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HomeGeorgia & USASandy Springs Boutique Winery brings the world of wine to Georgia

Sandy Springs Boutique Winery brings the world of wine to Georgia

Joe Keenan with a silver wine from Sandy Springs Boutique Winery.

If there’s one thing Joe Keenan knows, it’s wine.

On a rainy Wednesday afternoon at Beer & Wine Craft, I shared a few (or maybe more than a few) wine tastes with Keenan, who bought the business in 2012 and founded the winery in 2014.

Keenan says the business is probably the smallest winery in the state and one of several wineries in the metro area named Sandy Springs Boutique Winery in 2017. Earlier this year, Keenan was recognized for his efforts in winemaking, receiving a silver medal from the American Wine Societywhich was created in 1967, for one of his wines.

Here’s a slightly edited version of our tasting.

Pinot Noir

When I walk in the front door, I immediately join Keenan at the small bar in the back corner. We introduce ourselves and he asks me what type of wine I like – red, not a big fan of white and I like Pinot Noir. We start off light and he pours me a pinot noir from Sandy Springs Boutique Winery.

We make all these things here, Keenan tells me before abruptly standing up. “Here, I’ll show you.”

He leads me into the back room where I see rows and rows of crates of grape juice. Keenan says he buys them from a company that has deals with wineries around the world — Merlot from Stag’s Leap, Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley and Montepulciano from Tuscany, just to name a few.

“All the vineyards produce more grapes than go through the winery,” Keenan says. “This company we buy through has long-term contracts with grapes. That’s why they buy grapes, bring them and turn them into juice for us.”

Keenan is originally from Indianapolis, but lived in Texas for ten years and moved from Dallas to Atlanta in 1977. When it comes to making his own wine, Keenan has been doing it for about 15 years, he says. In 2012, he became the owner of the 53-year-old company Beer & Wine Craft, and in 2014 he founded a winery. He started teaching classes and selling wine kits, teaching non-professionals how to make their own wines. The store and winery moved to its current location, 203 Hilderbrand Drive, in May 2020.

During my brief winery tour, knowledge pours from Keenan like a fine Cabernet. “It just came – do you know what it is?” He points to the barrel. While I know what a barrel is, I’m not sure exactly what quality he’s referring to. “Hungarian oak,” he says. “I haven’t seen these things in years. And I finally got one.”

There are three types of oak, he tells me – American, French and Hungarian. The cellular composition of different oaks creates a different finish of the wine. American oak is vanilla-toned, French is dry, and Hungarian is right in between—perfect as far as Keenan is concerned, but certainly the most expensive.

Keenan’s knowledge is deep, and it seems that he is driven by a desire to share it with people. For the past eight years, he has been teaching at a winery. We sit back down at the bar as he begins to explain the lesson, which begins with a short lesson on the history of wine. When I ask him to go into it, he stands up again and leads me to a small map on the wall behind me.

Georgia – a country, not a state – has been identified by archaeologists as the birthplace of wine dating back to 6000 BC. According to Keenan, the wine moved south over the next 3,000 years to the Sinai Peninsula, where the royal family had a thriving wine business.

“Once it got to Italy, it was game over,” Keenan said of the wine. “You can grow it anywhere but a mountain or a rock.”

Classes take place on Saturdays and last about three hours. After the history part, the class moves on to the chemistry of wine. While Keenan knows chemistry is the most important part, he knowingly jokes that some students find it a bit dry.

“I have to be very careful because I cross people,” he tells me as we sit down for our second glass. “They sleep because of chemistry … a lot of people don’t tend to do chemistry, but chemistry is what wine is.”

Malbec

Argentina, or rather Mendoza, is known for its Malbec. But according to Keenan, they are a little stingy with the best grapes.

“They won’t let ten of the best Malbecs leave the country,” he says, before breaking into a small smile. “Now, more grapes grow on each vineyard than pass through the winery. This company extracts grapes from these vineyards. So what you’re drinking is probably the best Malbec you can buy in the United States. How about this?”

