11th Annual Wine Highway Weekend
Mar 09, 2016 06:03PM ● Published by Ryan Frisch
Wine Highway Passports, which include a souvenir tasting glass, will be for sale ($40) both weekends at all participating farm wineries. The Passport will include a farm winery map with tasting room locations and a list of WAG affiliate members who support the North Georgia wine industry. Look for WAG affiliate tasting rooms that will also be open for the event.
Plan Your Wine Adventure
The 21 farm wineries stretch across eight counties in North Georgia Wine Country, so decide on your first stop, buy your passport, pick out your souvenir tasting glass and hit the road. It’s time to find out what makes Georgia Wine so special!
As you travel our winding mountain roads, be safe and take your time. Some tasters invite a non-drinking friend as designated driver or hire a limousine or van. Most of the tasting rooms will offer food samplings and some will feature music. So, sit back and stay a while. You might take a stroll through a vineyard or two. March is a quiet time in our North Georgia vineyards. Pruning is over for the most part and the vines are awakening from their winter sleep and beginning their march to harvest with Bud Break. (Bring your passport and tasting glass each day you plan to taste.)
See www.georgiawine.com (affiliate members), www.exploregeorgia.com or county Chamber of Commerce websites for local dining, hotel or bed and breakfast accommodations and activities. In Rabun County, see also www.explorerabun.com.
North Georgia Grape Varieties
Most North Georgia vineyards grow European Vitis vinifera and French-American hybrid grape varieties – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Chardonnay, Viognier, Petit Manseng, Tannat, Tourgia Nacional, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Sangiovese, Traminette, Seyval Blanc and Vidal Blanc. Some also grow the Norton grape, long considered an American variety but recent DNA testing “suggests” a French-American hybrid. Most of these grapes are destined for dry wines. Some wineries also offer sweet wines, with the majority made from the Muscadine grape (Vitis rotundifolia), native to the Southeast. In fact, Georgia (South Georgia that is!) leads the world in the production of Muscadine grapes.
Winegrowers Association of Georgia
All of the participating farm wineries are members of WAG, a non-profit corporation that was formed in 2002 to promote and market Georgia wine and to facilitate research in Georgia on viticulture (growing of grapes) and oenology (making of wine). WAG membership requires either a minimum planting in Georgia of one acre of vinifera or French-American hybrid grapes or a minimum of 500 cases of wine produced annually from Georgia-grown vinifera or French-American hybrids.
Mike Brown, who assumed the WAG presidency in February, has seen the wine industry experience “tremendous growth over the last four years, especially in North Georgia. To our organization alone, we have added eight new wineries during that time,” he said.
Mike recalls that the “Wine Highway Weekend started as a way for visitors to tour the member properties and have the opportunity to fully enjoy not only the great wines, but the different experience each property offers.” At the first event 11 years ago, seven farm wineries participated from three counties, Lumpkin, Rabun and White, with an average of 350 visitors. He notes, “As WAG membership increased, event visitation increased to an average high of 1,500. This success caused WAG to hold the event over two weekends and allow visitors to comfortably visit all of our member properties while having a more enjoyable and relaxed experience.”
He points out, “During the weekdays in between the highway weekends, many WAG properties are open and will gladly accept your passport. Please check the hours and days of operation of the farm wineries at www.georgiawine.com.
“We look forward to seeing you during the event, and know you will enjoy a great experience! Please remember to use a designated driver to ensure a great and most importantly safe time!” Mike Brown, WAG President
Although WAG is the largest winegrowers organization based in North Georgia, there are other farm wineries located in the area with sponsored events and activities during the year.
Time to Discover Georgia Wine!