New Family-Owned Winery Obtains Double Gold at Prestigious Wine Competition
California might remain the top wine-producing state with 85% of the country’s production and the most wineries, but every other state cultivates vineyards. The individual approach of winemakers across the country has created an exciting wine industry that is constantly evolving, creating exciting wine-tasting and touring opportunities.
Blue Cielo Farms, a small family-owned winery owned by Cassandra and Gary Wiseman in the northeastern part of Georgia’s Elbert County, recently obtained the prestigious Double Gold Award from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Remarkably, the winery only opened its doors in February 2023. Nevertheless, its production of the Dry Pond White wine amounted to a mere 40 bottles compared to the larger number of bottles produced by the other award-winning entries.
Rewarding a Young Winery
Enology is not new in Georgia since the state ranked sixth in production at the beginning of the 20th century. However, prohibition caused the decline of wine production, but by the 1980s, things started to change, and the industry started sparkling again.
The husband-and-wife team from Blue Cielo Farms started realizing their dream of opening a winery in Georgia in 2012. They planted fifty Carlos muscadine vines in 2019, harvesting a mere 200 pounds of grapes from those vines in 2022.
The up-and-coming winemaker, David LaCasse, undertook to crush, press, ferment, and age the grapes from these vines into the award-winning Dry Pond White. The grapes produced 37 liters of wine in the restricted space that resembles a small garage.
Winning the Double Gold at the largest competition of North American wines has helped draw the spotlight to this newcomer in Georgia’s viticultural growing regions. Blue Cielo Farms is the first farm winery in Elbert and Jackson Counties.
Visitors to the winery in Elberton will enjoy more than just wine tasting. The idyllic setting of the vineyard makes it a dream to visit. Located on a peninsula of picturesque Richard B Russell Lake, visitors can enjoy nature and the vineyards at their best.
The owners of the farm winery have pledged a stewardship plan for conserving trees, and also operate a Certified Tree Farm that has been recognized by the American Tree Farm System.
Realizing a Dream
For aspiring winemaker David LaCasse, this opportunity has opened doors for him to realize his dream of becoming a fully-fledged enologist. After more than ten years of working in construction, David worked at the historical Chateau Elan for two years, learning the intricacies of the winemaking process before becoming the first hire at Blue Cielo Farms.
LaCasse’s capabilities make him an invaluable member of the team at the winery. Besides his winemaking skills, he has applied himself in all areas regarding the opening of the wine estate, including planting, construction, cleaning, and maintenance. As a result, seeing the vintner fixing a leaking toilet or sweeping floors is not unusual.
David LaCasse says, “I’d like to thank Blue Cielo Farms for taking a chance on me and allowing me to become their winemaker! With my winemaking knowledge and the support of an incredible ownership team, we joined our efforts and won Double Gold at the SF Chronicle Wine Competition.”
Judging for the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition took place in early 2023. More than 5,500 entries from over 1,000 wineries across North America, including Mexico and Canada, were presented to a panel of more than 52 experts. The judges come from various professions, spending four days blind-tasting the wines and judging them on their merits, looking for a balance of flavors. All wines entered into the competition must use fruit and grapes grown only in the countries eligible to enter the contest.
As the stewards of the first farm wineries of Elbert and Jackson Counties in Georgia, the team at Blue Cielo Farms has won a worthy place on the Georgia Wine Highway. Their vineyards include several wine-grape varieties. We eagerly await their next winemaking steps after the recognition received from the 2023 Double Gold award from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. If you plan on going to the region in March, a Georgia Wine Highway Passport is available from #opengergiawine and will give you low-cost access to over 45 wineries in the state, including Blue Cielo Farms.