About the time I take my first sip of this Malbec, I start thinking about what bottles I’m going to take home with me. Before I could tell Keenan that he had already sold me on buying several bottles, a customer interrupted us. They need a good mulled wine label and don’t know what to choose.

“I’d probably use Merlot,” Keenan says. As he ponders the question more, he starts to get a little excited, becoming more confident in his proposal. He asks the customer if they’re going to add fresh fruit to the mix – “Oranges are great,” he enthuses. Seeing Keenan in action makes it clear that he truly loves helping people find the right wine for them.

A wine that won a silver medal.

After the client leaves, I turn the conversation to the reward. The American Wine Society awarded him a silver medal Competition of commercial wines 2022held since 1986. The wine that earned Keenan the medal was a blend, a red 2019 Private reserve.

“There are over 10,000 grape varieties in the world,” he says as we discuss the blend. “There are over 1,000 of them that can be made into wine.”

As he brings us some appetizers (a chocolate-dipped bean espresso, a slice of brie, and his “secret weapon,” delicious fennel crackers he calls wine donuts. All of which come with the premium tasting purchased), Keenan says, entered the competition on a whim. During the conversation, he gives a little insight into his winemaking journey.

“Because I liked wines, I started making wine, and here we are,” he says. “Isn’t that cool?”

I ask him what his favorite wine is at the moment. Sure, he says he’s a silver medalist, but Montepulciano isn’t bad either.

Montepulciano

“Isn’t it rich and nice,” says Keenan after my first sip of this Italian red. “And you know, you can drink a whole bottle of this wine, you won’t get a headache.”

According to Keenan, all of Sandy Springs Boutique Winery’s wines are made with about 40% of the sulfite used in most commercial wines. Sulfite in excess can cause headaches. I finally tell him I’ll have to buy a bottle, if only to test this theory.

Keenan says it takes a customer three visits over a 6-8 week period to make their own wine at Sandy Springs Boutique Winery. While there are some occasions — whether it’s a special event like a birthday or wedding — where customers can help design their own wine labels, Sandy Springs Boutique Winery’s standard label is based on an old piece of art that hangs in the front of the store. Shani Mattox, who has worked at the store and winery for about four years, is a graphic artist who helped design the winery’s label as well as other custom labels for the people who make wine at the winery.

After looking at the label, Keenan stands up again and leads me to the painting that inspired it. He doesn’t know who the original artist is, but he likes what it represents. The image shows several Chinese immigrants working in a vineyard outside of San Francisco in the 1890s.

“It shows you two ways they crush; with the press – see it flows there, and so on, pumping it up? – and at your feet, up here, – says Keenan, pointing to different aspects of the photo. “The reason you use your feet is so you don’t break the seeds. The seeds contain very bitter substances. You can trample on grapes all day and your feet won’t crack.”

After watching the picture, we return to the bar for the real test (at least for me) – white wine.

Vidal Blanc

According to Keenan, Georgia law requires it Georgia Farm Wineries to grow Georgia grapes requires owning or leasing a vineyard in the state. Keenan is a tenant farmer at the vineyard in Elijah, where the grapes used to make the following wine are sourced.

You’ll try the white – I know,” he laughs at me, probably glancing at my face as he hands me the glass. The grape was created by a Frenchman named Jean Louis Vidal in the 1930s. Keenan says Vidal took two Trebbiano grape varieties from Italy and crossed them. The hybrid was named in his honor – Vidal blanc.

The grape is grown primarily in the wine regions of Canada due to its ability to thrive in cold climates. Keenan says it also grows well in North Georgia at higher elevations. He really loves finding the perfect grape and the perfect way to grow it – and while I always go for the red when I have the chance, even I have to admit that this white is pretty good

“You have to be a good vintner,” Keenan says of winemaking. “Your wine is only going to be as good as the grapes on that vine, and you have to pick it right… it starts out with high acid and then as the sugar goes up, the acid percentage goes down. You have to get it right.”

Saving the silver medal at last

After several other tastings, Keenan finally reveals the silver medal winner. It must be said that the American Wine Society made an excellent choice.

