New: Part II of our tour of Sautee Nacoochee, Ga.: Yonah Mountain Vineyards. Click
What's ahead this summer in North Georgia's wine country:
-July 15: Riverside Gourmet, Rome: Italian Wine Tasting, July 15th, 6:30 p.m., with Jenny Swab from Vinifera Wine Imports. A $10 tasting fee will be refunded with your wine purchase.
-July 17, Also at BlackStock: First release of the dry Reserve Touriga.
-July 17, Bastille Day Celebration Dinner at Persimmon Creek Vineyards. 5- course dinner served with wine pairings, prepared by Chef Virginia Willis; $95 per person; reservation required.
-July 17, Crane Creek Vineyards, Pasta Dinner: Dinner begins with a 7 p.m. cocktail hour and then a three-course dinner. $55 per person, includes wine.
-July 18 and 25, Wolf Mountain Vineyards, A Celebration of Napa Cuisine, Jazz & Bubbles. Featuring recipes from Napa Valley's renowned restaurants and Wolf Mountain favorites paired with our Family of Estate Wines, Live Jazz and the release of our new vintage of Sparkling Wines. The cost is $30 per person plus tax and gratuity and wine by the glass or bottle is available at an additional price. Seatings at 12:30 and 2:30pm
-July 24, Picnic Saturday at Persimmon Creek Vineyards. Picnic lunch, bottle of wine, 2 etched wine glasses; $50 per couple; reservation required.
-July 24, release party (5-8 p.m.) at Naturally Georgia in Dahlonega: TigerMountain Vineyards '09 Petit Nanseng.
-Aug. 21, Annual Tomato Festival, Crane Creek Vineyards, 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. The pitch: "Celebrate the fruit of the other vine with your friends and family at Crane Creek Vineyards! Local restaurants and food vendors will be out giving away samples of their cuisine. Chef David and his Culinary Team will be preparing lunch for everyone with all things tomato. This is a great day of food and wine! Tickets will be sold at the door: adults $20, ages 13-20 $10, children under 12 free. Ticket price includes wine tasting, souvenir wine glass, lunch and admission to all of the activities."
First of two parts on this emerging, family friendly wine region near Helen, Ga.
On July 10, Yonah Mountain Vineyards had something to toast: one year of serving some of the nicer wines flowing from the Dahlonega-Helen-Young Harris-Rabun County wine region of North Georgia. Based on the wines sampled during our recent visit, Yonah Mountain was well stocked to serve all patrons at that party and the events to come.
Just down Ga. 17 from another relative newcomer, Sautee Nacoochee Vineyards, Yonah Mountain's tasting room is a lively, comfortable stop for four free samples or a full sample of its wines as well as a souvenir glass for $10 or for a bottle of the growing wine list ($12.50 to $36 per bottle before discounts begin at four bottles).
We did the deluxe tasting featuring 10 wines with the Serenity Cellars Radiance Rose topping our list. It is a careful blend of Cabernet Savignon, Franc and even Merlot. Yonah Mountain describes it as a "full-bodied European style rose." A close second was Serenity Cellars 2008 Viognier, a tasty white wine with a slight fruit taste.
Next from the Serenity Cellars family came 2009 New Vogh and 2008 Majestic as well as Yonah Mountain 2008 Chardonnay; 2006 Genesis; Bearly Sweet White, Rose and Red; and a final surprise, Traminette. We'll tempt you on the Traminette: it has a grapefruit taste almost, different from most wines. Try it out of curiosity if nothing else.
The tasting room is as fun as any we've enjoyed in our tours of North Georgia wineries. The crowd on this particular June Saturday afternoon was charged and a good mix of 20 somethings as well as a few of us older sippers. Adding to the day was the WineSong performance featuring Monica Spears.
Spears' performance underlines another thing we like about Yonah Mountain. While one of the smaller outfits in the North Georgia region, the winery's owners think big--or thing creatively. Yonah Mountain offers a monthly First Friday event. On July 17, another Tour de la Cave and Barrel Tasting was set (noon), giving visitors a taste of what's to come and also a tour of the vineyards area itself (the tasting room is separate). The 'tours' are held the third Saturday of each month.
An extra perk for those tasting with families: In the same rustic center as Yonah Mountain, you'll find Elfmade Wooden Toys, a unique store of handmade wood items. This true mom-and-pop shop offers toys made from reclaimed or discarded wood and allows kids to buy and paint whatever is on display (photo, right). Our son bought and crafted a ping-pong ball shooter. It is a harmless, clever toy powered by clothes pins and rubber bands. Every office needs one. Elfmade Wooden Toys even does birthday parties, and is open daily except Wednesdays. Just as important: the toys are very affordable. Stop by to see Marie Carr or contact her via the website.
What to know about Yonah Mountain Vineyards:
-Tasting room: 706-878-1056. Address: 2454-B Highway 17, Sautee Nacoochee, Ga. 30571
-Tasting room hours: Noon until 5 Monday-Thursday; until 6 Friday; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday; 12:30-5 p.m. Sunday.
-Admission/tasting: Free (four samples) or a complete sampler and keepsake glass, $10 per person.
-We recommend you use the Facebook account: Facebook
-Our favorite: Serenity Cellars Radiance Rose. $16 a bottle..
-Per bottle prices range from $12.50 to $26.
Why is Sautee Nacoochee a family friendly blend of wineries?
Especially during the summer season, nearby Helen offers a wonderful list of family friend activities. Perhaps the most relaxing is a trip down the river on glorified inner tubes. Several Helen-area companies offer a variety of slow-flowing trips down the river. You can pick the estimated time and that's how they decide to drop you and dozens of others off. The flow time depends on the depth of the river, the current and your own pace (buy one of the sticks offered at each spot; you'll need it to better navigate). After a morning or early afternoon on the tubes, the kids can go to a water park or hit some of the multiple putt-putt golf courses in Helen. Lots of shops and restaurants will keep the family busy as well. So will a few gem and stone mining operations. For a comprehensive list of what to do, click HelenGa.