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)
12 Spies Vineyards, 550 Black Branch Road, Rabun Gap
Big Door Vineyards, 125 Clearwater Trail, White
Cartecay Vineyards, 5704 Clear Creek Road, Ellijay
Cavender Creek Vineyards and Winery, 3610 Cavender Creek Road, Dahlonega
CeNita Winery, 591 Dock Dorsey Road, Cleveland
Chateau Meichtry, 1862 Orchard Lane, Talking Rock
Crane Creek Vineyards, 916 Crane Creek Road, Young Harris
Creekstone Winery, 295 Hardman Farm Road, Sautee Nacoochee
Currahee Vineyard and Winery, 3301 W Currahee St., Toccoa
Engelheim Vineyards, 127 Lakeview Road, Ellijay
Etowah Meadery, 3003 Morrison Moore Parkway E, Dahlonega
Fainting Goat Vineyards, 201 Vineyard Way, Jasper
Habersham Winery, 7025 S. Main St., Helen
Hightower Creek Vineyards, 7150 Canaan Drive, Hiawassee
Odom Springs Vineyards, 637 Odom Road, Blairsville
Ott Farms and Vineyard, 230 Henry Evans Road, Ellijay
Serenity Cellars, 265 Laurel Ridge Road, Cleveland
Sharp Mountain Vineyards, 110 Rathgeb Trail, Jasper
Stonewall Creek Vineyards, 323 Standing Deer Lane, Tiger
Sweet Acre Farms Winery, 7584 Bill Wilson Road, Alto
The Cottage Vineyard and Winery, 5050 U.S. 129, Cleveland
Twisted Wine Garden at Dahlonega Resort and Vineyard, 400 Blueberry Hill, Dahlonega
Yonah Mountain Vineyards, 1717 Highway 255 S, Cleveland
Naturally Georgia, 94 Public Square N, Dahlonega
Wild Berry Grill and Gifts, 327 Monroe St., Clarkesville