Just a short drive north of Atlanta sits the town of Dahlonega. Once the center of our country’s first gold rush, it’s now the heart of Georgia’s burgeoning wine industry. With five wineries (and another expected to open next summer) on the outskirts of town, many Atlantans flock to sample Dahlonega’s new “gold” – the Chardonnays, Pinot Grigios and Viogniers – against an autumnal backdrop of gold and red foliage.
Georgia’s Wine Country didn’t really begin to take shape until the late 1970s. Prior to that, “Georgia Wine” usually referred to wine made from the state’s native Muscadine grapes. Even though north Georgia’s climate and landscape created prime grape-growing conditions, fine wines didn’t flourish here until Prohibition ended and agricultural technologies allowed farmers to better grow European wine grape varieties.
Whether you’re a viticulturist or just a visitor to Dahlonega, you can tour the wineries and participate in tastings most days of the week at the following vineyards year-round: Montaluce Vineyard, Wolf Mountain Vineyards, Three Sisters Vineyards, BlackStock Vineyard and Winery and Frogtown Cellars. Throughout the fall and winter, many have harvest and holiday festivals, as well “release” celebrations that pair wine and food with the release of a new year’s product.
When you’ve finished tasting, touring or simply buying gift bottles for friends and family, you can nip over to Dahlonega’s charming town square to shop antiques, indulge in a few sweet treats, browse art galleries or visit the Gold Museum.
Fall and winter are beautiful times to head up there, but you can find special goings-on throughout the year. Fans of the winery tours can return to the town in the summer for the Georgia Wine Country Festival. Bluegrass jams, Heritage Days, Celtic Music Festivals and Gold Rush Days are just a few of the many other events hosted annually.
At the end of November, the town will kick-off its month-long Old Fashioned Christmas Festival with the lighting of the town square. From now through December 20, you can also tour the Southern Living Idea House in Dahlonega’s Achasta neighborhood. And this weekend, Dahlonega is the site of the annual HemlockFest, a musical festival that raises funds and public awareness to help save the eastern and Carolina Hemlock trees.
Did you know Dahlonega was such a viticultural powerhouse? Have you ever toured or attended a tasting at one of Georgia’s wineries? If so, how do Georgia winery tours compare to those you may have attended in more “traditional” wine regions (like California or France)? Would you travel to Dahlonega just for the wine?
If you’re not into wine, what are some of your favorite things to do when you’re in Dahlonega? Do you go there for any of the yearly festivals? Which is your favorite?