From the Parti Gras in Mableton to beer festivals in Athens and Atlanta, an UGA Bulldog party, a French Champagne tasting to an Irish Pub’s whiskey tasting, April festivities are stacking up to offer a diverse selection of events -- everything from a beer-filled “dunk” tank to a Champagne dessert reception in Marietta commemorating a Civil War incident.
April 7. The Beechwood Inn in Clayton plans an Easter Eve Dinner along with its free “Daily Wine Thirty” tasting. From 6:30-9:30 p.m. Saturday, guests can sample Beechwood’s own specially labeled wines. Beginning at 7 p.m., a special reservations only multi-course meal is offered pairing its gourmet foods and wines. Featured wines include Beechwood’s Viognier, a French Chateau Mourgues Du Greches Galets Rose, “The Narcissists” Syrah from California’s Greenstock Vineyards, and a seven-year-old Tawny Port with dessert.
April 11. The Marietta Wine Market, which is just off the downtown city square, hosts from 5-7 p.m. Wednesday a tasting of the Argentine Laborum Wines. Laborum’s 10,000-acres of vineyards are in far northwestern Argentina’s Calchaquies Valley in the Andes Mountains. The two principal vineyards are at 5,600 and 9,200 feet above sea level. Offered will be Laborum’s Malbec, a Tannat, their Torrontes white wine and Anauta Red Blend.
April 12. Chocolate Perks, a café at 3160 Main Street in Duluth, hosts a special pairing beginning at 6:30 p.m. Thursday featuring vintage from Icon Grapes -- a Gruner Veltliner from Austria, a Moschofilero from Greece, a Chilean Carmenre and a German Gewurtztraminer -- paired with chocolate and food. RSVP online.
April 12. The 24th Annual Taste of the Nation Atlanta presents its gala food and wine charity party from 6:30-10 p.m. Thursday at the Georgia Aquarium. It benefits children’s hunger. Admission ranges from $250 to $350, according to the website. In addition to the wine dinner provided by 50 of Atlanta’s top restaurants, auction packages include a wine tour through France’s Burgundy and Champagne regions and a single malt Scotch whiskey tasting at New York City’s North End Grille. The event’s after party is at 5 Seasons Westside.
April 12. Niko’s Wine Corner on Crogan Street in downtown Lawrenceville offers from 7-9 p.m. Thursday wines from the Michael David Winery in Lodi, CA -- vintages that are some of the most luscious, fruit-sweet “fun” wines you will ever try. With names like 6th Sense Syrah, Inkblot Cabernet Franc, Earthquake Zin and Petite Petit Sirah, this is definitely “not-to-be-missed.” Niko’s has scheduled additional tastings Saturdays and Thursdays on April 14, 19, 21, 26 and 28. Call for reservations at 770-962-0348.
April 12-15. “The Great Locomotive Chase” will be celebrated and commemorated with Champagne and Civil War History in Marietta Thursday through Sunday at “Marietta’s Great Locomotive Chase Weekend.” April 12 is the day the chase began 150 years ago.
Most schoolchildren know that James J. Andrews of Kentucky and 22 civilian-dressed Union soldiers checked out of the still-standing Marietta Hotel, boarded, then hijacked the train at Kennesaw. The “Andrews Raiders” raced the locomotive, The General, north towards Chattanooga intent on destroying track sections to impede the Confederate War effort. Train conductor William A. Fuller did not appreciate his train being stolen and gave chase on foot, at first, eventually finding the locomotive Texas near Adairsville. When The General ran out of fuel north of Ringgold, the Texas caught up with it.
Anniversary events center around The Strand Theater for the re-release and daily showings of the 1956 Disney movie “The Great Locomotive Chase” and “The General,” Buster Keaton’s 1926 silent film classic. The Keaton black-and- white film takes many liberties with historical facts.
”Locomotive Chase Weekend” events kick-off fom 6-9:45 p.m. Thursday, April 12. For prices ranging from $35-$75 you can see the movies, enjoy a Civil War music organ recital, listen to author Russell Bonds talk about his book “Stealing The General,” and cap the evening enjoying a Champagne and dessert reception. RSVP quickly because just 500 tickets are available. Phone 770- 429-1115 or online.
The General is preserved in Kennesaw at the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History. The Texas is a key display in the Atlanta Cyclorama in Grant Park. “The Great Locomotive Chase” stared Fess Parker, television’s Davey Crockett, and was filmed in Georgia mostly around Clayton on the old Tallulah Falls Railway. It ran between Cornelia and Franklin, NC, and was abandoned in 1961.
April 13. Friday, April 13, is not a bad luck day! Call your designated driver and head east to Athens for a beer tasting from 6 p.m.-2 a.m. at Aromas Wine & Craft Beer Bar. A properly named “Brewhaha Barrel Aged Edition Party” officially kicks-off the 17thAnnual Classic City Brew Fest. Aromas is importing at least 10 barrel aged draft beers available to drink by the pour. The flavors of these suds get enhanced because they are aged in wooden barrels previously used for spirits like Brandy, Bourbon, Rye whiskey, red and white wines, explained Aromas’ Beer Monster Charlie Meers. (Beer Monster is Meers’ job title.) Beers are named Founders Curmudgeon and Makena IQhillika African Birds Eye Chilli Mead, to name a couple. After aging, each beer was transferred to a 5-gallon “torpedo” keg. Aromas is serving them through Saturday or until they run out.
