Move over Napa, Georgia is for Wine Lovers!



Who needs Napa Valley, when you have North Georgia? In fact, North Georgia, and specifically Dahlonega, has been called the Napa of the East. So, what’s the point of hopping on a plane, enduring crazy traffic, and dealing with stifling crowds? Right here in North Georgia you will be better served, remain relaxed, and meander the charming and scenic back roads of Blue Ridge, Ellijay, Dahlonega, Blairsville, and Helen to enjoy a wine experience that’s even better than what the wild west can offer!

1st Place Winners

Photo Courtesy of Cavender Creek Vineyards and Winery

Surprisingly enough, it turns out North Georgia wines also are winning quality competitions in California’s very own backyard which is causing quite the “Bottleshock” to all the more seasoned western vineyards. So quality-wise, the wine is not a concern. Which makes another good reason to stay close to home!

Country Drive

Starting in Blue Ridge, it doesn’t take long to feel like you’re in wine country. Within an hour’s drive you might swear you just caught a glimpse of Tuscany, or around the corner there’s what looks like Oregon, California, or Upstate New York. North Georgia looks like a lot of other states in the beauty department. That’s why Hollywood likes Georgia, and especially North Georgia, so much. It could look like the Midwest, inland Oregon, or maybe even New England.

Photo Courtesy of Kaya Vineyards

For wine production purposes in these parts, the secret lies in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains, which provide ideal weather, geography and geology for successful vinifera grape growing due to its long springs, hot, dry summers, and elevations between 1,300 – 1,800 feet.

It’s All About The Grapes

Photo Courtesy of House of Wine

The trail of six farm wineries that lead from Dahlonega north and east into White County and Helen is a great example of how terrain changes dictate grape production and variety of purpose. Designated as the “Dahlonega Plateau”, an AVA (American Viticultural Area), on July 20, 2018, the area encompasses 133 square miles with the same climate, soil, elevation and physical features creating conditions that are ideal for growing grape varietals such as Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Merlot.

The Wine Highway

Wolf Mountain Vineyards & Winery is tucked in the hills just 45 minutes from Blue Ridge and a five-minute drive from downtown Dahlonega. Wolf Mountain is elegant, with spectacular views, the perfect wedding and event venue, but also the ideal place for Sunday brunch, or fun gatherings with friends. A lot of the North Georgia wineries multi-task that way.


Photo Courtesy of Melissa Prosser Photography

Montaluce Winery and Restaurant, with its elegant, ivy-covered walls, and its porches with views to the vineyard, conjures up images of Italy, but is also the site of bike races that have featured the likes of Lance Armstrong and Georgia Hincapie. This breathtaking destination offers a spectacular brunch on Sunday and lunch and dinner Monday through Sunday.

Kaya Vineyard & Winery, in White County, makes the best of the perfect perch, with 360 degree views of Blue Ridge scenery. Wines produced from Kaya’s vines have received over fifty awards and most recently, the vineyard was recognized for producing grapes for one of the “Top 50 Wines of the Year” reviewed by the Wine Report.

Photo Courtesy of The Cottage Vineyard & Winery

The Cottage Vineyard & Winery, one of the earliest Georgia farm wineries on the scene, founded in the late 1990s, actually has church services on Sunday mornings, with inspiring views of the vineyard. Paying homage to all military men and women is a North Georgia Honor Wall that features the 5 service flags of the US Armed Forces: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corp., and Navy as well as the POW and U.S. Flags.

The wineries of all three – Dahlonega, White County and Gilmer make for a pleasant mix of wine trail possibilities – from upscale to downhome; and from farm to fancy. At Cavender Creek Vineyards and Winery you can even pet donkeys and alpacas. It’s a local favorite, especially on Friday nights, and live music is always a draw, as it is at most wineries on the weekends.

You’d guess by the name, that Three Sisters Vineyards was a family winery started by siblings – good guess, but wrong. It is indeed a family winery, but the name refers to the three Blue Ridge Mountain ridges that form the perfect backdrop for wedding and special events.

Photo Courtesy of Frogtown Wine

Frogtown Wine, a perennial winner of prestigious national and international wine competitions, offers dramatic 50-mile views, but the ambiance is decidedly California casual, especially the bright white main lodge with  deck seating. There are 23,000 grape vines in Frogtown’s North Georgia vineyards capable of producing up to 180 tons of premium wine grapes each year. This tonnage equates to over ten thousand cases of Estate grown wine per year!

The Foothills

Photo Courtesy of Chateau Meichtry

On the Ellijay side of Blue Ridge, Fainting Goat Vineyards (yes, they actually have fainting goats), and Cartecay Vineyards, with its distinctive fireplace and iconic chimney, both make for fine outdoor enjoyment most times during the year. Chateau Meichtry specializes in combining wine tasting with learning a lot about the wines, and the entire process of wine production. All three feature live music most weekends.

