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Wine Highway event is different in 2020 — it's a month long
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North Georgia wineries and tasting rooms are serving up something special with 2020 Wine Highway, despite the coronavirus pandemic. 

Coordinated by Georgia Wine Producers, the annual event takes place over the entire month of August. People are invited to purchase a $50 passport that gives up to four tastings at each of the 28 participating wineries and tasting rooms, except for Yonah Mountain Vineyards, which instead offers one 4-ounce glass.  

People can pick up a passport and a complimentary wine glass at the first winery or tasting room they visit.  

Karla Roper, executive director of Georgia Wine Producers, said the annual Wine Highway typically encompasses 10 days in March. However, because of the pandemic, the event was postponed and lengthened to all of August.  

“We felt by extending it a month long, it would allow people to visit the vineyards and not overwhelm the locations,” Roper said. “We didn’t want to make people uncomfortable with the large crowds.” 

Those who travel to the properties are asked to follow the safety protocols put in place at each to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Roper said most vineyards stick to outdoor seating with tables spaced out by at least 6 feet. 

Instead of asking people to use their Wine Highway glasses, Matt Vrahiotes, owner of Sweet Acre Farms Winery in Alto, said his business will use disposable ones to limit customer-to-staff contact.  

Before the pandemic, he said people would crowd around the bar to drink wine, now guests will be presented with all four of the tasting glasses, which they can take to their seats. 

“This is our second year as a part of Wine Highway,” Vrahiotes said. “The reason why we want to be a part of this is because it brings people from all over the state and country to our farm to try our wine.” 

During the Wine Highway event, The Cottage Vineyard and Winery in Cleveland, sees thousands of guests, according to Angela Reilly, its tasting room manager. As a small business, Reilly said she is grateful for the opportunity to participate for the seventh year in a row.  

“We were worried that we weren’t going to be able to do it this year,” she said. “We’re glad we’ve been able to spread it out because of the virus to keep our customers and staff safe.” 

Visitors will be able to pick up disposable cups with wine at The Cottage Vineyard and Winery. Guests will also receive a piece of paper that outlines the tasting notes of each wine. 

Before the end of 2020 Wine Highway, Roper said she hopes people try new wine and find some new favorites.  

“Our growers and producers have the desire to produce good wine,” Ropers aid. “We want to show that Georgia can produce good wine.”  

2020 Wine Highway participating tasting rooms and wineries (Ends Aug. 31) 

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