This time of year, there’s a soft mist in the air, fog drifting over the grape vines, drizzly rain, chilly wind….everything that makes winter in Georgia, well, winter. And this holiday season, since there’s no snow on the ground or ice on the roads and no reason not to hop in the car and head up to the mountains, my sister and her husband have surprised us with an early Christmas present–wine passports to the Winter Wine Weekend wine tasting along the Unicoi Wine Trail. As North Georgia’s vineyards are gaining traction in the international wine market, taking a trip to the Unicoi Wine Trail is like tasting a piece of the South all in itself. With the Unicoi wine passports (which are $30 per person and include a souvenir wine glass–see the last picture in this post!), participants can visit six tasting rooms along the trail and taste four wines at each one. Some of the wineries let you choose the four you’d like to try; others have pre-selected their best and brightest batches from the year. The wineries include: Habersham Winery, Sautee Nachoochee, Serenity Cellars, Sylvan Valley Lodge, The Cottage Winery, and Yonah Mountain Vineyards.
We are starting at Habersham Winery, the first one you’ll drive by if you’re coming from Atlanta and probably the last one you’ll pass if you’re coming from the north. Here, the servers have been brewing a mulled spice wine for hours, and the sweet smell of nutmeg and grapes have filled the tasting room. From here, we’ll visit two more wineries, Sautee Nacoochee and Yonah, and finally end at Sylvan Valley Lodge, where we’ll sip our last wines of the day, sit by the warm fireplace, and get ready for the hour-and-a-half drive back to Atlanta.
Though we didn’t stay in any of the lodges this time, I did a little bit of research to find out where we could stay next time we do the wine trail–and I’m so excited about all of the gorgeous bed & breakfasts and lodges I found. Here, I’ve rounded up some of the funkiest, most eclectic, welcoming, and cozy bed & breakfasts in the Helen, Georgia area. All are within a few miles of the Unicoi Wine Trail, so heading out to the tasting rooms and spending the day enjoying North Georgia’s range of delectable wines doesn’t need to end with a day trip–like I’m planning to do next time, make it a weekend.
1. Sylvan Valley Lodge & Knot Wine Bar
If you’re looking for lodging + wine bar in the very same building, try the Sylvan Valley Lodge. Not only do all of the rooms and cabins have a stunning view of the North Georgia mountains, each one is carefully decorated with local furnishings, beds with soft linens, Keurig coffee makers and wine glasses, and Direct TV with complimentary HBO. Plus, the downstairs tasting room resembles a large living room, complete with over-sized love seats and couches, floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the Yonah Mountain, and a fireplace that’s always burning in the wintertime.
Rates run from $155 for a guest room to $175 for a private cabin. All rooms and cabins include complimentary breakfast in the lodge. They are located at 747 Duncan Bridge Rd., Sautee Nacoochee, GA, 30571.
This special little inn offers only three guest rooms, all of which are Country-French inspired and surrounded by mountain views and fresh gardens. Built in 1920 and carefully maintained over the yeras, the Inn is now run by a mother-daughter team, who say that will ensure that you have an experience there that you’ll want to come back and re-live again and again. Plus, the Inn is literally steps away from the historic village of Sautee, so you’ll never be far from a hot meal or a nice glass of wine. Sounds like a perfect place to me.
Nachoochee Valley’s very reasonable rates start at $140 per night and go up to $160. Their address is 2220 Hwy. 17, Sautee Nacoochee, GA 30571.
Sautee Inn is slightly more historic than Nacoochee Valley Guesthouse, having been built in 1892. Just two miles from downtown Helen (the famed German-inspired village), this guest house offers comfortable rooms with handmade quilts, country curtains, and eclectic vintage accents, walking gardens with a gazebo, and lovely mountain views. Plus, all rooms include a delectable-sounding warm country breakfast.
The Inn’s rates range from $125 for a single room to $375 for the full suite. They are located at 2178 Hwy. 17, Sautee Nacoochee, Georgia, 30571.
For a little more luxury, you might want to consider Lucille’s Mountain Top Inn & Spa. This place is absolutely breathtaking, and with only ten rooms, I imagine this would be a unique and individual experience no matter which room you choose. All of the rooms have private baths and are decorated in soft colors and personal touches like handmade coverlets, arts books, organic soaps and bath products, and fresh flowers. Lucille’s also has a luxury spa that specializes in organic skin treatments, massage, and facials. From my estimation, this would be the perfect spot for an anniversary weekend, a honeymoon, or just a weekend away from the city life.
Rates this time of year range from $350 – $500 per night, depending on the type of room, size of bed, and mountain view. The Inn is located at 964 Rabun Rd., Sautee Nacoochee, GA 30571.
Regardless of which bed & breakfast or inn you choose, let me wrap up this round-up by saying that spending time in North Georgia is one of my absolutely favorite activities, especially as I’ve grown up and learned to appreciate the landscape that raised me. Having a wine weekend up there just makes it all the more amazing.
Happy holidays, and cheers!
Article and photographs by Kristin Mock.
A special thanks to my sister Elizabeth and brother-in-law Drew for giving us the Unicoi Wine Trail passport for Christmas and treating us to a beautiful day!