April 14. Hinton’s Wine Store in Alpharetta and its sister outlet Savvy Cellars in Sandy Springs are teaming up from 3-5 p.m. Saturday for a “White Wine Blind Tasting” and customer judging in the Bin 75 Tasting Room. Hinton’s staff is picking three warm weather-style white wines; the Savvy Cellars staff picks three of their white wines. Guests taste and vote on their preferences. Cost $15.
April 14. Saturday afternoon from 4:30-8:30 p.m., Athens Terrapin Beer Company will host the 10th Anniversary Carnival at the Brewery on Newton Bridge Road in conjunction with Athens’ 17th Annual Classic City Brew Fest weekend. Company beers have names like Moo Hoo and Hop Karma. There will be a beer filled dunk-tank, carnival snacks, music, a barrel-aged beer tent and samples of 10 special cask ales. Online pre-admission of $17 guarantees a commemorative stemmed beer glass.
April 15. This is the Sunday suds quaffers can forget about their IRS taxes, head to Athens, sample over 250 craft and micro brewed beers at the 17th Annual Classic City Brew Fest. It runs from 2:30-6 p.m. with a pavilion and tasting tables around the Foundry Park Inn on East Dougherty Street. New this year is a Cask Ale Pavilion offering 15 special brewed cask ales. Enjoy good food, buy swag, and listen live music all afternoon. The Classic City is Georgia’s longest running beer festival. Beer lists, event times and registration info are listed on the website.
April 15. Aromas Wine & Craft Beer Bar at 6 p.m. kicks-off an “After Party for the Classic City Brew Fest.” If the beers you began sampling Friday night and all day Saturday and Sunday simply are not enough, finish partying here, enjoying more special and probably the remaining Makena IQhillika African Birds Eye Chilli Mead.
April 17. Shula’s 347 Grill, located in the Marriott Atlanta Buckhead Hotel on Lenox Road, hosts “Shula’s Microbrew Challenge,” a beer judging competition benefiting Project Open Hand’s Dining Out for Life program, from 6-9 p.m. Tuesday. The restaurant wants to serve more Georgia-made craft and microbrewer beers. Guests pay $10, sample a variety of locally made beers and then vote to decide which are best. Winning beers get added to Shula’s beverage menu. For information, telephone 404-848-7345.
April 20-22. The 8th Annual Sweetwater 420 Fest, a celebration of Earth Day, kicks off the metro Atlanta area’s 2012 beer festival season in Candler Park on McClendon Avenue. Sweetwater’s brews are offered throughout Friday, Saturday and Sunday. On the last day, a cask ale tent offers cask ales specially brewed at Sweetwater and selected vintages from last month’s Sweetwater Brew Your Cask Off fest. Sixteen bands will perform over the three days; there is a comedy theater, a 5K race, food and environmentally conscious exhibitors, children’s events and onsite Safe Rides for folks who forget to drink responsibly. For a complete listing of event times, volunteer and guest registrations and some new restrictions, visit the website.
April 21. This is the date for the 3rd Annual Taste of Sautee Wine, Food, Art and Music Festival in Sautee Nacoochee in the North Georgia Mountains. Yonah Mountain Vineyards, Sautee Nachoochee Vinyards, Serenity Cellars, and Habersham Winery are going to be serving upwards of 40 wines to enjoy while browsing among the works of 35 artists, listening to non-stop music, and enjoying fine food. Yonah Mountain in January won gold medals in a major San Francisco wine competition for its 2009 Chardonnay and their Serenity Cellars Dolce Bello dessert wine. Sautee Nacoochee produces dry-style Georgia Muscadine and two sweet Rose'-style wines -- the Red Headed Stepchild and Valley Mist. For more information, go to the website.
April 21. The Marietta Wine Market is hosting a tasting from 2-4 p.m. Saturday that should appeal to wine-loving University of Georgia fans. Featured are The Seeker Wines that are new to the Georgia market, bottled in California but come from all over. For example, The Seeker Malbec is produced in Argentina. The Sauvignon Blanc comes from New Zealand. The Chardonnay is a Californian, but the Pinot Noir is French-produced. The Seeker Cabernet Sauvignon is Chilean. Admission is by a charity donation that should touch the heart of all UGA grads. The charity is the Georgia English Bulldog Rescue, a volunteer group that rescues, rehabilitates and nurses sick and abandoned English Bulldogs. Uga, the University’s mascot, is an English Bulldog.