“Damn good, right?” – Keenan says with a grin.

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Sandy Springs Boutique Winery brings the world of wine to Georgia

Joe Keenan with a silver wine from Sandy Springs Boutique Winery.

If there’s one thing Joe Keenan knows, it’s wine.

On a rainy Wednesday afternoon at Beer & Wine Craft, I shared a few (or maybe more than a few) wine tastes with Keenan, who bought the business in 2012 and founded the winery in 2014.

Keenan says the business is probably the smallest winery in the state and one of several wineries in the metro area named Sandy Springs Boutique Winery in 2017. Earlier this year, Keenan was recognized for his efforts in winemaking, receiving a silver medal from the American Wine Societywhich was created in 1967, for one of his wines.

Here’s a slightly edited version of our tasting.

Pinot Noir

When I walk in the front door, I immediately join Keenan at the small bar in the back corner. We introduce ourselves and he asks me what type of wine I like – red, not a big fan of white and I like Pinot Noir. We start off light and he pours me a pinot noir from Sandy Springs Boutique Winery.

We make all these things here, Keenan tells me before abruptly standing up. “Here, I’ll show you.”

He leads me into the back room where I see rows and rows of crates of grape juice. Keenan says he buys them from a company that has deals with wineries around the world — Merlot from Stag’s Leap, Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley and Montepulciano from Tuscany, just to name a few.

“All the vineyards produce more grapes than go through the winery,” Keenan says. “This company we buy through has long-term contracts with grapes. That’s why they buy grapes, bring them and turn them into juice for us.”

Keenan is originally from Indianapolis, but lived in Texas for ten years and moved from Dallas to Atlanta in 1977. When it comes to making his own wine, Keenan has been doing it for about 15 years, he says. In 2012, he became the owner of the 53-year-old company Beer & Wine Craft, and in 2014 he founded a winery. He started teaching classes and selling wine kits, teaching non-professionals how to make their own wines. The store and winery moved to its current location, 203 Hilderbrand Drive, in May 2020.

During my brief winery tour, knowledge pours from Keenan like a fine Cabernet. “It just came – do you know what it is?” He points to the barrel. While I know what a barrel is, I’m not sure exactly what quality he’s referring to. “Hungarian oak,” he says. “I haven’t seen these things in years. And I finally got one.”

There are three types of oak, he tells me – American, French and Hungarian. The cellular composition of different oaks creates a different finish of the wine. American oak is vanilla-toned, French is dry, and Hungarian is right in between—perfect as far as Keenan is concerned, but certainly the most expensive.

Keenan’s knowledge is deep, and it seems that he is driven by a desire to share it with people. For the past eight years, he has been teaching at a winery. We sit back down at the bar as he begins to explain the lesson, which begins with a short lesson on the history of wine. When I ask him to go into it, he stands up again and leads me to a small map on the wall behind me.

Georgia – a country, not a state – has been identified by archaeologists as the birthplace of wine dating back to 6000 BC. According to Keenan, the wine moved south over the next 3,000 years to the Sinai Peninsula, where the royal family had a thriving wine business.

“Once it got to Italy, it was game over,” Keenan said of the wine. “You can grow it anywhere but a mountain or a rock.”

Classes take place on Saturdays and last about three hours. After the history part, the class moves on to the chemistry of wine. While Keenan knows chemistry is the most important part, he knowingly jokes that some students find it a bit dry.

“I have to be very careful because I cross people,” he tells me as we sit down for our second glass. “They sleep because of chemistry … a lot of people don’t tend to do chemistry, but chemistry is what wine is.”

Malbec

Argentina, or rather Mendoza, is known for its Malbec. But according to Keenan, they are a little stingy with the best grapes.

“They won’t let ten of the best Malbecs leave the country,” he says, before breaking into a small smile. “Now, more grapes grow on each vineyard than pass through the winery. This company extracts grapes from these vineyards. So what you’re drinking is probably the best Malbec you can buy in the United States. How about this?”

