I was extremely saddened to hear of the untimely death of Doug Paul, the co-owner of Three Sisters Vineyard, on March 7th.
Doug was a real wine pioneer. After a career in TV and radio, he and his wife Sharon established the first local vineyard and winery in Lumpkin County. Incorporated in 1996 after a year of careful planning, the vineyard has its first vintage in 2000. Doug and his family were totally committed to their belief in wines from grapes grown on the estate and produced in their own winery. They have a unique claim to fame as Dahlonega’s First Family Farm Winery. They introduced a range of trellising methods and grew a variety of vinifera and hybrid grapes. A peculiarity for the time was the plantings of Cynthiana – a kissing cousin to the more famous American Norton grape.
On the Three Sisters website, he is described as “Doug never met a stranger and always had some way to relate to everyone he encountered. He was a great winemaker, an astute businessman, and a funny guy”. I totally relate to that. I first met Doug and Sharon (both in their characteristic bib and brace overalls) more than ten years ago when I was starting to plan my retirement in Dahlonega. He lucidly explained his motivation with Three Sisters: “We were drinking so much wine we thought it would be better to make it”. The knowledge that there were such committed wine makers in Lumpkin County reinforced my plans to move here.
In June 2009 I took several bottles of his Cynthiana 2004 to a professional wine tasting in London. It received an extremely positive response (as well as much curiosity about a previously unknown grape variety). The following year, I presented their Cabernet Franc at another London wine tasting, again to serious approval. Over the years Three Sisters expanded their range of wines, including méthode traditionelle sparkling wines – samples of those were also showcased in London last year.
Doug was interested not only in Three Sisters but the wider Georgia wine industry. He was a driving force behind the first Georgia wine trade association, Georgia Wine Country and a strong supporter of the planned Dahlonega Plateau AVA. Both the dahlonegaplateau.com website and the social media presence supporting this AVA are thanks to him. And whilst he did not make a lot of noise about it, he and Sharon were instrumental in helping several Georgia wineries get started.
He will be sadly missed both by me and by all those at Cavender Creek winery who knew him and Three Sisters Vineyard.