A Taste of Place: Experience Serenity in the North Georgia Mountains
By: Carly Felton
Growing up in flat South Florida, the North Georgia Mountains always held a special place in my mind, as I enjoyed life-changing experiences at summer camp there. But as an adult, would the mountains maintain the magic preserved in my memories? I scheduled a quick weekend getaway to Clayton, Ga., to find out.
Two hours north of Atlanta, Clayton is a sleepy town of tree-filled mountains, lush valleys and bubbling creeks. Here, Mary Ann and Sonny Hardman sensed something special and decided to pursue their dreams of creating a vineyard more than 10 years ago. Today, Persimmon Creek Vineyard is 110 acres of rolling farmland where luxurious wines are made by hand using 100 percent estate grapes. Guests are invited to tour the vineyards (by appointment), sample the wines and stay in one of the three distinct cozy cottages: Hickory, Fiddlehead and Sassafras.
My boyfriend and I stayed in Hickory, a bi-level, two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom home decorated with warm, earth tones and unique accessories. Hardwood and stone floors are complemented by bamboo wallpaper, gauzy drapes and fireplaces both indoors and out. Appliances—though high-end—are hidden from view as cabinets, and fixtures are modern. The master shower has six body sprays! Lines are clean, layout is open-air, and the atmosphere is calming.
After settling in, we cracked open one of the two complimentary bottles of wine provided, a deliciously light Sauvignon Blanc, and embarked on a tour of the property. We saw the 34 sheep that graze the land, the white farmhouse the Hardmans built to host dinners and events, and the 100-year-old vine-covered springhouse where Sonny ages cheese. We stood on deck of the Hardmans’ home/check-in area and learned about the property’s solar power and the Hardman’s other eco-friendly endeavors. We even checked out the barn and learned about Mary Ann’s vision of creating a destination that showcases “a taste of the place, a gout de terrior”.
Tired from all the exploring, we returned to our cottage to relax before dinner. Since there’s no restaurant on-site, the Hardmans encourage guests to bring food and utilize the kitchens; but as we were only there for one night, we decided to see what else the area had to offer. We settled on dinner at Beechwood Inn, a quaint bed-and-breakfast that serves special reservation-only, five-course wine dinners on Saturday nights.
At Beechwood, we were welcomed into the living room where two other couples sat around a fire and sipped a sparkling rose. The atmosphere was cozy and the décor kitschy. The owners, Gail and David were friendly and as accommodating as can be, remembering all allergies and special requests and making us feel right at home as we moved into the casual dining room for dinner. The night’s theme was Santa Fe, and everything—from the sauces to the desserts—was made from scratch.
The meal began with a chorizo and cheese empanada served with cilantro pesto. Then came smoked quail with molasses glaze and jalapeno-cheddar grits; a sweet citrusy salad with organic greens and grapefruit wedges; warm tortillas and local creamery butter; carne asada with goat cheese enchiladas and ancho Chile cream, grilled all natural flatiron steak rubbed with Chile, smokey black beans, aligator pear relish and Pasillas de Oaxaca salsa; and finally, caramelized brandied flan. I don’t know where we fit it all—plus bottomless paired wines—but we managed and left utterly satisfied and grinning from ear to ear.
We returned to Persimmons ready for a good night’s sleep. In the morning, muffins and juice awaited us in the refrigerator and fortified our bodies for the drive home. It was a quick trip but one that will be remembered for the deep sense of relaxation it provided.