About the time I take my first sip of this Malbec, I start thinking about what bottles I’m going to take home with me. Before I could tell Keenan that he had already sold me on buying several bottles, a customer interrupted us. They need a good mulled wine label and don’t know what to choose.

“I’d probably use Merlot,” Keenan says. As he ponders the question more, he starts to get a little excited, becoming more confident in his proposal. He asks the customer if they’re going to add fresh fruit to the mix – “Oranges are great,” he enthuses. Seeing Keenan in action makes it clear that he truly loves helping people find the right wine for them.

A wine that won a silver medal.

After the client leaves, I turn the conversation to the reward. The American Wine Society awarded him a silver medal Competition of commercial wines 2022held since 1986. The wine that earned Keenan the medal was a blend, a red 2019 Private reserve.

“There are over 10,000 grape varieties in the world,” he says as we discuss the blend. “There are over 1,000 of them that can be made into wine.”

As he brings us some appetizers (a chocolate-dipped bean espresso, a slice of brie, and his “secret weapon,” delicious fennel crackers he calls wine donuts. All of which come with the premium tasting purchased), Keenan says, entered the competition on a whim. During the conversation, he gives a little insight into his winemaking journey.

“Because I liked wines, I started making wine, and here we are,” he says. “Isn’t that cool?”

I ask him what his favorite wine is at the moment. Sure, he says he’s a silver medalist, but Montepulciano isn’t bad either.

Montepulciano

“Isn’t it rich and nice,” says Keenan after my first sip of this Italian red. “And you know, you can drink a whole bottle of this wine, you won’t get a headache.”

According to Keenan, all of Sandy Springs Boutique Winery’s wines are made with about 40% of the sulfite used in most commercial wines. Sulfite in excess can cause headaches. I finally tell him I’ll have to buy a bottle, if only to test this theory.

Keenan says it takes a customer three visits over a 6-8 week period to make their own wine at Sandy Springs Boutique Winery. While there are some occasions — whether it’s a special event like a birthday or wedding — where customers can help design their own wine labels, Sandy Springs Boutique Winery’s standard label is based on an old piece of art that hangs in the front of the store. Shani Mattox, who has worked at the store and winery for about four years, is a graphic artist who helped design the winery’s label as well as other custom labels for the people who make wine at the winery.

After looking at the label, Keenan stands up again and leads me to the painting that inspired it. He doesn’t know who the original artist is, but he likes what it represents. The image shows several Chinese immigrants working in a vineyard outside of San Francisco in the 1890s.

“It shows you two ways they crush; with the press – see it flows there, and so on, pumping it up? – and at your feet, up here, – says Keenan, pointing to different aspects of the photo. “The reason you use your feet is so you don’t break the seeds. The seeds contain very bitter substances. You can trample on grapes all day and your feet won’t crack.”

After watching the picture, we return to the bar for the real test (at least for me) – white wine.

Vidal Blanc

According to Keenan, Georgia law requires it Georgia Farm Wineries to grow Georgia grapes requires owning or leasing a vineyard in the state. Keenan is a tenant farmer at the vineyard in Elijah, where the grapes used to make the following wine are sourced.

You’ll try the white – I know,” he laughs at me, probably glancing at my face as he hands me the glass. The grape was created by a Frenchman named Jean Louis Vidal in the 1930s. Keenan says Vidal took two Trebbiano grape varieties from Italy and crossed them. The hybrid was named in his honor – Vidal blanc.

The grape is grown primarily in the wine regions of Canada due to its ability to thrive in cold climates. Keenan says it also grows well in North Georgia at higher elevations. He really loves finding the perfect grape and the perfect way to grow it – and while I always go for the red when I have the chance, even I have to admit that this white is pretty good

“You have to be a good vintner,” Keenan says of winemaking. “Your wine is only going to be as good as the grapes on that vine, and you have to pick it right… it starts out with high acid and then as the sugar goes up, the acid percentage goes down. You have to get it right.”

Saving the silver medal at last

After several other tastings, Keenan finally reveals the silver medal winner. It must be said that the American Wine Society made an excellent choice.

“Damn good, right?” – Keenan says with a grin.

Reported by Source link

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