By Anna Grace Moore

Photos by Untold Imagery & Contributed

Nestled in the Appalachian foothills in the heart of Calera rests Ozan Vineyard, Winery and Spirits. Although the off season’s crops now seem barren, the five-acre vineyard has successfully weathered another tumultuous winter season–and springtime is now here.

During the months that follow, this picturesque patch of heaven will transform into its own Garden of Eden, sporting luscious juniper foliage as far as the eye can see. Rows and rows of norton and muscadine grape crops soon will sprout, harvesting August through September.

Spring not only bears idyllic landscapes, but it also brings rising temperatures–ushering visitors in by the thousands. Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum’s Calera and Shelby Train, too, returns as the season unfolds, offering scenic train rides along the Ozan wine trail.


Strolling inside the winery, the Tuscan setting transports one to the Italian countryside–its rustic atmosphere perfectly complementing the tasting experience. The intimate menu–hand-selected by chief sommeliers–sports 12 different wines, seven different spirits and a lovely variety of tapas and finger foods–all made in-house.

Whether one chooses to dine indoors in the oak room or out on the patio, he is served cheerful salutations along with every beverage, helping him to feel welcome and at ease in such an inviting presence. This wholesome atmosphere is exactly how owner Burt Patrick extends his invitation for wine and spirit enthusiasts–and those willing to just try something new–at the start of another wonderful season at Ozan.

“I’ve been all over Europe, Asia, Latin America–that’s when I discovered that I could remember flavors and reverse design such that I had tasted,” Burt says.

Burt, a Thompson High School and Auburn University graduate, returned to his Shelby County roots after spending 30 years working in Atlanta for companies such as Georgia Pacific. His experience as a mechanical engineer took him all over the globe, helping design process improvements for factories.

It was during this time that he also received his master’s of business administration from Emory University, which aided him in assuming ownership and managing the family business years later.

“We started making wine here almost 20 years ago,” Burt says. “I became free to pursue some personal ventures, and my dad and I worked together to plant a lot of vines [on the family property] and build the initial building.”

Ozan’s property has been in Burt’s family since 1990. While he and his father began by planting grape vines, they never intended to grow their hobby into the flourishing business it is today.

At the time, Alabama patrons could only make wine (not liquor or beer). They were also limited to making no more than five gallons of wine a year.

“In Georgia where I lived, you could make up to the federal limit (200 gallons),” Burt says. “I took grapes from over here to Atlanta and made the wine in my garage. The first wine I made was a blackberry wine, but that was not for sale.”

Opportunities began presenting themselves, and Burt took a chance and opened Ozan’s tasting room–the business’ first building–in 2005, complete with the state’s first barrel room. As the second-ever winery in Shelby County, Ozan initially did not offer muscadine wine.

Instead, the business focused on diversifying its selections, offering original, “Alabama dry” wines–flavor profiles Burt drafted to mimic California-dry wines while also matching the palates of central Alabama. Over the years, Ozan started attracting visitors from across the country–some even from overseas–allowing the winery to expand.

In 2009, Ozan partnered with Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum to allow its guests to take a train ride through the Shelby County countryside, starting at the Ozan train stop on Burt’s family’s property. Now, the Calera and Shelby train runs twice on Saturday from March-November each season.

“It gives such a unique experience in Alabama that you cannot get anywhere else,” Sylvie Torres, Ozan Vineyard, Winery and Spirits’ event coordinator says. “We have people come from all over to experience the train ride.”

Ozan’s popularity soon spread like wildfire, enabling Burt to expand yet again in 2012 by adding on the oak room and Yella Hound Distillery. The business makes all of its spirits on-site and barrel-ages them, and according to Burt, Yella Hound Distillery was the first in Shelby County to utilize this barrel-aging technique.

Patrons can now purchase Yella Hound Distillery spirits at stores throughout Alabama if they are not local to Calera.

In August 2016 at the second annual Alabama Commercial Wine Competition, Alabama Wine Inc. awarded Ozan four gold medals–status indicating a score of 17 or higher on a 20-point scale–for its norton, peach, shelby blanc and magenta wines. It also received a silver medal for its blueberry wine.

While those were just some of the first awards Ozan would receive, the business now boasts numerous awards for its wines and spirits, including several gold medals from the Finger Lakes International Wine and Spirits Competitions over the years.

The shelby blanc muscadine wine, a Finger Lakes “gold-rated” wine, is one of Ozan’s top-sellers and Sylvie’s favorite wine, too. Made from carlos muscadines, this wine is “delightfully sweet” and serves to be a great midsummer’s night beverage.

Dubbed “the best wine of all nations,” the norton red was rated the 2015 Commissioner’s Cup Best Alabama Wine. Its black cherry flavor profiles yield a rich aroma and dry finish.

Another Ozan original flavor–the cuvee rouge–is a smooth blend of sangiovese, merlot and cabernet sauvignon that creates a mild, tannic taste with hints of berry. Sylvie recommends pairing this selection with any of the charcuterie platters or the margarita pizza on the menu for a delectable lunch.

Those enjoying dessert wines will love the prickly pear cactus–whose twinge of melon and cotton candy yield both an eclectic taste and color. When enjoyed alone or as a cocktail mixer, the prickly pear never disappoints.

“We just rotated in our cabernet sauvignon and shelby rouge–our red muscadine,” Sylvie says. “It’s brand new. It hasn’t been released yet.”

Above all, the founder’s cut apple, which is aged in American white oak bourbon barrels, is Ozan’s best-selling wine. An apple dessert wine, this flavor profile flaunts toasted vanilla flavors and rich, golden hues that delight most all who sample it.

All of these tastes are more both newcomers and longtime customers can look forward to on Ozan’s newly designed menu, including the newly added granita wine slushies. The business will also be introducing tapas tastings on Friday nights from 4-7 p.m. throughout the season.

“We’re quiet and quaint,” Sylvie says. “When you want to relax, this is the place to go. You’re out here in the middle of the woods sitting at a vineyard that feels like you’re in Italy. You don’t get that experience from anywhere else from a winery in Alabama. With so many activities, it’s a well-rounded experience for whatever you want.”

Ozan Vineyard, Winery and Spirits is located at 173 County Road 301 in Calera. It is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and on Sunday from noon-6 p.m. Visit to learn more.

Sommelier’s Recommendations

These recommendations and more can be found at

Tall Patch Sauvignon Blanc

A refreshing and richly bodied food-versatile white best paired with simply grilled fish, chicken or vegetable skewers.

Chilton County Peach

One-hundred percent Alabama Chilton County peaches are utilized for this “Southern” wine, yielding a semi-sweet, fruit-forward flavor profile.

Blueberry Port Style

This wine boasts one-half-pound of blueberries (that are aged and finished in a port-styled wine) in every bottle.

Tall Patch Pinot Noir

With aromas of spice, cherries, strawberries and vanilla, as well as hints of fruit flavors, this wine is recommended to serve with roasted or grilled chicken.

Tall Patch Merlot

This fruit-forward red wine offers a rich taste and decadence. Ozan recommends serving it with Italian-inspired dishes.