You can drink wine anywhere, yet one of the most popular escapes connoisseurs and novices alike seek is a trip to “wine country.” Perhaps it’s a unique way to connect your senses to a timeless natural process in beautiful surroundings that produce a complex product; maybe it’s getting to learn from wineries how their craft is expressed in flavor; or, could it be the rare access to exclusive luxury at the source? One thing is for sure, what attracts us to wine country is not the thousands of dollars it costs for a cross-country flight, lodging and rental car expenses, and unexpected airport layovers. Good news: Wine country is not just “out there” anymore. It’s right here in North Georgia—the Dahlonega Plateau is officially a wine region, suitable for grapes made famous in France and Italy. Although the founders of Alpine-Helen as we know it didn’t anticipate such, they created a perfectly situated Bavarian wine outpost that puts the ultimate escape right under your nose. We have over 20 wineries to explore and a convenient service to guide you.
Helen is the Bavarian-styled vacation getaway. Nowhere else brings together Blue Ridge scenery, a mighty river intersecting the town, waterfalls and protected natural land, fly fishing, history, and artisan crafts and foods. It is also the undisputed Oktoberfest capital of the South. As the third most visited location in Georgia, we’re big on Southern hospitality with a Bavarian twist. As such, Alpine-Helen is the perfect place to round up your besties to experience a new take on wine country!
Wine Country: The Distinctions
In 2018 the Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) recognized the Dahlonega Plateau as the only viticultural wine-growing region in Georgia. This designation allows winemakers and consumers to count on the quality, reputation, and characteristics of wine made from grapes grown in the region. With that, we became wine country, even though our first wineries date back 30 years. The area formally includes 133 square miles in portions of Lumpkin and White Counties (that’s us) characterized by the following:
● A long narrow, plateau within the northern Blue Ridge foothills.
● Gently rolling hilltops separated by wide valleys: an average elevation of 1,554 feet.
● Sunshine-drenched and suited for wine growing versus the more heavily wooded surrounding areas (also makes for excellent photo ops!)
● Warmer than the areas west and south; important, because the cool air from higher elevation settles in the area below, which is a frost risk.
● Sandy red clay and aged granite soil providing good drainage and absorption.
According to the TTB designation, the region most resembles the famous piedmont of Italy. Some of the most popular local grapes include Cabernet Franc, Viognier, Malbec, Touriga, and Sangiovese.
Pay for Wine, Not Hassle
A Napa vacation creates expense and hassle far beyond wine. You can plan on spending over $3,000 for a couple to spend a week in Napa, plus airfare, which could nearly double the cost; and, then you need to consider if you need a rental car. That’s not to mention unforeseen flight delays, wildfires and other things that keep you away from the vineyards. You can get to Georgia wine country next weekend. In fact, two days of travel are merely bookends of a Napa trip. You can explore Helen on a whim, and from here you have so many other options besides wine to decide how big your new pastime will become.
Too Many Choices
The only issue is—where is the map? With over 20 wineries how will you choose? The rural foothills can be tough to navigate your first time around, and who wants to have to check your BAC every hour to see if the fun can continue or you have to call an Uber? Fear not, for like any wine country worth its grapes, we have a tour service based right here in Helen.
VIP Southern Wine Tours
You don’t need to drive, educate yourself, find lunch, or plan your day. Just sit back and let the best tasting experience come to you with VIP Southern Wine Tours. The original Georgia wine-country experience, VIP Southern Wine Tours has cultivated relationships with many of the top vineyards in the region to offer full days of transported tasting:
Their recurring Classic VIP tour features a combination of 3 of the wineries below
● The Cottage Vineyard & Winery
● Cavender Creek Vineyards
● Serenity Cellars
● Serenity Cellars
● Sylvan Valley Tasting Rooms
● Stonewall Creek Tasting Rooms
● Frogtown Cellars
After scheduling a tour online, you will be picked up in a comfortable 12-16 passenger mini-bus from downtown Helen (custom pickup options can be arranged). A regional expert will chauffeur you to each location where you’ll spend just over an hour on average. All your tastings will be included in the cost of booking. Why scurry around looking for lunch? Each day VIP Tours makes sure to curate a special picnic meal (from vineyards or local restaurants) for tour groups to enjoy in the lush mountain scenery of featured vineyards.
Tours can be customized beyond the Classic VIP experience for groups of 4 or more. These custom tours allow many other combinations and vineyards beyond those listed above.
● Planning a perfect bachelorette wine weekend can be a huge responsibility and a custom tour can consolidate so that everyone focuses on the bride-to-be, not constantly debating where to eat or go next.
● If you are looking to take a new step toward understanding and tasting, VIP Southern Wine Tours can arrange an SUV tour with a professional sommelier or a wine and culinary adventure to better pair food and wine.
● Schedule a rarefied corporate retreat in Helen and let VIP Southern Wine Tours take care of the details.
● If you want to sprinkle other Alpine-Helen attractions into your wine experience, add on shopping, art and heritage sites, or sightseeing stops with a local’s insight.
You can be in wine country in a few hours, and in a few more you can take the ultimate vineyard escape. Now you can cross wine tasting off the bucket list and put it on the “every few months” list where it belongs. Helen welcomes you to steep as long or as little in viticulture as you like. If you just want to take a few sips and retire, our 200 shops, waterfalls, beer, schnitzels, and Bavarian charm will be here for you too.