By Michael Venezia | Photography by Jennifer Carter
On a frightfully hot day in July, I traveled to Adairsville Georgia to lunch with Greg Teague, the proclaimed “wine snob” of the Barnsley Resort. By definition, the word ‘snob’ is pretty brutal, and the thought of spending a few hours with a wine snob was challenging. How would I handle this potentially arrogant, unpleasant wine elitist? Would the lunch and our time together be a total disaster? Please read on to meet a truly extraordinary wine man.
According to my trusty Farlex dictionary app, “a snob is a person who believes him or herself an expert or connoisseur in a given field and is condescending toward or disdainful of those who hold other opinions or have different tastes regarding this field.”
Greg Teague, CSW, a thirty year veteran of the hospitality industry would select twelve wines from his wine inventory and host me for lunch. Executive Chef Roberto Guzman would prepare a multi-course meal and we would allow the food and wine to speak for themselves. How cool is that?
During lunch our dialogue would revolve around his wine selections and why he chose these wines to offer with the chef’s skillfully prepared and beautifully presented menu. Thankfully Mr. Teague is the antithesis of snobbism, and it was immediately apparent that he has a profound love of wine and strong professional street cred. He is a Certified Specialist of Wine, possessing an infectious enthusiasm for sharing his wine discoveries with the members and guests of the magnificent Barnsley Resort. We were joined by my friend Jennifer Carter, whose talents are exhibited in the extraordinary photos accompanying this On the Wine Road report.
During our pre-luncheon conversation, the chef kindly explained his meal selections. Greg has autonomy in evolving wine selections and enjoys the opportunity to educate and introduce wines to the diners of the Rice House, the historic dining venue on the Barnsley Resort property. While working closely with the chef to help the food and wine sing in harmony, he encourages his guests to have faith and put themselves in his capable hands. He will pull the curtain back and reveal wines which are handcrafted by creative winemakers and introduce them to wines that they have never had before. He will share with anyone who wants to experience a new wine epiphany.
Although he acknowledges the popularity of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, the chocolate and vanilla of wine flavors, his role as a wine interventionist is to break some consumers’ addiction to these to varietals and to offer colors, aromas, flavors, and textures that are lesser known.
As our lunch was served and each course enjoyed, the menu seemed to be perfectly at home with his eclectic wine offerings.
“The quail would’ve been OK with a Chardonnay” he mused, “but didn’t you think it is so much more exciting with the Spanish Albarino or the Vermentino from Corsica?” I agreed. Although I had tasted these varietals before, they seemed to have a different message when enjoyed with Chef Roberto’s dish.
When the solid food on the plate is introduced to wines which have a certain defined link to a small location on the global wine map, the excitement level of experience is raised. It was clear from the outset that the skills of the culinary team were in harmony with Greg’s wine offerings. His passion is contagious and it is easy to see why his presence in the dining room encourages people to trust his judgment and present wines which are his own discoveries. At Barnsley, the tasting opportunities are boundless and Greg’s goal is to get people out of their comfort zone. He explained that for many people the wine world is confusing and intimidating. It is his stated vocation to offer new experiences to his many wine lovers.
The blanched and cored heirloom tomato was filled with parmesan foam, adorned with balsamic caviar and garnished with walnuts and tomato sorbet. Sipping several wines with Chef Roberto’s exotic take on tomato salad was an exciting adventure. The dry Rose of Cabernet Franc was refreshing with just the right amount of acidity to compliment the tomato and the parmesan foam. I also enjoyed the Sancerre, a beautiful, dry, medium-bodied, classic Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley. He explained that whenever possible he develops a relationship with the winemaker and is encouraged when they have something special for him. His Blue Rock, Alexander Valley “Best Barrel” Malbec is an exclusive production, one cask (approximately 60 gallons or 250 bottles), which was made available to Greg. There is only one place to taste this wine and that is at Barnsley Resort.
The chanterelle crusted halibut, squash risotto, succotash and red wine demi-glace was perfectly prepared and he encouraged me to taste the red wine selections with this beautiful fish dish. He advocates red wine with seafood, especially when earthy components such as mushrooms are accenting the preparation and accompanied by a red wine sauce. The Trinchero Petit Verdot, a rare and obscure Bordeaux variety, is often used for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon in California. The 2007 from the Trinchero family’s Napa Valley vineyard in St. Helena was perfectly mature and proved to be a magnificent accompaniment to this complex entrée.
Before dessert he explained that he rarely offers wines with sweets, but will occasionally suggest a port wine to compliment chocolate-centric creations. He prefers to have a sweet wine on its own as a substitute for dessert or as a second dessert. I found myself agreeing completely with this rationale.
The flavor of the Georgia pecan pie, accented by the pink Hawaiian sea salt, dulce de leche and Woodford Reserve bourbon ice cream had the rich, complex flavors of the pecan pie with the vanilla and sweet aromas of the bourbon component.
After three hours together I left Barnsley with a greater appreciation of Greg’s 30 years on the wine road. From the historic Atlanta Peasant Restaurants to the Barnsley Resort, Greg has embraced his vocation one sniff and sip at a time. I strongly suggest you visit the Barnsley Resort, enjoy the beauty of the property, perhaps spend the night, benefit from the spa, book dinner in the Rice House and allow Greg to take you for a stroll through his wine fantasy land, and please let him know that Michael sent you.
Plantation Quail, Logan Turnpike Grits, Pickled Peaches
and Jicama Slaw
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Heirloom Tomato Salad, Parmesan Foam, Balsamic Caviar, Walnuts and Tomato Sorbet
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Chanterelle Crusted Halibut, 8 Ball Squash Risotto, Succotash, Red Wine Demi Glace
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Georgia Pecan Pie, Pink Hawaiian Sea Salt, Dulce de Leche, Woodford Reserve Bourbon Ice Cream
The twelve wines selected by Greg are a dozen standouts from his wine list:
Paul Thomas, Sancerre, Loire, France, 2013
Corse Vermentino, Corsica, 2012
Filaboa, Albarino, Galicia, Spain 2012
Blue Rock, Rose of Cabernet Franc, Alexander Valley, 2014
Blue Rock, Best Barrel Merlot, Alexander Valley, 2010
Blue Rock, Best Barrel Malbec, Alexander Valley, 2010
Complicated, Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, 2013
Arista, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, 2013
Petalos Mencia, Bierzo, Spain, 2012
Il Bruciato, Guado al Tasso, Bolgheri, Italy 2013
Phifer Pavitt, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. 2011
Trinchero, Petit Verdot, Central Park West Vineyard, Napa Valley, 2007