A toast to ‘The Second Bud’ and starting over

Martha Ezzard showing off her favorite Tannat grapes. Photos courtesy of Tiger Mt. Vineyard

By Barbara Schneider
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"The Second Bud: Deserting the City for a Farm Winery," by Martha M. Ezzard, Mercer University Press

Martha Ezzard’s memoir “The Second bud: Deserting the City for a Farm Winery” (Mercer University Press) is the perfect read for a gloomy, gray winter day. Ezzard knows how to tell a story, to pull readers out of their everyday routines and lure them into her changing world.

A lawyer turned journalist, Ezzard begins her story in fall 1993, as she drives from Atlanta to Tiger in Rabun County and the farm owned by her husband’s family.

“It’s a land of seasonal extravaganza,” she writes, “from the pink and white splash of spring dogwood and mountain laurel to the bold show of fall hardwoods, native red maple, yellow hickory and orange sourwood.” Ezzard doesn’t need a brush to paint a picture.

Ezzard has left Denver—her home for 23 years—and her law practice to write for the Atlanta Journal Constitution. She spends most weekends in Tiger, Georgia looking in on Poppa, her father-in-law, a widower who still lives on the 100-acre family farm. Her husband John, a urologist in Denver, knows his father can’t maintain the farm but doesn’t want to see the land that has been in his family for five generations carved up and developed. 

“Eventually, someone from the family has got to live in Tiger if we want the farm to survive,” John Ezzard tells his wife.

With Martha Ezzard’s new career as a newspaper columnist thriving in Atlanta and John Ezzard’s successful medical practice in Denver, the couple swap cross country commutes and share frequent weekends in Tiger as they search for a way to save the family farm.  
Seeing his father’s health deteriorating, John develops a daring plan. He will spend more time in Tiger and turn the farm into one of North Georgia’s first farm vineyards growing European wine grapes. (At the time most Georgia vineyards grew sweet grapes believing that fine European wine grapes wouldn’t thrive in the state’s humid climate.)

John Ezzard shown here with a bottle of his Petit Manseng, the French grape he pioneered growing in Georgia. This wine grape, explains Martha Ezzard, has been called ' he new southern classic'  because it tolerates our humidity and has naturally high sugars (hard to get in the southeastern environment)." The Petit Manseng won double gold, best of class in the 2012 Los Angeles International and a number of medals since.

Ezzard candidly shares their transition from city-dwelling professionals to committed “dig in the dirt” wine grape farmers to American Wine Society gold medal winners. Along the way, this savvy AJC editorial board member learns to dig post holes on a hillside, trim vines, string trellis wire, and nurse fragile Norton cuttings through their first winter at the Clayton High School greenhouse.

It’s not all sunshine and roses. She loses a treasured piece of jewelry among the Tannat vines, learns how to treat chigger bites and balks at keeping a dead crow in the freezer. This isn’t an either/or lifestyle for Ezzard. Between weekends of hard work on the farm, she returns to the deadlines and demands of the AJC editorial board, showing up at one morning meeting with a souvenir from the farm: a tick on the back of her neck—quickly plucked off by a colleague.

Martha and John Ezzard at the opening of the Red Barn, a seasonal cafe at Tiger Mt. Vineyard. As a boy, John milked cows in the barn, which the Ezzards lovingly restored.

Ezzard’s book is a fun read. Her writing is lyrical, blending descriptions of farm life and the innate beauty of nature with the practical task of finding, growing and selling the right combination of wine grapes to ensure the farm will thrive. Love permeates the book: love of family, love for the land and a deep “whither thou goest” love between Martha and John. Like their grapes, Martha reflects at the end of the book, “our relationship with each other and the farm has a second bud.”


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