I love Florida… the beaches, palm trees and sunshine make it my happy place. But even a true Florida girl needs a break from the summer heat. My escape? The Northeast Georgia Mountains. I enjoyed a long weekend tasting wine, searching for waterfalls, and enjoying the great outdoors.
NE Georgia is home to miles and miles of mountain trails, spectacular waterfalls, and over a dozen wineries.
Unfortunately, a weekend is not enough time to experience them all so we focused on the Unicoi Wine Trail, a tour of 6 local wineries and their tasting rooms. Each was unique and featured local wines with breathtaking views.
1. Habersham Vineyards and Winery
Located at the Nacoochee Village, one half mile from Alpine Helen, the winery is one of Georgia’s oldest and largest wineries.
It is open daily for complimentary tastings.
In addition to a large selection of Georgia grown wine, the tasting room also features a gift shop with gourmet foods, imported cheese and specialty items from around the world.
2. Sautee Nacoochee Vineyards
This winery is nestled in the beautiful Sautee and Nacoochee Valley. The Family Farm Winery creates hand-crafted wines with a personal touch. The casual tasting room overlooks the vineyard.
The winery is owned by a married couple Hue and Jane, and Jane’s brother Bill. We met Jane during our tasting and learned of her love of wine and entertaining. The Vineyard hosts “hallowine” each year on October 31st, an opportunity to celebrate Halloween with wine rather than candy. Unfortunately for their patrons, the vineyard will be closing in December of this year. Jane shared with us that it was time to retire and slow down. Be sure to stop by if you are on the trail and wish them well.
Serenity Cellars is a family owned, boutique winery specializing in Old World style wines. The Tuscan style tasting room celebrates the fusion of wine, music and art.
The Winery offers live music every weekend on an outdoor stage with the vineyard as a backdrop.
One thing that makes this place unique is the wood fired oven located on the grotto. Guests bring their favorite pizza toppings, gather around the oven with wine in hand, and enjoy the mountain air as the pizzas are prepared. What a perfect girls nights out!
4.Sylvan Valley Lodge and Winery
I stayed at the Sylvan Valley Lodge and Winery, a rustic bed and breakfast with a magnificent view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
My first evening at the Lodge, I enjoyed jazz and tapas paired with local wines and a view of Yonah Mountain.
Each month the Lodge hosts a different North Georgia winemaker at a dinner highlighting their wines.
This Bed and Breakfast is a fantastic place to return to each evening after a day of exploring. The rooms have semi private balconies, large jetted tubs and the Lodge is centrally located on the wine trail.
5. The Cottage Vineyard and Winery
The Cottage Vineyard and Winery offers an amazing 360 degree view of the North Georgia mountains.
The breathtaking view has made the Winery a top choice for weddings. Owner Jim is ordained and performs the ceremonies. A wedding planner as well as a selection of fabulous wine is provided.
6.Jonah Mountain Vineyards
This Winery was my favorite. With an unforgettable view of the mountain, perfectly manicured gardens, and a variety of opportunities for tasting and tours, I wished that I had more time to spend here.
The Wine Cave Tour and Tasting is a 90 minute walking tour. Sample nine wines as you tour the only known wine caves in Georgia.
The tour is $30 per person and includes a take-home YMV wine glass.
Tours are available Saturdays – 12:00noon, 1:30pm, and 3:00pm
Sundays – 1:30pm
I was able to meet and chat with the owner, Bob Miller, about what it is like to own a Vineyard, what makes wine great, and the history of Yonah Mountain. The energetic Bob even played the piano to enter his guests.
Located in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the quant town of Helen began as a home to the Cherokee. Later European settlers came for the gold and timber. Today this Bavarian Alps replica town in Appalachian Georgia, is home to Oktoberfest. I could almost taste the beer and German bratwursts.
Cool River Adventures provides a zipline course with two aerial bridges and four lines as well as a climbing wall.
The big adventure course has eleven elements and a short zip line. The smaller adventure course has five elements and a short zip line. Packages run from $15 to $65 depending on level of difficulty.
Cool River Tubing offers two $5 trip options, a one-hour float and a two-hour float. If once isn’t enough, you can opt for our all-day pass. For just $9, you can do either trip as many times as you want between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m
The NE Georgia Mountains and the Chattahoochee National Forest are home to some amazing waterfalls. We were able to experience two of these beautiful falls.
Just north of the Alpine village of Helen, Anna Ruby Falls is adjacent to Unicoi State Park. The rare double waterfall is formed by Curtis and York Creek from Tray Mountain. The trail to the Falls is an easy to moderate paved climb, although quite steep, with bridged crossings of Smith Creek. The observation decks provide an excellent view of both waterfalls.
Dukes Creek Falls Trail involves a moderate 2 mile round trip hike through a peaceful, mountain stream-filled forest. The trail’s relatively short length and moderate elevation make it a popular hike for families with kids… or those hikers who have difficulty adjusting to the elevation. (Yes, that would be me). The trail was not very clearly marked and we took a wrong turn which just added to the adventure. The trail ends at the massive waterfall which drops over 150 feet down a sheer granite canyon into Dukes Creek.
My weekend in Georgia was over too quickly. I highly recommend at least three days to explore the area. With over 20 wineries and beautiful scenery, the location is perfect for couples wanting a romantic getaway. The miles of hiking trails, magnificent waterfalls, and outdoor recreation would also provide a great family vacation. For me, it was a chance to unplug, cool off, and enjoy the beauty of the mountains.