There was sad news yesterday from one of Georgia’s pioneering winemakers – David Harris emailed friends and posted to Facebook that he is closing BlackStock Vineyards and Winery. The reasons cited included “repeated crop losses due to the exceptionally warm winters.” An inconvenient truth, indeed. Harris worked tirelessly over nearly two decades to grow great grapes and make great wine in north Georgia, and he met with a good deal of success until this recent turn of events.
While dealing with weather difficulties is nothing new for growers, there’s an increasing recognition that climate change will be a major concern for wine growers the world over (just Google “climate change and wine” and read the litany of news articles). Seeing warmer winters driving out one of the leaders of Georgia’s young wine industry, though, is truly sobering. Many Georgia winemakers are relying on bringing in grapes from other regions, which may fill the bottles but also undermines hope that Georgia can actually grow worthy grapes.
BlackStock earned many awards for their wines over the years, with a range of merlots and viognier in particular that were among the best Georgia wines made (and which I’ve personally enjoyed very much). BlackStock has also been one of the few Georgia wines readily available at retail in Atlanta.
Here’s the full text of Harris’ letter posted to Facebook:
Dear Friends of Blackstock,
I am very saddened to inform you that we are closing the vineyards and winery at Blackstock. It has been a wonderful experience to get to know all of you and be a source of relaxation, fun times and great pleasure, through hosting you at the vineyard and providing wines for your table. In the end, we have suffered from repeated crop losses due to the exceptionally warm winters and the early bud-break dates. This has resulted in normal frost dates having a devastating effect to our crop. We have also felt the sting from selling fruit in a soft economy and the importation of grapes and wine into Georgia wineries, eroding our market when the crop was plentiful.
I had a wonderful dream and lived it for 17 years, but while pages turn and chapters close, beautiful memories were made in this exceptional setting that will not soon fade, and I must thank you all for being a part of that story. I am especially thankful to our small group of “angel” investors, several of whom have passed away now. This was a very classy group of individuals who shared my vision and dream and saw it come to fruition in every aesthetic way, I am just sorry that we couldn’t make it sustainable.
While, in many ways, our fate was sealed on April 12th, I have been through every scenario imaginable to try to survive, but have also been through the roughest part of the reality emotionally. I have realized that some of our most passionate patrons are going to have a sense of shock and true grieving and, for them, please do not hesitate to reach out by email, FB, or text. I truly hope someone ends up continuing operations here after I have moved on.
Personally, I have been blessed with another opportunity for which I am passionate and thankful. Unfortunately, it is going to take me away from Georgia. I will miss my many friends made at Blackstock, but hope to stay in touch. Here’s to a Happy and Prosperous New Year to you all!
David A. Harris