Local Favs

Photo Courtesy of Bear Claw Vineyards

Right here in Blue Ridge we are lucky to have two great wineries: Bear Claw Vineyards and Serenberry Vineyards. Bear Claw Vineyards is welcoming for every member of the family, both two legged and four. Well behaved pets are welcome and there are plenty of games to keep the kids busy while you catch up with your friends and family while you sip their delicious wines. At Serenberry, you are invited to savor the day by relaxing in a beautiful mountain setting while tasting delicious wines!

So, who needs Napa? With the broad variety of wines, and the expanse of experiences, plus the proximity and easy scenic drives (be sure to stop along the way at Amicalola Falls, the highest cascading waterfall on the East Coast), or at charming farmers markets, orchards and food stands – that is indeed the question.

Top 5 Blue Ridge Adventure Cabins



Sometimes it’s challenging to motivate for outdoor fun when it is so chilly outside. However, being active outdoors is a great way to enjoy the mountains in a whole new way. Not only is it less crowded, but there are no bugs to contend with! To make the most of your outdoor adventure and not be cold and uncomfortable, layer your clothing so you don’t wimp out and head back for the cabin. Here are a few inspiring North Georgia cabin rentals to keep you active in and around Blue Ridge.

A River Runs Through It

The Aska Adventure Lodge is located in the much sought after Aska Adventure area. Did you know Aska is the Cherokee Native American word for “winter retreat”? However, this cabin is perfect in every season. The Lodge has three bedrooms and three bathrooms and can easily accommodate ten people with king beds in the two master suits, a queen bed in the guest room, and two futons in the loft and game room.

This retreat is conveniently located less than five minutes from the quaint town of Blue Ridge, Georgia. Nearby access to the Toccoa River and Lake Blue Ridge is easily accessible. Our friend, Dell Neighbors, at Fly Fishing North Georgia would be happy to take you on a guided fly-fishing trip to the area’s many cold-water streams and rivers. When you return from a great day of fishing, you can throw your freshly caught trout on the grill of your expansive deck and reflect on the successes of the day. Cap off your evening by lighting the outdoor fireplace and relax on the deck as the sun sets behind the expansive Blue Ridge Mountains.

A Gallop and a Trot

Vista Ridge is a distinctive Georgia mountain cabin rental that offers the peaceful get away from your everyday life that you are craving. Named for the spectacular view that overlooks the Toccoa River and stretches all the way to Tennessee and North Carolina, this four-bedroom, three bath home is your perfect base camp to explore the Blue Ridge area.  To get a better feel for the view, saddle up a horse with our friends at Blanche Manor and go on an adventure through the unspoiled beauty of the mountain wilderness.

After a long day on the trails, soothe your sore muscles in the hot tub and watch the sun set behind the mountains. Back inside, turn on the gas fireplace and snuggle into the leather couches. Before your weekend is over, challenge your partner to a game of pool in the game room and make the looser take you out to a fabulous dinner at Harvest on Main.

Fly Like an Eagle

Eagles Landing is as bold, majestic and unique lodge that is the epitome of rustic elegance. This spacious custom home has seven bedrooms to accommodate nineteen guests. Situated directly on Lake Blue Ridge, this spectacular showplace has incomparable views of the surrounding mountains. The hand-carved spiral staircase spans four floors, from the unique loft down to the terrace level where you will find the “grown-ups’ game room”. There are three decks spanning the length of the home, a hot tub, swings, and a picnic table to enjoy views and privacy that cannot be found anywhere else.

Close by you can channel your inner eagle and zip through 165 acres of beautiful North Georgia mountain property with our friends at Zipline Canopy Tours of Blue Ridge. Here, you’ll experience the mountains from the treetops, you’ll zip into the valley, soar over pastures, and cross over Fighting Town Creek. From 75’ in the air you can squeal with delight take off on 6,000 feet of cable, crossing thirteen platforms and three walking bridges.

A Walk in the Woods

It’s impossible to walk in the woods and be in a bad mood at the same time. Fortunately, the mountains are rich with hiking trails to explore and Take a Hike cabin is the perfect home base. Beautifully situated on Mt. Pisgah, this cabin overlooks absolutely fantastic mountain views. It also has three massive decks to enjoy them and from where you’ll be inspired to plan the many and nearby open-air activities that surround you. This home has great sleeping accommodations for up to 7 people and is a perfect set up for two families vacationing together or a good-sized group.

Explore the Cohutta Wilderness just off of your back porch where you can pick from delicious blueberry and blackberry bushes for snacking along your easy hike to a waterfall, cave or to Colonel Magnum’s memorial. A quick ten-minute drive will get you to major hiking trailheads including Dally Gap, Jacks River, Benton Mackaye and Hemptop.  Whichever route you choose, you will find peace and tranquility both in the woods and back at the cabin.

