not Zinfandel. For Chardonnay, yield was also reduced for infected vines. A study looking at the effect of dropping crop to improve quality on infected vines saw little beneficial effect from that practice. For most cultivars, there is a decrease in total phenols, tannins, and anthocyanins (for red wine cultivars) for vines infected with GRBaV.”

Currently, the experts have not yet identified a cause for GRBaV, but they have determined that those vines infected with Red Blotch are producing fruit of a lesser quality due to a decreased amount of sugar accumulation.

Owning a vineyard is  more than just pressing grapes. It is a job that is filled with challenges, yet these challenges are embraced because we are dedicated to crafting a perfect wine, that will delight you. We are being especially diligent in watching forGRBaV, and will do our part to see that our vines are not affected.

It is our goal to see that our wines are produced on schedule and to ensure that every bottle is of the highest quality. We are looking forward to serving our Bear Claw Vineyards wines to you and we can’t wait to show you our vineyard.

Be on the lookout for more news about progress made at the vineyard, and don’t forget to book a stay at The Blue Ridge TreeHouse!