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by Rachel Nichols | January 19, 2011 | 8:00 AM

Wine Business Monthly has identified today's most exciting top 10 brands from small and medium-sized wineries during 2010 in our upcoming February issue. We gravitate toward wineries and brands that represent market trends or innovation, that take a leadership position in their regions, or that make unusual varietals or unexpected wines. There are some larger wineries on the list now, as well.

We will also be serving the top 10 chosen brands at our Unified Symposium Bottle Bash party on January 25 at the Pyramid Brewery in Sacramento, California. The party starts at 5, and the winemakers for these brands will be in attendance.

We began releasing our list on our blog on Monday and will release one brand at a time each day. Here is number 8:


When Mary Ann Hardman first started selling her wines, she would routinely get the following reaction: “You’re making wine where? You can’t do that.”

She admits it’s been an uphill battle, but Hardman has sold her wines to all three Ritz Carltons in Georgia and to dozens of fine restaurants in Atlanta and in other cities. Persimmon Creek Vineyards released its first vintage in 2002.

The challenge for Hardman lies not just in selling the wine: She is working to demonstrate the viticultural veracity for wine in Georgia.

Persimmon Creek Vineyards sits at 2,100 feet elevation on 110 acres in Clayton, Georgia. It is owned by Mary Ann and her husband William “Sonny” Hardman, a dermatopathologist.

When the Hardmans began purchasing farmland in the North Georgia Mountains, they didn’t expect they would be running a winery just a few years later.

Dr. Hardman had a long-standing passion for the beauty of vineyards and approached the task scientifically. He conducted soil analysis with University of Georgia researchers, climate analysis and studied grape varietals to determine what to plant, settling on Riesling, Seyval Blanc, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

The Hardmans are tearing down stereotypes about Georgia wine. Each year, they have sold out of each variety—while they’ve increased production to 2,000 cases per year. The operation remains a boutique, family-run operation with planting, picking, crushing, bottling, corking and labeling all done by hand.

Persimmon Creek wines are served in more than 25 restaurants and hotels in Atlanta and the southeast including: Bacchanalia, Restaurant Eugene, The Cloister at Sea Island, Bluepointe, Chops Lobster Bar, Old Edwards Inn in Highlands, North Carolina and many more.

The Cab Franc is fermented in stainless steel and is then aged in French, American and Hungarian oak for a year and a half.

For more 2010 Hot Brands, see:

WBM Hottest Small Brand Number 10: Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards

WBM Hottest Small Brand Number 9: WillaKenzie Estate


Reader Mary Ann Hardman of Persimmon Creek comments:

Thank you for this wonderful honor! Viticultural veracity for Persimmon Creek (hence, Georgia) has indeed been a campaign of mine for almost 10 years. We are thrilled to be chosen a "Top 10."
Best, Mary Ann Hardman


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