Who knew rolling hills, open grasslands and beautiful vineyards exist right here in the south, in Georgia? A two hours drive from metro Atlanta, landed me in the midst of the Blue Ridge mountains, home to some of Georgia’s finest winegrowers. For an instant, I felt like I was in Napa Valley. But no, I had only driven a few miles on highway 400 North on a crisp clear spring morning.
The Georgia Wine Highway weekend in March hosted the perfect opportunity to spend a day outdoors, exploring the bounties of the peach state. A $25 passport gave me access to 10 vineyards spread out in a wide area across the cities of Helen, Dohlonega, Jasper, Clarkesville and Clayton.
My first stop was at Frogtown Cellars, the most awarded winery in the United States located outside the state of California. An extensive deck full of wine lovers overlooked a scenic vineyard with a backdrop of the mountains at Frogtown. Here I tasted a unique 2008 Frogtown Touche, which was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Tannat grapes. It was the Gold Medal winner at the 2011 Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition.
Next stop was at the Blackstone Vineyards, a fairly larger facility that probably holds private events at their indoor pavilion, outside deck and yard. My favorite here was the Viognier Reserve, a rich, full-bodied voluptuous white wine with more complexity from riper fruit, barrel fermentation and less aging. Perhaps I generally prefer red wines, and this one is aptly named red wine drinker’s white wine” because of its ripe viscosity. For a promotion of only $10, you could buy the perfect bottle to serve at spring brunches or summer dinners.
After about 8-10 tasting, I was feeling a little lightheaded. So I headed over to downtown Helen to the famous German Bakery, Hofers for some fresh sandwiches before going on the rest of the wine tasting tour.
North Georgia wine country is the perfect place for a day long picnic where you can hop around one vineyard to another, enjoy the pristine natural beauty and break away from the city life. My one advise is to pack your own snacks (cheese, crackers, grapes, etc.) for the way. Some of the vineyards also have food available for purchase but selection is limited. Most vineyards are open year round but check the opening times online.
If you want to spend a weekend in the wine country, there are a number of bed and breakfasts and country inns where southern hospitality awaits you. There are also plenty of dining options, antique stores and activities such as mountain biking, golfing, camping and rafting in the area.
For more information, visit The Winegrowers Association of Georgia.