Hall County’s Sweet Acre Farms has opened a new tasting room in Helen — the Helen Wine Co.
It’s not only a new location for the North Hall County fruit winery, but a new approach to the wine business: Owners Matt and Lindsey Vrahiotes are offering a variety of Georgia wine, beer and mead.
“We’re calling it Helen Wine Co. because we don’t want everyone to think it’s just our stuff. It’s a Georgia wine and craft beer tasting room,” Matt Vrahiotes said on Monday, June 3.
The couple chose Helen because of its hefty annual visitor traffic rolling past the business at 8016 Ste. B1 S Main St.
“We don’t have 3 million people going down Bill Wilson Road in Alto, Georgia, so it’s got to be a little better than Alto,” Vrahiotes said. “And so far, our customers who show up here in Alto have been loyal. The winery here is still doing a tad bit better than Helen.”
The tasting room opened in late May and is now serving wine from Young American (a subsidiary of Yonah Mountain Vineyards), 12 Spies Vineyard, Etowah Meadery, Ellijay River Vineyards and Sweet Acre Farms’ own products.
It has a large variety of canned beer and six taps, which now carry Left Nut Brewing Co., Mercier Orchards hard cider, Pretoria Fields out of Albany, Gate City Brewing Co. and Slow Pour Brewing Co.
“It’s a different flavor of the tasting room that we have here. There’s a lot that’s the same, but we’ve decorated a little differently and we’re carrying beer and wine from Georgia that they can’t find in our tasting room in Alto,” Vrahiotes said. “When you come out and try the wines, you can go tubing and hit the restaurants and everything that Helen is famous for.”
With the variety available at the store, the owners hope the new Helen tasting room will serve as a bit of a hub for people who want to learn about North Georgia wine and beer makers.
“We wanted to carry wine that, if you’re vacationing in Helen or White County, you may not want to travel the extra hour, hour-and-a-half to go to some of the other places in order to get the local beer and wine,” Vrahiotes said. “It’s one central hub where you can come and get multiple experiences.”
One local businesswoman who helped the couple find a spot in town thinks the new business will make it work.
“I think he’s creating something nobody else has,” said Darlene Broadway, who owns Betty’s Country Store on the other side of downtown Helen. “I think it’ll be really good.”
Broadway has lived in Helen since 1976, and Betty’s offers a few wine tastings at its bar on the property as a small part of its business.
“I have a little bar outside, and I do wine slushies and local wines too, and I think Helen’s becoming more and more (of a wine town).”
The North Georgia town’s busy season usually runs from May to November, though April has picked up in recent years, Broadway said. The two weeks around Christmas are also a busy time for the town.
Helen Wine Co. is getting off the ground with plenty of time left in the summer. It took about a month to get the building in opening condition, Vrahiotes said.
In the future, he wants to offer more South Georgia wines and beer at the store to give visitors a more statewide perspective.
And in the meantime, the new storefront in Helen feels a little like a homecoming for Vrahiotes.
“I grew up in Germany, and I’ve always missed it,” said Vrahiotes, who grew up as an Air Force brat. “It’s kind of ironic that I open a business in the most German place in the state of Georgia. It’s pretty exciting having a little taste of being home.”
Hours are available at the tasting room's Facebook page.