Montaluce Winery and Le Vigne Restaurant-Dahlonega, Georgia and a recipe for Berkshire Pork Meatballs

Montaluce Winery and Le Vigne Restaurant-Dahlonega, Georgia and a recipe for Berkshire Pork Meatballs

The weather in the South has been absolutely gorgeous lately, so rather than waste a day on Twitter the computer, what better way to spend a beautiful Autumn day than to go On the Road with Bunkycooks!  This time we headed to North Georgia for a trip to a Georgia winery and restaurant, Montaluce Winery and Le Vigne.  You can find them right here.

Here we go again!

Now, I know that you might be thinking…Georgia wine…who would travel anywhere to drink some of that?  Well, let me tell you, lots of people!  Dahlonega, Georgia is home to several wineries and it has become quite the place to visit.

Wine tastings. I'll have some!

The day we arrived, Montaluce was incredibly busy with wine tastings and visitors.  Montaluce is also the home of Le Vigne, their on-site restaurant.  Le Vigne and the Executive Chef, Steve Hartman (formerly Chef de Cuisine at The Hermitage Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee), were recently featured in the October 2010 issue of Southern Living Magazine.

Main dining room at Le Vigne

Of course, the Bunkycooks came to drink some wine (I wouldn’t be Bunkycooks if I didn’t do that!) and have lunch, but I also wanted to sit down with Rob Beecham to talk about Montaluce.

Chatting on the terrace overlooking the vineyards.

I first met Rob, who is a Partner in Montaluce with his dad and brother, at Stir It 28 in Atlanta (this was a Haiti relief effort by food bloggers).  I saw him at several more food, wine and blogging events after that.  In fact, it is Rob who got me obsessed with Twitter.  (Should I thank him or never speak to him again?!)  Rob has become such a great friend that he was one of the major sponsors for the Atlanta Food Blog Forum.  Those folks sure liked that Georgia wine!

Chef David Mitchell and Executive Chef Steve Hartman

Montaluce sits on four hundred acres in the North Georgia mountains.  The vineyard occupies forty acres of that land.  The northern border of the property is the Chattahoochee National Forest and the western border is the Etowah River.  The river’s headwaters flow down from the North and the National Forest.

The Etowah River where it borders Montaluce.

I can certainly see why they fell in love with this piece of property.  The views from the terrace of Le Vigne over the vineyards and the rolling hills are truly breathtaking.  I felt like I was in Tuscany.  With a few more glasses of wine, I just might have actually been there!

Rob took us on a tour of the main building and the winery.  He told us that he was incredibly fortunate to have two very experienced winemakers.  The master winemaker,  or “Executive Chef” of the winery, is Stefano Salvini, who hails from the Campodelsole Winery in Bertinoro, Italy. The on-site winemaker (or “Sous Chef” for you culinary types), Maria Peterson, came to Montaluce after years of winemaking in some of the best wine regions of the world.

She worked at wineries in South Africa, France and Australia and also at Rutherford Hill in Napa.  Rob said they were so fortunate to be able to hire Maria and only because she married a local Georgia boy.  They would not have been able to hire someone of this caliber away from France or Australia.  How lucky for them (and for us)!

Montaluce produces nine different types of wine.  The 2009 vintage (which is their second year of winemaking), was just bottled and yielded a total of 5,000 cases (60,000 bottles).  Some of our favorites include the 2009 Risata, which is a Provençal-style Rosé, the 2009 Chardonnay (unoaked) and the 2008 Centurio, which is their Reserve Merlot.

Chardonnay grapes

While lunching on the terrace in what felt like Tuscany, but in reality was Dahlonega (hey, I like pretending!), Rob told us that building and owning a winery was something that he thought he would do later in life, but after visiting several of the local wineries and falling in love with the area on a weekend vacation, he moved that plan up by about ten years.

Issac Johnson plays with fire!

After looking at several properties in the mountains, they decided on the first one they saw, which is where Montaluce is today.  When the Beecham family purchased the land in 2006, the housing market was booming.  The philosophy behind Montaluce was to offer luxury housing (with some full-time residents, but also second or vacation homes) along with a winery and a restaurant.

Sean McKnight is rolling the dough for their house-made Lavosh.

Shortly after opening Montaluce in 2008, the housing and financial markets crashed.  Since then, selling property and new homes has essentially evaporated, so in order to survive, the original idea behind Montaluce had to change. Their primary focus is now on the winery and the restaurant.

