Three trips to take through Georgia’s wine country

What to sip and see

Three trips though Georgia wine country
Montaluce Winery & Restaurant

Photograph by Lila Youngblood

The Dahlonega Plateau

In 2018, the Dahlonega Plateau, a 133-square-mile area in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, was designated an American Viticultural Area, giving it a sort of geographic pedigree. Here are a few of the dozen-plus wineries in North Central Georgia.

1 • Accent Cellars
The newest addition to the Dahlonega Plateau bills itself as a “micro urban winery,” and with good reason—from quaint downtown Dahlonega, you can be at Accent in less than five minutes. While most wineries in the area grow their own grapes, Accent crafts wines on-site using grapes grown elsewhere. Its proximity to the city has made it a gathering place for locals and tourists, who come to enjoy live music, comedy nights, and even art classes. Add to the fun with Pet-Nat Rosé, a naturally effervescent blend of cabernet franc and malbec.

2 • Montaluce Winery & Restaurant
Like many of the wineries in the area, Montaluce has embraced its status as a destination. In addition to serving wine, Montaluce hosts weddings and events, and it recently opened its second restaurant, a casual cousin to the original farm-to-table fine dining establishment. Go for the wine, stay for the hiking, fly fishing, and brick-oven pizzas. In fact, there’s so much to do at Montaluce, you might want to rent one of the four Tuscan-style villas on the property so you can experience it all.

3 • Wolf Mountain Vineyards & Winery
Since opening its doors in 2003, Wolf Mountain has drawn visitors with European-style wines and sweeping vistas that might make you forget you’re still in Georgia. Embracing old-world production techniques, Wolf Mountain crafts its sparkling wines using methode Champenoise, a secondary fermentation that takes place entirely in the bottle. Its Blanc de Blancs Brut earned a gold medal in the 2021 Los Angeles International Wine Competition. Wolf Mountain also offers events and gourmet dining options.

4 • Three Sisters Vineyards
Three Sisters is the oldest winery in the area and prides itself on using only Georgia-grown fruit in its wines. It showcases the “terroir” of Lumpkin County and the Dahlonega Plateau with wines that are “estate-grown,” meaning Three Sisters owns all the vineyards that produce fruit for its wines. Try the Vidal blanc, a crisp white with grapefruit-like notes and a finish of Granny Smith apples that can be compared to a sauvignon blanc.

5 • Kaya Vineyard & Winery
While Kaya bills itself as one of the first and largest vineyards in the area, it’s the panoramic views from the tasting room that really deserve bragging rights. Gaze at the Blue Ridge Mountains as you savor Kaya’s Fifth Anniversary Blend, an estate blend of touriga, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot. For more adventure, sign up for an off-road tour of Kaya’s 16 acres of grapevines, or order a picnic lunch and find a quiet spot among the vines. A four-minute drive from Kaya is their restaurant and sister property, Dahlonega Resort and Vineyard, a convenient base camp for exploring the region. —Kaitlin Pease

Three trips though Georgia wine country
Stonewall Creek Vineyards

Courtesy of Stonewall Creek Vineyards

Northeast Georgia’s Scenic Wineries

Drive up to the northeast corner of the state to visit three of Georgia’s most beautiful vineyards. The area is also home to some of the state’s most established wineries.

1 • Crane Creek Vineyards
Getting to the Upper Hiawassee Highlands American Viticultural Area—Georgia’s first AVA, established in 2014 and stretching into North Carolina—takes a little longer than popping up to Dahlonega, but it’s worth the drive, if only to visit Crane Creek Vineyards. The tasting room, with its cozy outdoor stone patio and fireplace, overlooks fields of grapevines, which roll down to a circa-1886 farmhouse turned market and the independently owned Paris & Company Restaurant, where the chef is a Mauritius-born, Paris-trained veteran of prestigious hotels and clubs. Family-owned since 1995, Crane Creek boasts some of the oldest vines in Georgia, and about 60 to 80 percent of its wines are estate-grown. Winemaker Peter Seifarth is the founders’ son and is experimenting with mature vinifera and American heritage vines, but also with modern hybrids like chardonel. The 20-plus-acre property feels very European, but the wines are at the forefront of Georgia’s own winemaking identity.

2 • Stonewall Creek Vineyards
The owners of Stonewall Creek Vineyards, Sandi and Mark Diehl, learned how to make wine from Sandi’s Italian grandmother in Detroit and used to invite neighbors over to make it in their Kennesaw basement. They also helped their friends Carla and Carl Fackler, who had planted some malbec grapes up in Tiger. When Mark retired from his practice as an orthopedic surgeon, the Diehls decided to get serious. They bought the Facklers’ property in 2018 and have continued to expand the operation. Today, Stonewall Creek specializes in European vinifera—their only hybrid is traminette. Don’t miss the cabernet franc, which won silver in the American Wine Society Commercial Competition. Join the wine club to enjoy limited editions like 2019’s Quattro, a blend of estate-grown cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot, and tannat. Stonewall’s intimate patio overlooks hillsides planted with vines punctuated with red rosebushes (traditionally used in vineyards as harbingers of growing conditions but now mostly for show). Pair your tasting with one of Stonewall’s delicious charcuterie platters.

