History and the arts are part of the draw to North Georgia’s largely undiscovered wine region. The charming town of Dahlonega is at the heart of this thriving tourist destination.
Carved out of Cherokee land, North Georgia experienced significant population growth during America’s first gold rush in the mid 1800’s. It was against this backdrop that Dahlonega was established and later became the site of a Federal mint until it ceased operation at the start of the Civil War. Then in 1873 North Georgia Agricultural College was established and Dahlonega became a “college town.” (The college was redesignated as University of North Georgia in 2013).
Perhaps of even more importance for Dahlonega’s identity—it has long been a place to escape the blistering heat of southern summers. Seasonal migration has always been an economic driver and helps support local artists, artisans and musicians in the town’s thriving arts community. A stroll around the historic town center will reveal numerous art coops and shops filled with locally inspired paintings, sculptures, pottery and other creative wares.
While there are many such establishments, one good example is Canvas and Cork on Meaders Street--adjacent to the town square. The space combines an art gallery with artist studios and an urban tasting room for nearby Cavender Creek Vineyards. Which helps segue to one of the region’s most recent attractions… Wine.
Exploring Wine Country
There are at least 35 wineries north of Atlanta and the best of those are in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Clustered around Dahlonega are several producers of note. These are primarily boutique producers, but range in services from simple tastings and weekend music to full food service and even vineyard accommodations. Here are five of our favorites:
Three Sisters Vineyards & Winery opened shop in 1995 as Lumpkin County’s first winery and the first business to produce alcohol of any kind. They have come a long way since the early days and there is simply no downside to stopping in. Every wine in the lineup is simply stellar, the customer experience is first rate and the venue is simply beautiful.
Cottage Vineyard & Winery near Cleveland offers a nearly 360-degree view of the nearby Appalachian Mountains and Chatahoochee National Forest from the 29-acre property. Just under nine acres of estate vines are devoted to seven different grape varieties. These are crafted into very high-end, award-winning estate wines.
Wolf Mountain Vineyards is perhaps the state's premier winery and they are setting the standard for what is possible in that region. In 1999, the Boegner family purchased their thirty-acre estate high on the Dahlonega Plateau. They planted grapes that include Syrah and Bordeaux varieties grown at elevations above 1400 feet. In addition to a lineup of world-class wines, Wolf Mountain is one of the most beautiful venues on the east coast.
Montaluce Winery & Estates sits on a 400-acre property filled with Italianate villas, woodland and vineyards. This is in addition to the Tuscan-style tasting room and restaurant complex with its commanding hilltop view of the grounds. The 14 acres of estate vines are meticulously managed and supplemented with sourced fruit to create the finest possible wine. Montaluce offers more than a simple tasting experience. The wines can be paired with foods in their restaurant, which is easily one of the best dining experiences in the greater Dahlonega area.
Kaya Vineyard & Winery is just a few minutes northeast of Dahlonega and is undoubtedly one of North Georgia’s most spectacular winery properties. From the jaw-dropping view of the Appalachian Mountains, to the well appointed tasting room, or the estate’s high-end rental cottages, it’s just a lot to take in. The winery bottles between 3000 and 3500 cases of fine wine annually and the tasting room offers light fare for pairings.
Where to Stay
As of this writing, there are no major hotel chains operating in Dahlonega. There are, however, a number of options that include inns, bed and breakfasts or even vineyard accommodations.
We spent a night at Yellow Daisy, a charming little bed and breakfast just a five-minute walk from the downtown arts and dining establishments. Owners Joe and Ellen Mirakovits are perfect hosts and enthusiastic ambassadors for Dahlonega. Their century-old home was built in 1915 as a farmhouse. The tasteful renovations have maintained the historic charm while simultaneously adding modern conveniences. We loved our stay and cannot say enough about the hospitality.
If a vineyard stay is more to your liking, we also spent a couple nights at one of Kaya Vineyard and Winery’s guest cottages. These are really a series of rental homes with multiple bedrooms and a full suite of amenities. These are ideal for families or groups of friends interested in exploring the local area.