Georgia Wine With a View
Back-to-back festivals celebrate the state’s wine industry in June.
by Linda M. Erbele
Sometimes you have to wonder if the GPS is really taking you to a winery. There’ve been so many turns since leaving the main road that you don’t know how the mailman finds it, but discovery is part of the delight when visiting Georgia’s wine region. Once there, stretch out on the tasting room deck, admire the neat rows of vines behind the hillsides and sip what just might be the next gold medal winner.
If your idea of Southern wine is Kool-Aid sweet and made from muscadines, you’re in for a surprise. Georgia is producing Cabernets, Merlots, Viogniers, Chardonnays and a number of excellent blends.
“It used to surprise people that Georgia has a whole wine industry that doesn’t involve muscadines,” says Steve Gipson, president of the Georgia Wine Association. A number of the vineyards, especially in North Georgia, grow European varieties of grapes, producing award-winning varietals. “There’s a tremendous amount of interest,” continues Gipson. “I think the state lists 32 bonded wineries, and several more are very close to becoming bonded.”
Like craft breweries, local wineries produce a product unique to an area, made with a hands-on, personal touch. And people enjoy touring the vineyards, learning how the wines are made and serving them at home. A highlight of touring Persimmon Creek Vineyards in Clayton is holding a bit of the soil in your hand for a better understanding of the provenance, or origin, of the wine.
A number of Georgia wineries are winning medals too, at prestigious international competitions. For just a few examples, look at the accolades that Dahlonega wineries Frogtown Cellars and Wolf Mountain Vineyards and Tiger Mountain Vineyards of Tiger have received.
Rather than take several weekends to explore Georgia’s wineries, you can taste and learn a lot about them in one location this weekend. The fourth-annual Georgia Fine Wine Festival, hosted by BlackStock Winery in Dahlonega, is scheduled for June 4-5. The $50 entry fee includes a festival glass to taste more than 60 Georgia wines, food from 25 North Georgia restaurants and arts and crafts for sale. Music will be provided by the Kip Dockery Jazz Quartet on BlackStock’s deck. (The view from this deck is one of the best in North Georgia and was featured on the cover of the state Department of Transportation’s 2011 map.) There will also be a petting zoo and tractor-pulled vineyard tours.
Participating wineries include: Habersham, Tiger Mountain Vineyards, Wolf Mountain Vineyards, Yonah Mountain Vineyards, Crane Creek Vineyards, Cavender Creek Vineyards and Sautee-Nacoochee Vineyards. Among the restaurants that will be represented are the Blue Bicycle from Dawsonville, the Back Porch Oyster Bar from Dahlonega, Nacoochee Grill from Sautee-Nacoochee, Natalie Jane’s Cafe from Clarkesville and the Corkscrew Café from Dahlonega. (I have eaten at each of those restaurants and putting them all in one place with wine and music is every bit worth the entry and just-over-an-hour’s drive from North Atlanta.
If you don’t get enough Georgia wine at the Fine Wine Festival, about 20 minutes away you can attend the 10th annual Georgia Wine Country Festival at Three Sisters Vineyards. This event runs the first three weekends in June and includes wine, food, art and local exhibits. A variety of music is scheduled, and admission to the festival is free. Entrance to the “Georgia Wine Garden,” which includes a keepsake glass and tastings is $20. Participating wineries in addition to Three Sisters include Chateau Elan, Boutier Winery, the Georgia Winery, Horse Creek Winery and Warm Springs Winery.
Linda Erbele is a professional freelance writer based in Georgia’s wine country. She’s written for Georgia EMC, Brenau Windows, Southern Distinction and Georgia Trend, as well as national publications American City and County, Real Estate Broker and Building Stone Magazine. She also helps build a daily digest of Georgia news and took the top and bottom photos in this story.