Charcuterie plate with house-made Lavosh.

Rob told us that they are looking at building a hotel (with cottage-style bungalows) and a day spa on the property and turning Montaluce into a destination location.  I would definitely go!  There is nothing quite like this that is only one hour away from Atlanta and Dahlonega is a quaint little town with interesting things to see and do.  It is a great area if you love being outdoors.

Black Mountain Blue Cheese from Spinning Spider Creamery.

Le Vigne has always had a farm to table philosophy.  Chef Hartman serves breads made in house, house-cured bacon, local meats and produce.  Rob said they currently have a small farm area, but are looking at planting much more of the land for growing more of their own produce.

Baby Arugula Salad with local figs, pistachio, ciabatta and sherry vinaigrette.

He also told us the wines they are making reflect more of a local European house wine tradition of winemaking.  The food is the focus and the feast and wines are there to accompany the food.  Many of the California wines are more about the wine being the focus and the food is the accompaniment.

Springer Mountain Chicken Breast with collard greens, roasted tomato, miatake mushrooms and pan jus.

If you have had a big Cabernet or an oaked Chardonnay, you will understand the difference.  The Chardonnay at Montaluce is unoaked and is more of a French Chardonnay.  It lends itself to food very well and is lovely to sip (and sip I did!) all by itself.

Beef Tri Tip with asparagus, parsnips, chanterelles and red wine jus.

Their Rosé (Risata) is also perfect to drink on a gorgeous afternoon outdoors (we had some of that as well).  It is lovely paired with the Charcuterie plate.  Everything was sooo good, especially the Black Mountain Blue goat cheese from Spinning Spider Creamery (I saw the process of making this cheese on one of our other On the Road adventures to the goat dairy farm.  Remember Colbert?  That’s a face you can’t possibly forget!).

Heaven on a plate! Pear Frangipane with vanilla ice cream.

The Bunkycooks are really fussy eaters and I must say that Chef Hartman has done an incredible job with the menu at Le Vigne.  It is truly worth the drive just to sample some of his dishes.

Why are we always the last people to leave? ;-)

Thank you so much to Rob for taking the time to visit (and drink!) with us at Montaluce.  It is an exceptional piece of property, winery and restaurant that can take you away to another place just one hour outside of Atlanta.  I wish them the best of luck in becoming Georgia’s premier farm to table winery.  I think they are well on their way!

We arrived by RV, but left by chopper after much wine consumption!

By the way, congrats to Montaluce for being one of the wineries to win “The Challenge”, four Napa wines versus four Georgia wines, in a blind tasting, sponsored by Georgia Production Partnership.  Georgia won in three of four categories.  Montaluce’s Chardonnay was one of the winning wines.

Here's one of the winning wines - Montaluce Chardonnay.

We stayed so long, we were able to experience this beautiful sunset view from Le Vigne!

Chef Hartman was kind enough to share one of his recipes with me to share with you.  I can’t wait to make these!

Berkshire Pork Meatballs

Recipe courtesy of Executive Chef Steve Hartman
Le Vigne at Montaluce Winery


5 pounds ground pork (from a quality source)
4 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
3 eggs, beaten
1 ounce fresh oregano, chopped
1 ounce fresh basil, chopped
4 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
8 ounces ricotta cheese
2 cups Pork or Chicken stock
Tomato sauce, as needed
Salt and Pepper to taste


Combine pork, garlic, eggs, oregano, cheese, salt and pepper and mix well. Once all ingredients are well incorporated, form meat balls into desired size, and sear in a heavy bottom sauce pan. Once nice color (this might have to be done in batches) is achieved, remove the meatballs from the pan and deglaze with stock, keeping all of the flavorful brown bits from the pan. Add the meatballs back to the pan and add enough tomato sauce to cover the meatballs ¾ of the way. Place in the oven at 275 for three hours. Once the meatballs are cooked, the sauce will be a little thin. Use some of the cooking liquid with fresh red sauce to achieve desired consistency, and serve over polenta, or your favorite pasta. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan.

38 Responses to “Montaluce Winery and Le Vigne Restaurant-Dahlonega, Georgia and a recipe for Berkshire Pork Meatballs”

  1. 1

    Donna — October 21, 2010 @ 10:21 am

    Oh my Goodness! Thank you so much for sharing this. I have to plan a day trip or perhaps an overnight stay nearby? Your food photos are mouth watering. I am hitting print on that recipe. Thanks again.