April 25. The Vineyard Wine Market on Powers Ferry Road hosts a Perrier-Jouet Champagne Night beginning at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. This famous Champagne house produces the distinctive green glass flower decorated bottles for their “Belle Epoque” Brut, clear glass flower bottles for their Rose. Herve des Champs, the Perrier-Jouet Cellar Master, will direct a tasting of four top vintages in the V2 Wine Room. Reservations are limited and $50 admission is required. RSVP online.
April 25. The Old Blind Dog Irish Pub on Crabapple Road, near Birmingham Highway, hosts a Bourbon Tasting starting at 7 p.m. Thursday. For $30 guests get a special appetizer plate paired with four Bourbons. Offered are the 18-year-old Elijah Craig Single Barrel Bourbon, Evan Williams Vintage Single Barrel, A. Parker Beam’s Heritage and Bernheim, a Kentucky-made wheat whiskey. RSVP online.
April 28. The 1st Annual Buckhead Wine Festival, "Celebrate Red, White & Bubbly," runs from 2-6 p.m. Saturday in the East Andrews Entertainment District at 56 East Andrews Drive. Admission prices cost from $25 to $40. The Atlanta Food Bank is the charity beneficiary.
April 28. The Parti Gras Wine Expo’s Spring 2010 Edition gets underway from 5-9 p.m. Saturday at the Mable House Amphitheater in Mableton. Sponsored by Parti Gras Wine & Spirts package store in Austell, this is a wine and craft beer tasting. More than 30 wines will be sampled along with fine beers and good food, organizers promise. Tickets are not sold at the amphitheater. Guests must pay $35 beforehand. Only 500 available tickets are available. Telephone 770- 948-0033.
Take a step back here away from the individual dated activities and look at this list. These beverage store and restaurant locations offer either free or minimally priced wine and beer tastings on a regular weekly basis.
In Dunwoody, Atlanta’s best-kept wine tasting secret are the “Uncorked” parties from 5-10 p.m. every Monday at D’Vine Wine Bar & Shop located in The Shops of Dunwoody. For $18 (less tax and gratuities) guests may sip and savor anywhere from 20 to 30 red and white and sparkling wines. A list of the wine offerings is posted mid-day each Monday on the shop's website. Check the events calendar for other special tastings and Wine Club activities.
Now is the time to “Go Joe’s” for Trader Joe’s Wine Tastings! All of the metro Atlanta locations always offer a wide and extensive selection of many of their own store-branded, reasonably priced wines plus the well-known Charles Shaw (“Two Buck Chuck”) Wines. The Trader Joe’s on Roswell Road in Sandy Springs and in Roswell on West Crossville Road recently began free in-store wine tastings where -- finally -- there is an opportunity to sample all those Joe’s wines customers previously had to purchase first. The Sandy Springs Trader Joe’s holds tastings from 2-4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The Alpharetta store does it five days a week from 3-5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Usually three to four vintages are sampled.
Complimentary wine tastings are offered every Saturday afternoon at these three Sherlock’s Wine Merchants and Cook’s Warehouse locations where guests may sip and savor from five to six premium wines and enjoy complimentary snacks. Each store’s website lists the wines offered on their individual events calendars, special scheduled wine tastings, and cooking classes. The Saturday free tastings at Decatur and Brookhaven both take place from 3-5 p.m. The Sherlock’s Wine Merchants at West Paces Ferry/Northside schedules them from 2-4 p.m.
Every Saturday from 12:30-3 p.m. the Beverage Super Store on Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road in Suwanee hosts free wine tastings where five to eight different wines are offered to guests in The Tasting Room. Call 770-932-8909 ahead on Fridays to learn what will be served.
Buckhead’s pHWine Merchants in Peachtree Hills offers free wine tastings from 2-4 p.m. every Saturday. Usually four vintages are sampled. This is in addition to the special scheduled wine dinners and educational tastings it hosts.
Hop City Craft Beer & Wine offers two to three free beer tastings from 5:30-7 p.m. every Wednesday in the Octane Coffee Bar and Longue across Marietta Street from the store, except for this first week in April. The hours and location at Octane are the same but on Thursday, April 5, they are offering two new Belgium-made brews.
The Sip Wine Tasting & Tapas Restaurant on Crabapple Road in Milton -- this is both a family restaurant and wine retail store -- offers $10 wine tastings every Saturday from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Sip's beverage menu offers upwards of 150 wines. Owner Foster Smith conducts the tastings, selecting the wines he offers a day or so beforehand.
Vino 100 hosts wine tastings from 4:30-6:30 p.m. every Saturday in the store on the corner of Main Street and Old Milton Parkway in Alpharetta. Owners generally showcase from six to eight vintages, offer hors d’oeuvres and live music, asking only for donation to their designated charity of the day.
52 Bristo in Alpharetta plans on continuing and expanding the restaurant wine program. The 50 percent off the full bottle prices of “select wines” for lunch and dinner will be continued through April. What is new, with warmer weather coming, The Bristo intends beginning outdoor patio wine tastings. Confirm the dates later this month online.
About this column: Wine expert Charles Arnold writes about wines and tasting events in the metro Atlanta area.