La Vita Bella

Road Trip

Montaluce is a new wine country community nestled in the North Georgia Mountains, where the highest peak of the property features the world-class M Vineyards winery. Tastings and tours are offered Tuesday through Sunday. Ristorante Le Vigne occupies the main floor of the winery, a place for diners to enjoy fresh seasonal fare amid breath-taking panoramic views of the vineyard. Surrounding the heart of the estate are home sites where Beecham Builders is constructing upscale custom residences designed by Harrison Design Associates. In spring 2009, the Tuscan community will welcome a 63-room hotel and luxury spa. Montaluce is located at 501 Hightower Church Road, Dahlonega, 30533. For more information, call (706) 867-4060 or visit

Oliver Asberger has always loved the outdoors. This is evident as he weaves through rows of grapevines planted along the abundant landscape of Montaluce, a planned community surrounding M Vineyards in Dahlonega, Georgia, and where the German-born oenophile has happily served as vineyard manager since May.

Asberger, who embarked on his career through a work-study program at Ohio State University in 1993, held vineyard positions in Michigan, Virginia and New Jersey before heading south to Montaluce in 2008, where he fell in love with a fervor he never anticipated. Nestled in the foothills of the North Georgia mountains and on the banks of the Etowah River, the 400-acre Montaluce Winery and Estates seems a world away from the Deep South. Residents and visitors feel genuinely transported to a rolling Italian countryside, where Tuscan-style villas dot the lush landscape and European traditions pervade aspects of daily life.

Only in its second year of operation, Montaluce is still in preparational stages, but is slated to produce its own unique vintages beginning in 2009. Well on its way, the 25,000-square-foot winery pressed its first grapes in September.

“Up here, it’s all about wine, food, friends, family—it’s culture,” says Asberger. “I have been away from that lifestyle for about 10 years since I left Europe, but at Montaluce, I feel like I am living it again.” Even so, he adds, the romance of the vineyards can trickle away during a hard day’s work. “You have to work when it’s raining, when it’s cold, and in Georgia—especially when it’s hot. You must love what you do.”

And Asberger does. Never one to back down from a challenge, Asberger describes the most laborious part of the winemaking process as his favorite: grape picking and fermenting. “In a way, you’re completing the life cycle,” Asberger explains. “It’s the culmination of what you’ve worked so hard for. When the grapes have been turned into wine, it’s like holding your own child.”

With grapes grown on this landscape, ranging from Malbec to Petit Verdot to Sangiovese to Cabernet Sauvignon, and with sights, sounds and flavors so captivating, Montaluce’s vineyards can make you forget about the never-ending construction and noisy traffic that lie just an hour to the south in the big city.

“When the sun comes up and shines on the grapes every morning, I’m so appreciative of the connection I get to have with nature here,” Asberger says. “I hope that I never have to leave.”