Winery tours, tastings beckon
tourists to North Georgia
Photo: Kaya Vineyard and Winery in Dahlonega. Suzanne Van Atten/AJC
Once upon a time, if you were sipping a wine made in Georgia, your beverage most likely was made from fermented peaches, apples or blackberries. If it were made from grapes at all, scuppernongs or muscadines would have been the fruit of choice.
My, how times have changed.
The North Georgia mountains are now home to more than 20 wineries crafting cabernets, sauvignon blancs, merlots and chardonnays from vinifera and French-American hybrid grapes, at least 40 percent of them grown in Georgia soil.
Some of those Georgia-made wines are gaining a reputation among oenophiles, too. Tiger Mountain Vineyards near Clayton won three silver medals this year in the Los Angeles International Wine Competition for its 2015 Sweet Petit, 2014 Tannat and 2016 Rosé. Meanwhile, Travel & Leisure magazine named Cottage Vineyard & Winery in Cleveland one of the top 25 wineries in the country, based on data collected from Yelp reviews.
And it is a rapidly expanding industry.
Photo: Erika Gombosova, Queens, N.Y., smells her wine before tasting it at Frogtown Cellars in Dahlonega.
Georgia has 57 wineries today, and that number is expected to double in the next five years, she says.
All that winemaking has had a big impact on the tourism industry in the North Georgia mountains. You can hardly throw a stone in Lumpkin, Rabun or White counties without hitting a winery.
On weekends, visitors flock to the area to sample wines and nibble on cheese while taking in the breathtaking beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Each winery has its own appeal. Some are elegant, others are quite casual and some are in between. The only way to know which one suits your style is to pay them a visit. Here are a few to get you started.
Three North Georgia wineries
Approaching from the east on Damascus Road, Frogtown Cellars makes quite an impression. The bright white Victorian tasting room sits high up on a hill overlooking 57 rolling acres of vineyards. The view from the top is equally impressive once you take in the matching white pavilion and 3-acre lake surrounded by vineyards below. It’s no wonder this is a popular spot for hosting weddings. Tastings are $14-$22 for five wines, and a café serves paninis and cheese plates on the weekends, as well as Sunday brunch.
Info: Noon-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 11 a.m-6 p.m. Saturday, 12:30-5 p.m Sunday. Bistro Café open until 3:30 p.m. Friday-Sunday. Sunday brunch, 12:30-2:30 p.m. 700 Ridge Point Drive, Dahlonega. 706-865-0687, www.frogtown.us. A second tasting room is at 7495 Union Road, Hahira. Noon-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday, noon-1 p.m. Friday, noon-6 p.m. Saturday, 12:30-6 p.m. Sunday. Paninis available daily.
Speaking of views, the stunning 180-degree panorama of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the wide stone terrace and covered patio at Kaya is hard to rival. One of the area’s newest wineries, Kaya has breathed new life into Blackstock Vineyards, which closed in 2012. Future plans include building a 22-room hotel with a restaurant, 15 cottages and a 300-person-capacity event venue. For now, the winery hosts weddings, winery tours ($35) and group tours ($25). Tastings are $12-$15 for five wines, available Wednesdays-Sundays, as is a small menu of sandwiches and cheese plates. The Spirit of Harvest Festival and Concert Weekend will be held Sept. 23-24, featuring the music of Bryan White, James David Carter, Jason Michael Carroll and Ashley McBryde. Tickets, $65-115.
Info: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 12:30-5 p.m. Sunday. 5400 Town Creek Road, Dahlonega. 706-219-3514, www.kayavineyards.com
Opened in 2012, Cottage is a family-run winery operated by Jim and Sandra Penner, and their son Nathan Beasley. The tasting room is located in a one-room structure that, from a distance, looks like a stable with large picture windows or perhaps a small church, due to the cross on the roof. Inside, visitors can sample five wines for $10 or eight for $14. They can also order a frozen wine drink or choose from an assortment of craft beers. Wine and cheese plates are available for purchase on weekends, and guests can bring in their own food. There’s live music Saturday and Sunday, as well as a Jesus ‘n’ Jeans church service Sundays at 10:30 a.m.
Info: 11:55 a.m.-6:02 p.m. Monday-Friday, 11:55 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, 12:35-6:02 p.m. Sunday. 5050 Ga. 129 North, Cleveland. 706-865-0053, www.cottagevineyardwinery.com