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A toast to our championship wines
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Last Spring’s freeze cost our vineyards up to 80 percent of their grapes.  The freeze was followed by the second year of a drought which stressed wine makers physically and financially. 


During the last Legislative Session I co-sponsored two bills in support of our wine industry.  The governor signed both of them. 


Of primary interest was HB 1061, which allows consumers to order up to 12 cases of wine from each of our state’s wineries. 


Prior to this bill becoming law on July 1, tourists had to visit a winery or a winery tasting room to purchase wines.  Additionally, they had to return to the winery for further purchases — but not any more. 


It was just too far for the folks from Middle and South Georgia to drive to get refills of our fine Dahlonega wines.


As they did in September 2007, Georgia Trend magazine has once again reviewed their judging of “Georgia’s winning wines.” 


Nineteen wineries, from Folkston to Tiger, submitted one wine in each category of red, white and dessert.  Five of those wineries are from our local area:  Blackstock, Frogtown Cellars, Montaluce, Three Sisters and Wolf Mountain.  As you will see, their wines did quite well.


Among the reds, Frogtown’s Cabernet Sauvignon Family Reserve 2004 took the top spot.  This same wine had won a 2007 “best of class” from the Vinifera Winegrowers Association.  Winemaker Craig Kritzer makes his award-winning wines from Frogtown’s own cabernet sauvignon grapes.  Runner up was Wolf Mountain’s 2006 Instinct, a blend of several grapes.  Karl Boegner points out that his winery specializes in blends.


In 2007 Creekstone’s Viognier, made by Habersham from BlackStock grapes, was first among white wines.  This year it was runner up because the freeze prevented Habersham from using BlackStock grapes.


Three Sisters won the dessert wine category for the second year.  Last year was won with Georgia Port; this year, its Dahlonega’s Gold was first.  As I stated last year, Dahlonega’s Gold is the best dessert wine I have ever tasted.  Way to go, Doug and Sharon.


I like the words of Mary Ann Hardman of Persimmon Creek Vineyards in Clayton:  “Our wines are unique, and we should be proud of that.”   Our job now is to spread the word among Georgia’s wine enthusiasts.


We’ll be able to have a second toast when we finally pass a Constitutional Amendment to cap Georgia’s ad valorem property tax.  Across Georgia, property tax reassessments have escalated far faster than inflation. 


Citizens who have been living on their land for decades are struggling with rising property assessments and the challenge of paying the resulting higher taxes.


Proponents of the use of property taxes to fund local schools and services describe this form of taxation as a “good tax” because it is a “predictable” source of revenue for government. 


If true, this predictability should be a two-way street.  A constitutional amendment will allow Georgia property owners to plan and budget their future tax obligations without the threat of rapidly increasing reassessments literally taxing their property out from under them.


Many states already offer property owners protections similar to those contained in this proposal, and it is time Georgia be added to this list of property-owner-friendly states. 


The logic behind the proposal is simple: property owners should be taxed based on their investment in their property —not some artificial unrealized value set by bureaucrats. 


Not even the IRS is so bold to tax you on an unrealized gain.


Within the first 20 business days of the 2009 Legislative Session, the Georgia House Republican Caucus will bring to the floor a constitutional amendment to end out-of-control spiraling property tax reassessments.


This proposal will cap these reassessments for all property owners — commercial and residential — at either 3 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less, per year. 


Studies around the country have shown that this kind of protection leads to more stable neighborhoods.  It protects both the elderly on fixed incomes and young families who can buy their first home knowing what their future tax expenses will be. 


By allowing for inflationary increases, local governments can continue to provide for local services if they operate efficiently.  


In short, this constitutional amendment is a common sense proposal that both protects property owners and encourages efficient and responsive local government.


Rep. Amos Amerson can be reached at 489 N. Chestatee Street, Dahlonega, GA 30533, (706) 864-6589, e-mail  Or contact Gerald Lewy at (706) 344-7788.