Hall County Board of Commissioners work session
What: Consideration of alcohol license for winery at Sweet Acre Farms, 7570 Bill Wilson Road, Alto
When: 3 p.m. today
Where: Hall County Government Center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville
By the end of the month, a new all-inclusive farm winery may be one step closer to opening this year.
At its work session today, the Hall County Board of Commissioners will consider an alcohol license for a winery at Sweet Acre Farms in Alto.
The license is for manufacturing, wine tasting, sales by package and sale by consumption on the premises and would be granted, if approved, to owner Matt Vrahiotes.
“Until we get the current licensing approved, we can’t begin manufacturing,” Vrahiotes said. “And even then, we’ll need state licensing, too. So right after we get our local approval, we’ll be able to apply for the state alcohol license.”
The first reading for the local license would technically take place at the voting meeting Thursday, and the second reading and vote would take place at the Jan. 22 meeting, according to Vrahiotes.
He operates the farm with his wife, Lindsey, and they hope to have state licensure by the end of February. If so, they can begin manufacturing by the beginning of March and will try to open to the public by the end of July.
“We know 2015’s going to be a big year for us,” he said.
Matt Vrahiotes aims to produce a variety other than the traditional grape wines.
“We’re a blackberry farm, so we’ll do blackberry, blueberry, peach, muscadine, things like that,” he said.
Even though muscadine is technically a grape, it is the native grape to Georgia and most of the Southeast, and is easier to grow in the region.
Typically, it takes two to three years after the first planting to begin producing fruit for wine. Sweet Acre Farms has been a blackberry farm for four years now, so the berries are “up and growing,” and it will buy alternate fruits from local farms for its other variations.
The winery hit a minor roadblock in planning late last year in attempting to abide by fire codes. Matt Vrahiotes said he is assessing the various options to meet these codes, and that he may have found the best option for the property.
“The alternative that we’ve found is we are going to have to build a pond,” he said. “When the pond is in and we’ve got a dry hydrant, we’ll be able to open up to the public, but until then we’ll just be manufacturing.”
With the final hurdles toward opening just ahead, Matt Vrahiotes said he and his wife are excited and eager to open later this year.
“It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “We’ve all been working really hard to get where we’re at right now.”