    • bunkycooks replied: — October 21st, 2010 @ 11:52 am

      Hi Donna,

      It truly is a beautiful spot with incredible food and wine. There are a few B&B’s. If you are interested in the names, you can email me at I hope you get to make the trip soon! BTW, have a glass of wine for me! 😉


  2. 2

    Barbara | VinoLuciStyle — October 21, 2010 @ 11:17 am

    What a wonderful road trip for you and the Mr. Beautiful scenery, great food and wine…when will they be starting on those condos?

    • bunkycooks replied: — October 23rd, 2010 @ 5:38 pm

      Hi Barb,

      They are working on the funding process now, so keep your fingers crossed! It would be a beautiful weekend spot to pop up to from Atlanta and it seems like worlds away!


  3. 3

    Jennifurla — October 21, 2010 @ 11:21 am

    Oh thank you so much for sharing, I just love this post. I love how much each winery has a personality of it’s own. Next time I am in Georgia I will remeber I have this place to visit.

    • bunkycooks replied: — October 23rd, 2010 @ 5:41 pm

      This is definitely a winery not to miss when you get to Georgia. There are a few others nearby, so you can have a little weekend adventure!

  4. 4

    Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. — October 21, 2010 @ 11:28 am

    This looks amazing! What a fun time! Wonderful writing and pictures!

    • bunkycooks replied: — October 23rd, 2010 @ 5:42 pm

      Thanks, Alison! :)

  5. 5

    Devaki @ weavethousandflavors — October 21, 2010 @ 11:30 am

    What a fantastic post Gwen – you are becoming quite the ‘’ person here. Love it! Through you I live vicariously….lol….

    Ciao, Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

    • bunkycooks replied: — October 23rd, 2010 @ 5:43 pm

      Hi Devaki,

      Thanks for the comment. I really enjoy writing about the On the Road adventures.
      There will be more to come!


  6. 6

    Margi — October 21, 2010 @ 12:28 pm

    Yet another find! Maybe you could take a few of us along on this culinary excursions! Who knew that Georgia has it own wine country!

    • bunkycooks replied: — October 23rd, 2010 @ 5:45 pm

      Hi Margi,

      Surprise! Georgia has several wineries that have nice wines. They are definitely getting noticed now for producing some more sophisticated wines.


  7. 7

    Anna — October 21, 2010 @ 12:36 pm

    Wow…beautiful place, and the food….that Charcuterie plate with house-made Lavosh looks divine.

    • bunkycooks replied: — October 23rd, 2010 @ 5:46 pm

      Hi Anna,

      Yes, that Charcuterie plate was divine! Their chicken liver pate is to die for!


  8. 8

    ronnie campbell — October 21, 2010 @ 1:14 pm

    Wow! Great writing, Gwen…gorgeous photos, too (they make me so, so hungry). Definitely want to try those meatballs. I would have never thought to incorporate ricotta into the meat mix. Brilliant!

    • bunkycooks replied: — October 23rd, 2010 @ 5:47 pm

      Hi Ronnie,

      Thank you for your comment. I have already printed the meatball recipe and am definitely going to make a batch soon! It does sound very interesting. I am sure they have to be incredibly good if Chef Hartman makes them!

      I hope you enjoy the recipe.


  9. 9

    Denise@There's a Newf in My Soup! — October 21, 2010 @ 9:36 pm

    Now you’re really talking! On the Road to wineries…what a fantastic post and exquisite photos. Why don’t you bring that luxurious gas-guzzler out to CA for a little On the Road winery action with the Newf in My Soup people?! BTW, you’re looking very tan and relaxed after such a stressful and busy summer 😉

    • bunkycooks replied: — October 23rd, 2010 @ 9:18 am

      Hi Denise,

      Be careful what you wish for, we just might take you up on that invitation! There are a whole lotta wineries on your side of the country! We get could into some real trouble out West! :)


  10. 10

    polwig — October 21, 2010 @ 10:58 pm

    These photos, food and wine description look amazing. I am in Virginia and love visiting VA vineries.. I guess I need to take a trip to Georgia Soon.. I have been telling my husband we need to visit the Atlanta Aquarium, I guess I forgot to mention to visit some vineries too.

    • bunkycooks replied: — October 23rd, 2010 @ 5:49 pm

      I have been to a few Virginia wineries, but it was a long time ago. I think all of the states are getting better with their winemaking. A trip to the aquarium and the wineries would be great fun!