3 • Tiger Mountain Vineyards
The founders of Tiger Mountain Vineyards, John and Martha Ezzard, were pioneers of Georgia’s revived wine industry, establishing European grapes at the Rabun County farm that had been in John’s family for five generations. They produced international award-winning wines from grapes like petit manseng and tannat and opened the seasonal Red Barn Cafe, which drew popular chefs like David Sweeney, formerly of the legendary Dynamic Dish in Atlanta. New owners have big plans for renovating the facilities and are still hosting tastings, live music, and events at the Red Barn’s stone patio, nestled in an idyllic setting among the green hills.  —Betsy Riley

Three trips though Georgia wine country
Cartecay Vineyards

Courtesy of Cartecay Vineyards

Apple-icious Ellijay

While Ellijay is deservedly popular for its apple orchards, the area around this beautiful town is also a worthy wine destination. Its multiple wineries share an evident commitment to quality. Here’s a sampling.

1 • Engelheim Vineyards
Taking the North Georgia wine sampling experience upscale, Engelheim’s Bavarian-style tasting room is reminiscent of a country club. You’ll see the German phrase “Zu Gott die ehre” (which translates to “glory to God”) painted above two large windows, through which you can gaze at the pristine angled vineyards. Engelheim has won more than 20 awards, including a gold medal at the 2018 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition for the 2016 petit manseng, and a silver award in 2019 for the full-bodied Engel Weiss blend of Vidal blanc, pinot grigio, traminette, and petit manseng. Its nutty finish, which follows balanced melon, honey, and citrus notes, is a perfect pour for anyone looking for a well-executed dry white without tipping into sweetness. Fans of red blends should try Doxology, which combines zinfandel, syrah, and petit verdot grapes to create a layered and ambrosial profile of black plum and cherry.

2 • Ott Farms & Vineyard
Don’t let Ott’s low-fi website deter you. The winery offers breathtaking views of North Georgia’s mountains, with contemporary furnishings on a covered patio overlooking cascading vineyards. Certainly one of Ellijay’s most scenic wineries, Ott’s also got a bopping tasting room, where couples will find romantically named wines such as Cherish, Enchantment, and Make Me Blush, sourced from vinifera grapes and French-American hybrids, including traminette, Vidal blanc, and cabernet franc—all grown on 12 of Ott’s 20 acres. Fascination, a dry sauvignon blanc, is a top choice for those seeking a crisp refresher; its notes of snappy green apple and lime are balanced by softening passion fruit and peach, leveling off with lingering fruit flavors without layering on the sweetness. Ott also serves sweeter wines created by other wineries. On the way to the tasting room, stop in the main hall for pimento cheese, smoked trout, or other dips with multigrain chips. There’s also live music every weekend.

3 • Cartecay Vineyards
Ideal for a leisurely al fresco getaway, Cartecay’s setup is more rustic and cabinesque than neighboring Ellijay wineries. The tasting room is a renovated 1890s barn, located between Cartecay’s two vineyard blocks, fancied up to resemble an intimate hunting lodge of sorts. Out front and behind the barn are hammocks, a selfie-ready vineyard bridge, and multicolored umbrellas covering picnic tables. It’s a quirky and friendly place, as unfussy as wineries get, while adamantly pouring only estate wines made from grapes grown on the surrounding 14-acre vineyards, and fermented, produced, and bottled on-site. Styles like the strange and funky Law Man Red are proof of their willingness to get weird; but for those looking to keep things dry, they’ve got a pleasant Vidal blanc, whose minerality and grapefruit notes provide a bit of floral and citrusy zip. Weekends are usually packed with live acoustic performances.

4 • Reece’s Cider Co.
Because this is apple country, and since the processes of making wine and cider are quite similar, stopping by this craft cidery is almost mandatory. The cidery is co-owned by Taner Reece, a fourth-generation farmer and grandson of B.J. Reece, who founded the next-door Ellijay apple orchard in the 1960s. In a large red space, decorated with whiskey barrel furniture and featuring an expansive graveled rear patio with Adirondack chairs beneath stretched tarps, you can sip slow-fermented, flavorful, and aromatic ciders, and play giant Connect 4. The move here is a four-glass cider flight, but be sure to include the semisweet Ol’ Red, one of its flagship pours, which boasts a gorgeous pink hue, uncannily bright apple flavor, and an upticked ABV of 6.5 percent.  —Mike Jordan

This article appears in our November 2022 issue.