A Winery, Why Not

You have a lot of choices in Blue Ridge cabin rentals, but if you’re looking for comfort, privacy, and great views, Wine Down is the perfect vacation destination. This beautifully appointed mountain retreat is the kind of place that invites you to settle in, wind down and relax with a glass of wine, like its name suggests. The cabin’s four roomy bedrooms beckon you with comfort, but the real appeal is outside. Wine Down’s covered outdoor living room on the main deck has a gas grill, table for eight, plenty of seating, and a 60” TV above the wood burning fireplace.

Wine down is located on Aska Road less than four miles from the shopping and restaurants of downtown Blue Ridge. A short drive will take you to the nearby winery at Serenberry Vineyards.  Sit back, relax, and enjoy a mountain wine tasting. Their Skeenah Red is a perfect Merlot-Cab blend, but if you prefer something sweeter, you should definitely try the Apple-lachian. Fruity and sweet, it’s like a little apple pie in a bottle!

Fall in Love with Blue Ridge



Fall took a little longer than usual to arrive this year, but as soon as we had our first frost, BAM, the colors started popping! Now everywhere you look you can find brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows. So, grab your favorite boots and cozy sweater and Escape to Blue Ridge for leaf peeping at its best!

3 Falls and a Car

The Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway is a nationally designated Scenic Byway that is 40.64 miles in length and makes a loop through the heart of the Chattahoochee National Forest.  Beginning in Blairsville take Hwy 129 South towards Blood Mountain. Turn left on Hwy 180 then right onto Hwy 348 – The Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway. Along the way, you will pass Hatchet Creek Road that leads to Helton Creek Falls. Stop and enjoy both the Upper and Lower falls. The hike is short and easy, less than a mile long and super rewarding!

Continue up the mountain passing Tesnatee Gap, home to the original Old Logan Turnpike Trail. Just around the bend you’ll find Hogpen Gap which has an amazing overlook and picture-perfect opportunities. If you are up for a more challenging waterfall hike, Hwy 348 passes right by the trail-head for Raven Cliff Falls. While Raven Cliff is one of Georgia’s most popular waterfalls, be prepared to take a 2.5-mile journey through the woods.

The last waterfall opportunity on your travels down the Russell-Brasstown Byway is at Dukes Creek Falls. A happy medium between Helton Creek and Raven Cliff, Dukes Creek Falls is a two mile round-trip hike. Passing several small falls along the way, you’ll be rewarded at the end of the trail with a 150 foot, multi-tiered waterfall.  The Russell-Brasstown byway dead ends into Hwy 75 which will take you into the Alpine Village of Helen, Georgia.

See 4 States

The Southern Highroads Trail can be traveled in its entirety or in sections.  This very scenic route travels through four national forests (Chattahoochee, Nantahala, Cherokee, and Sumter) and four states (North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia).  Enjoy shopping, dining, entertainment and outdoor activities in all 13 counties the route passes through.

Another way to see four states without all the mileage is to visit the top of Brasstown Bald. The approach to the Bald is worth the car ride alone. Turning onto Hwy 180 from Hwy 129 South in Blairsville, travel approx. 9 miles to Spur 180. Wind yourself up the mountain and be cautious of the hairpin turns, they’re liable to take your breath. Once you get to the top parking area, you still have another mile to go to reach the highest peak in Georgia at 4,784 feet above sea level! You can choose to hike the steep summit trail or take a shuttle bus up to the top. Either way, you will enjoy a breathtaking 360 degree view of four states (North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia) from the observation deck. Inside you’ll find a museum featuring Georgia and Native American History. It is even said that you can see the Atlanta skyline on a clear day from the top of the Bald!

An Adventure

Just on the other side of downtown Blue Ridge, you’ll find the outdoor adventure area of the Aska Trail Systems. Here you can hike, fish, bike, and leaf peep. Being that Blue Ridge is the Trout Capital of Georgia, access to the Toccoa River is just off Aska Road. If you get hungry the Toccoa Riverside Restaurant is ready to serve you fresh trout, a top sirloin or a plethora of sandwich and salad options. They even have a full Pooch Porch Goodies menu featuring canine cuisines for Fido!

Whether you are biking or hiking, you can choose from strenuous to moderate trails. Our favorite is the hike down to Fall Branch Falls. This is a short half mile, family friendly hike that follows the Benton MacKaye Trail and ends at one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Georgia. The trail is mildly challenging, and the path is mostly uphill, but it is definitely worth the effort! As you approach you will hear the roar of the falls get louder as you near the multi-tiered falls. Notice a short side trail and take this down to the observation deck.