  11. 11

    Monet — October 21, 2010 @ 11:18 pm

    So stunning. Can I please join you next time? You never fail to take us to beautiful, inspired places. I have never been to a winery before, but now I have very high standards. The restaurant looked amazing too…that pear tart had me singing! Thanks for sharing.

    • bunkycooks replied: — October 23rd, 2010 @ 5:50 pm

      Hi Monet,

      You are always welcome to come along! :) The pear dessert was wonderful, but so was all of the fun. I was swept away…truly!

      Hope things are better for your family.


  12. 12

    penny aka jeroxie — October 22, 2010 @ 12:42 am

    relaxing, beautiful and so envious!

    • bunkycooks replied: — October 23rd, 2010 @ 5:51 pm

      Thank you and yes, it is relaxing and beautiful. I was totally relaxed after a few glasses of wine on a sunny afternoon! :)

  13. 13

    Jamie — October 22, 2010 @ 3:21 am

    Wow! This is amazing and incredible and a trip that would enchant me and the mister. We love taking trips like this – beautiful scenery, great food and wine tastings but even in France it doens’t get half as beautiful or wonderful as this, I kid you not! Now I really do want to visit you!

    • bunkycooks replied: — October 23rd, 2010 @ 5:55 pm

      Hi Jamie,

      France has to be as pretty! I have been to Provence a couple of times and I thought it was beautiful. Let’s trade! 😉

      You are always welcome to come and visit! We’ll head right up to Montaluce!


  14. 14

    Leslie Schoenfeld — October 22, 2010 @ 11:26 am

    Gwen, you are doing a great job discovering all the wonderful places to eat and drink. I enjoyed the pictures and the recipe.

    • bunkycooks replied: — October 23rd, 2010 @ 5:56 pm

      Thank you Leslie. I am glad that you are enjoying our trips as much as we are!

  15. 15

    marla {family fresh cooking} — October 23, 2010 @ 9:56 am

    Gwen, thanks for tempting us all with these lovely photos of food and wine. Looks like it was well worth it to take a break from tweeting 😉 Though knowing me I would have been tweeting pics the whole time! Great photos of you- -you look so relaxed! xo

    • bunkycooks replied: — October 23rd, 2010 @ 5:59 pm

      Hi Marla,

      Relaxed…who’ relaxed?! I am glad that I appear to be! After a few glasses of wine, I guess maybe I was!


  16. 16

    Kim — October 23, 2010 @ 11:54 am

    What?! You left by chopper?!

    What a wonderful experience. Your photo of the salad is actually inspiring me to go outside, pick some figs and make a fig and arugula salad of my own. :)

    When I come visit you in Atlanta, (becaus I WILL!), we’ll have to make a day trip here. Beautiful!!!


    • bunkycooks replied: — October 23rd, 2010 @ 6:01 pm

      Hi Kim,

      You better come to Atlanta sometime soon! We can have a major wine and food coma for several days. It sounds like so much fun! Then we can all leave in the chopper!


  17. 17

    Conor @ HoldtheBeef — October 23, 2010 @ 12:04 pm

    Can’t comment on the wines but oh dear god all of those dishes look just perfect! The textures, argh! And with such a setting, I am altogether highly envious. Incredibly highly. Mountainously high.

    • bunkycooks replied: — October 23rd, 2010 @ 6:03 pm

      Hi Conor,

      It was a really special visit and the food was every bit as good as it looks! Great scenery, awesome food and lovely wines…it doesn’t get much better than that!


  18. 18

    denise @ quickies on the dinner table — October 24, 2010 @ 7:22 am

    What an enchanting road trip! Thanks for sharing the meatballl recipe – I can never refuse a good meatball LOL That chopper ride back must have been fun!!

  19. 19

    Christine @ Fresh Local and Best — October 24, 2010 @ 8:43 pm

    The sights, scene, food and drink are all so enchanting! You’re lucky to have this so close to you, and how nice that they shared a recipe!

  20. 20

    redkathy — October 24, 2010 @ 9:36 pm

    Another beautiful trip Gwen, so inspiring! Those meatballs sound delish!

  21. 21

    The Mom Chef — October 28, 2010 @ 12:06 pm

    Oh, I saw Dahlonega and my heart just about stopped with joy. I’ve not been to Montaluce (which looks fantastic), but one of my favorite dessert wines is Dahlonega Gold that comes out of Three Sisters Vineyards in GA. If you ever get the chance, give them a visit (and bring back a bottle or two of that wine). :)

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