You may be surprised that land in North GA is quite decent for wine production. Wine makers have taken note and built some stunning wineries. On your next Atlanta visit or if you are an Atlanta resident, put Georgia Wine Country on your radar.
“Wines from Georgia?” you are thinking. I had my doubts which were put to rest after a visit to wineries in both Cleveland and Dahlonega. Here are six wineries in North Georgia that are worth the one and a half hour drive from Atlanta.
If beautiful vistas are what you are after, you need to visit, Cottage Winery in Helen. When it isn’t crowded you’ll easily be able to snag the swing chair that overlooks the beautiful mountain. Inside the tasting room has floor to ceiling windows all around, so you won’t miss any of the views if the weather isn’t the best.
If you enjoy sweet or slightly sweet wines, then order the Baby Doll or the Southern Sass. The latter is a muscadine. But the Baby Doll is truly unique. This rose that leans to the sweet side is made from combining Riesling with the lesser known Traminette for a balanced finish. For reds, I loved the Syrah with notes of blackberry and peppercorn. The Cottage Winery is open daily and you can get 5 tastings for $7, or 8 tastings for $10.
Dahlonega’s Kaya is a lovely new winery with big plans into becoming a total weekend retreat. Kaya’s Tasting Room is 1,600 feet up and offers one of the most panoramic mountain views in North Georgia. Future plans include building cabins for weekend getaways.
Whatever you try, don’t miss the Oola red wine at Kaya if it is available. Any red wine fan will fall in love with it. However, a Trifecta (2015) is quite dazzling as well. Of fall the wineries visited, Kaya’s wines are the most affordable. On weekends, Kaya features a guitarist with a velvety voice to serenade you while you enjoy the dog friendly patio. Tastings start at $11, and the winery is open Wednesdays through Sundays.
On my initial visit, five years ago, the winery was much smaller. In fact, they even had wines other than their own. But it’s truly come into it’s own in the last year or two. The winery is open daily and tours are free, but it’s best to book the $45 tour and five-wine tasting. Then stay for dinner at Le Vigne, the restaurant on site which overlooks the vineyard. The cuisine at this Tuscan-style winery is just as incredible as the luscious wine. The property even has beautiful villas on site where you can stay overnight though it is quite pricey.
Serenity has several features that set it apart from the other wineries. Upon entering you’ll walk through their beautiful courtyard. I can only imagine how pretty this is on a summer night all lit up with the soothing sounds of the water fountain off to the side. The actual tasting room is small, but with some gourmet spreads you can purchase to enjoy with your wine. Yes, they’ll recommend which ones to go with which wine. Think goat cheese and pepper jelly. One of my favorites here was the Traminette with lychee and apricot notes though the La Famiglia Rosso was also exquisite with notes of Raspberry and caramel.
Besides the tasting room they have a grotto which is just around the back of the property that can be used for dinners and has a stage for live music. Plus, they have a pizza oven, and as long as you purchase a wine tasting, they’ll heat up any pizza you bring. Note: no pizzas are available for sale. Tastings are $10 for 7 samples. The winery is open daily and closed on Christmas.
Food, wine and fairies? Yes, that’s right. The wines here have fairies on the labels. Plus, they’ve got an excellent chef producing excellent foods that compliment the wine perfectly. After a heavy dinner paired with wine the last thing you want to do is drive back to your hotel, right? Well, at Sylvan Valley, you don’t have to. Just book a room on site. Note that the tasting room is only open on Fridays and Saturdays. Taste 6 wines for $12.
Yonah is the beautiful mountain that can be seen from the many wineries in Cleveland, close to Helen. Yonah is also the Cherokee word for “bear” which you’ll see as their logo. Want to see a magnificent winery that has spared no expense? Yonah Mountain Vine yards is it. Built for special events (mostly weddings), there are also several smaller rooms for meetings and dinners, even wine caves where some special wine dinners take place.
Though I’m not a Chardonnay fan, the un-oaked, buttery Chardonnay was delightful. But the Genesis 7, a blend of Malbec, Merlot and several other reds was my favorite. Tastings start at $10, and the winery is open every day.
Our group had the luxury of being escorted to the wineries by VIP Southern Tours. Husband and wife team Charles and Christina Ernst (pictured below) operate the wine tours and they offer various wine tours for the wineries of White County. In operation since 2013, they really know how to give guests and incredible experience. The comfortable rides include plush seating and usb charging ports available at each seat.
You can book a tour for any day of the week visiting some of the wineries included in this article. Prices start at $99 and include four wineries, a picnic lunch, and all transportation. Every Sunday they offer a “happy hour” priced tour that includes transportation, 3 wineries,over 20 wine tastings for $89! Their service includes pick up and return within a 10 mile radius of downtown Helen.
Since it is only a one and a half hour drive to these wineries from Atlanta, you could certainly make a day trip of it. But my recommendation is to take your time and enjoy each winery for its merits. Do the tasting and pick your favorite vino, then relax and enjoy a glass or two instead of rushing off to the next winery. Many wineries have live music or festivals (especially in the fall), so totally worth spending the afternoon or even overnight.
Rent a cabin or stay at one of the nearby hotels (Holiday Inn is a beautiful modern hotel in Helen) to make a fun weekend trip at the wineries. Holiday Inn’s modern hotel features an indoor pool, touch sensor lighting, and more in the heart of Helen. What are you waiting for?