Pinnacle of Beauty

If you really want a mountain experience, you need to take the back roads and experience the simple life we enjoy here in the mountains. Take Highway 60 towards Dahlonega. Start your trip off right with a wine tasting at the picturesque Serenberry Vineyards. When you’ve built up your nerves of steel you can test your balance on the Swinging Bridge. This 270-foot-long suspension bridge is the longest swinging bridge east of the Mississippi River!

Continue down highway 60 to Georgia’s best secret, Suches, or the Valley Above the Clouds. At 3k feet above sea level, the Suches area provides a stunning view of picture perfect landscapes and glorious mountain views. Here you’ll also find the smallest public school in Georgia educating children from Kindergarten through 12th grade all in one building.

Take Hwy 180 to Lake Winfield Scott. This secret hideaway is a recreation area in the Chattahoochee National Forest. With a beautiful lake as the centerpiece, Winfield Scott beckons you to get out of the car, stretch your legs and take in the untouched beauty of this special part of Georgia. Continue down Hwy 180 with its hairpin turns and lush forest to Vogel State Park, Gerogia’s most beloved State Park. Here you can enjoy the beauty of Lake Trahlyta and take a short walk down to Trahlyta Falls.

Legend Has It

So interesting fact, Lake Trahlyta was named after a Cherokee Indian Princess.  Vogel State Park is located at the base of Blood Mountain where the Native Americans fought many years ago. They say that Slaughter Creek, which runs adjacent to Blood Mountain ran red for 3 days with all the blood that was shed. Lake Winfield Scott, just above, Vogel and Lake Trahlyta, was named after the General that led the Indians out on the Trail of Tears. You can take the full Suches loop around and pass by Trahlyta’s grave which is the rock pile at Stonepile Gap. Legend has it that if you stop and place a rock on Trahlyta’s grave, you too can be as young and happy as she once was.

Photo of Lake Winfield Scott courtesy of Gene Crawford.

Blue Ridge Winery Spotlight – Bear Claw Vineyards



Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains you will find the most delightful winery to check out – Bear Claw Vineyards. Owned by Kevin & Michelle Swim, these Atlanta natives moved up to the mountains six years ago for a slower paced life. Little did they know that a whole new adventure was about to begin.

Interestingly enough, the temperate climate and the rich soil quality in the North Georgia Mountains are ideal for grape vines to prosper. So what better idea for the Swim’s than to begin planting a vineyard and prepare to open a tasting room. With the help of family and some close friends, Bear Claw Vineyards was born! Open seven days a week, you can sit back, relax, and drink wine Sunday through Thursday from 12-6pm and Friday & Saturday from 12-8pm.

Wines

Kevin heads up the winemaking and boy does he have a talent for producing quality blends. In fact, just recently, five Bear Claw wines were entered into a Georgia Wine competition. Each wine received a medal, and two of them were gold – the Vidal Blanc and Chardonnay (stainless). While these options are fabulous, we highly recommend you try the Dreamcatcher. This Cayuga White is a blend of Schuyler and Seyval Blanc. It is light and refreshing with fruity notes. If red wine is more your style try their Cabernet Sauvignon. As we type this, a new red is about to be bottled out of the barrel, so you will have to come try their new yield.

Family Friendly

Bear Claw Vineyards is welcoming for every member of the family, both two legged and four. Well behaved pets are welcome and there are plenty of games to keep the kids busy while you catch up with your friends and family. Soon, the kiddos will delight with the addition of gypsy vanner horses. The majestic animals will remind you of Clydesdales with their beauty but are much smaller in size. If you or your littles get hungry while enjoying the winery, light snacks like cheese, crackers, and chocolates are always available to purchase. On Fridays you can check out a food truck that they bring up for your dining pleasure.

Live Music

Every Saturday and Sunday you can enjoy live music on the patio. Local talents like Chip McCain and Jeannie Caryn will add to your afternoon ambiance. Larger names like the Indigo Girls and the Marty Ray Project have also performed at the vineyard. Coming up on Saturday, October 27th you’ll be in for a real treat with Confederate Railroad. Opening for the CR are Steven Phillips & The Midnight Express and local favorite, the Gregg Erwin Band. Tickets are still available and are only $19!

Weddings & Events

There is not a much more stunning venue than a vineyard wedding. Small or large, Bear Claw can accommodate your weddings, birthdays, and anniversary celebrations. Intimate ceremonies can be held at the winery and elaborate ceremonies can take place at their newest venue – The Club at Bear Claw. Formerly known as the Blue Ridge Swim & Tennis Club, the property consists of a swimming pool, four tennis courts, and a large reception hall. Onsite event planner, Tonya Ross, is available to help you with all of your event coordination.