A while ago we spent a couple of weeks driving around the north Georgia mountains, doing some hiking and visiting wineries. Georgia wines are a pleasant surprise and deserve more attention. In general, their quality is good and the wineries are fun to visit. Having planned this trip for the spring but after having to postpone we didn’t update our information before heading out. Discovering too late that many of the wineries have reduced hours for summer or were closed. This discovery meant we had to modify much of our plan going forward. Be sure you update days and hours before you head out and pay attention to sample pricing, as each winery has a different charge for sampling.
We started out driving north through Atlanta stopping for lunch at the famous Varsity Hot Dogs next to the campus of Georgia Tech. We had heard a lot about this institution and it turned out to be much bigger than we expected and the food was remarkably good. After lunch we left Atlanta heading north to the small town of Oakwood and our first night on the road.
Early the next morning we headed for the Atlanta Botanical Garden in Gainesville. The gardens are reasonably new and diverse featuring over 1,200 different plants including 80 varieties of magnolias, oaks and maples. There are some nice lily ponds and a mountain stream flowing through the plantings. The gardens are also home to an impressive concert series in the summer.
From the gardens we drove to Amicalola Falls Lodge inside the state park. The lodge was great, with modern, well furnished rooms. It sits atop the tallest cascading waterfall in the Southeast (729 feet). The falls are paralleled by a staircase with 604 steps and the park is also crossed by The Appalachian Trail. That evening it was a treat sitting out on the deck of the lodge watching a mountain sunset. The Lodge also has a decent restaurant with reasonable prices.
While in the area we visited The Cottage Winery in Cleveland, and Cavendar Creek Vineyards, Montaluce Winery and Wolf Mountain Vineyards & Winery near Dahlonega, Georgia. Dahlonega is a quant mountain town that also offers tasting rooms for many of the region’s wineries – sort of one stop shopping and tasting.
From Dahlonega we traveled over to the Alpine town of Helen. The town has been a tourist destination for a number of years. Our first stop in Helen was the Habersham Winery with a nice tasting presentation and gift shop. Years ago the town rebuilt itself as an Alpine village featuring Bavarian food and gifts and offers a number of interesting restaurants and accommodations. The town is also popular for the tubing stream that flows through it. We had lunch at The Old Bavaria Inn, an old-world tavern specializing in imported beers and classic German fare.
After Helen we drove up Brasstown Bald, the highest peak in Georgia at 4,784 feet above sea level. While at the National Park Service facility at the top we got caught in a thunderstorm which brought a bit of excitement to the afternoon, with lightening, thunder and clouds rolling by. After the storm we drove to Hiawassee on Lake Chatuge , checked in to The Lake Chatuge Lodge and then visited the Crane Creek Vineyards in Young Harris for Friday happy hour. It appeared that we should have made reservations as it is a very popular evening event in the area. The staff, however, was very accommodating and we bought cheese, crackers and a bottle of their dry rosé making a great ending to the day.
The Chatuge Lodge is within walking distance of the Fred Hamilton Gardens and the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds. The Fairgrounds opened in 1978, and are home
to several popular events throughout the year including the Georgia Mountain Fair, Georgia Mountain Moonshine Cruizin, Georgia Mountain Fall Festival, Superstar concerts, and Georgia’s Official State Fiddlers’ Convention. Any of those events have impact on room availability and rates so, if you’re planning on going, check dates and make plans well in advance. In the same area we also visited Odom Springs and Paradise Hills Wineries.
We left the lake early Sunday morning and headed for brunch at Tiger Mountain Vineyards & Winery which turned out to be the high point of the trip. The wine and food were delicious. Their Red Barn Café was selected as a top-ten winery restaurant by USA Today and our wine choice, Petit Manseng won a gold medal at the San Francisco International Wine Competition. We would highly recommend this Sunday Brunch.
After leaving brunch we made a brief stop at “Goats on the Roof” in Tiger, a throwback tourist stop featuring gifts, food, ice cream and yes – goats on the roof. We then headed for Tallulah Gorge and another long hike. This is a beautiful and rugged area and was the setting of the Burt Reynolds movie Deliverance as well as Disney’s The Great Train Chase.
Tallulah has an interesting visitors’ center and a number of trails with steps that go to Tempeste and Hurricane Falls and then further down into the gorge. To go beyond the main trail into the creek to slide on the rocks, you need a permit. Only a small number are issued each morning so you need to be there when the park opens.
After a day in the gorge we headed for Mark of the Potter in Clarkesville, an interesting store featuring local pottery and crafts. If you’re looking for additional information on Georgia wineries click on each name below:
- CAVENDER CREEK VINEYARDS AND WINERY 3610 Cavender Creek Road, Dahlonega, GA 30533 Phone: 770-823-9255
- CENITA VINEYARDS, WINERY AND TASTING ROOM 591 Dock Dorsey Road, Cleveland, GA 30528 Phone: 706-865-7478
- CHATEAU MEICHTRY VINEYARDS . 1862 Orchard Lane, Talking Rock, GA 30175 Phone: 706-502-1608
- CRANE CREEK VINEYARDS 916 Crane Creek Road, Young Harris, GA 30582 Phone: 706-379-1236
- ENGELHEIM VINEYARDS 127 Lakeview Road, Ellijay, GA Phone: 706-635-9463
- FAINTING GOAT VINEYARDS 201 Vineyard Way, Jasper, GA 30143
- HABERSHAM WINERY 7025 S. Main St., Helen, GA 30545 Phone: 706-878-9463
- HIGHTOWER CREEK VINEYARDS, LLC 7150 Canaan Drive, Hiawassee, GA 30546 Phone: 706-896-8963
- MONTALUCE WINERY & ESTATES 501 Hightower Church Road, Dahlonega, GA 30533 Phone: 706-867-4060
- ODOM SPRINGS VINEYARD 637 Odom Rd, Blairsville, GA 30512 Phone: 706-745-3094
- PARADISE HILLS WINERY RESORT AND SPA 366 Paradise Road, Blairsville, GA 30512 Phone: 877-745-7483
- SERENBERRY VINEYARDS Morganton, GA 30560 Phone: 706-623-8463
- SERENITY CELLARS 265 Laurel Ridge Rd, Cleveland, GA 30528 Phone: (706) 348-1277
- SHARP MOUNTAIN VINEYARDS 110 Rathgeb Trail, Jasper, GA 30143 Phone: 770-735-1210
- STONEWALL CREEK VINEYARDS 323 Standing Deer Lane, Tiger, GA 30576
- TIGER MOUNTAIN VINEYARDS & WINERY 2592 Old Hwy 44, Dahlonega, FA 30533 Phone: 706-782-4777
- WOLF MOUNTAIN VINEYARDS 180 Wolf Mountain Trail, Dahlonega, GA 30533 Phone: 706-867-9862