When I think of Georgia, I don’t think good wine. Just because you can grow wine grapes, doesn’t mean you should. I figured that was the case in Georgia, but since I was spending the weekend in the mountains, might as well give it a try.
Figuring out which wineries to visit in northeast Georgia wasn’t easy. There are very few reviews and even the Winegrowers Association of Georgia doesn’t list every winery.
So I decided to start with the options closest to my location and narrow it down to only those wineries that grow all their own grapes and focus on low yield production. And I was impressed!
Though there was a lot of sweet wines, there were also some solid “serious” wines, typically the varietals that grow best in hot humid climates — Traminette, Norton, Tannat, Chambourcin.
Crane Creek Vineyards in Young Harris, GA was the first stop and I had a healthy amount of skepticism going in. They do live music. They offer a wine and painting class. Not the characteristics of a winery serious about the wine. But don’t let that stop you!
The tasting room is a cute converted little house with a good amount of outdoor seating spaced generously throughout the yard. They have over a dozen wines on the tasting sheet and you can do 2 tastes for free or 5 tastes for $5. All the grapes are grown onsite. The two dry reds were good, but they really excel at the dry and off dry whites which have plenty of flavor and well balanced acidity.
Be sure to say hi to at least one of the 3-4 resident canines.
Located near Helen, GA, Tiger Mountain is doing some impressive things with Georgia grapes. Be kind to any passengers in your car though and take it easy going over the switchbacks to get there. It’s $10 to taste 7 wines and includes complimentary local cheeses which are amazing.
The tasting room is half barrel storage and the tasting glasses are real! Always a good sign. No little souvenir glasses without room to swirl. Their dry Petit Manseng is quite impressive, so is the price — $45. The rest are more reasonably priced and they’re doing a great job with Tannat and Norton, though I preferred their blends such as the Mountain Cyn. The dry rose was the only unimpressive option in the bunch.
Definitely plan to incorporate lunch or dinner at the charming Red Barn cafe located behind the winery.
Not quite as impressive as the other two vineyards, but Hightower Creek Vineyards outside of Hiawasee, GA is definitely worth a stop. Their premium (dry) wines are a little overshadowed by the live music and gift shop dominating the tasting room, but they’re doing some nice wines and the owners are unbelievably friendly.
For $5 you get enormous pours of 5 wines. Definitely check out the Epiphany white blend of Vignoles, Seyval, and Traminette and the Deliverance red blend of Cab Franc, Merlot, and Norton. Their vines have been around since 2009, but the tasting room didn’t open until 2012.
And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the wine slushies are actually worth trying…
Georgia wineries have come a long way in the last 10 years! And they’re definitely geared for a good family experience with entertainment and options for both serious wine drinkers and those who love to sip sweet wine.