A historical first for heart of Georgia wine country

DAHLONEGA, Ga. — Long regarded as "The Heart of Georgia Wine Country,” Dahlonega-Lumpkin County’s wine producers can now officially claim that title.

The Dahlonega-Lumpkin county tourism bureau is pleased to announce that the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has designated the “Dahlonega Plateau” as the newest viticultural area in the United States and the first with boundaries contained in the state of Georgia.

This federal designation allows winemakers and consumers to attribute a given quality, reputation, or other characteristic of a wine made from grapes grown in an area to the wine's geographic origin.  Sections of wine growing regions with the same climate, soil, elevation and physical features are assigned an official AVA designation. The AVA system identifies the origin of American wines in a manner similar to those used in France.  A wine with an AVA label must have 85% of its grapes grown in that viticultural area. 

“The designation of the Dahlonega Plateau holds great promise for wine grape production and agritourism,” says Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black.  “This will no doubt be another successful illustration of our continued focus on rural development and could result in a substantial influx of visitors making their way to our state.”

While the majority of wine production lies within Dahlonega-Lumpkin County, the borders of the designated region will stretch to neighboring White and Dawson counties to more accurately describe the origin of their wines to consumers, allowing them to more easily identify wines for purchase. Starting on July 30, wine producers can apply for a Certificate of Label Approval from TTB with “Dahlonega Plateau” as the appellation of origin.

The Dahlonega-Lumpkin Chamber & Visitors Bureau, and its winery partners, worked hard to establish the designation, petitioning the TTB on behalf of local vineyard and winery owners. AVA designations are often difficult to obtain with approximately 238 in the United States, and nearly half in California.  Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Tourism Director David Zunker is pleased to see the county’s efforts finally reach this level.
“We are thrilled to honor Dahlonega’s acclaimed wineries and vineyards, all of whom offer homegrown hospitality and premier wine and food experiences. Each of our distinct winery venues offer tours, tastings, and impressive scenic views, as well as wedding and group destination facilities,” said Zunker.
The AVA’s name was derived from a long, narrow, northeast-southwest trending plateau in the northern foothills of the Georgia Piedmont known as the Dahlonega Plateau.  The area encompasses 133 square miles and includes seven wineries and eight commercial vineyards covering a total of approximately 110 acres, with an additional 12 acres of vineyards planned for planting within the proposed AVA in the next few years.   Because the hills are gently sloped and have moderate elevations, the floors of the intervening valleys are not highly shadowed and receive adequate sunlight for vineyards.  The location between higher elevations to the north, east, and southeast and lower elevations to the southwest and west create climatic conditions that are ideal for growing grape varietals such as Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Merlot.
The AVA designation shows continued growth of Georgia's wine industry.  Included in the Dahlonega Plateau are: Cavender Creek Vineyards & Winery,  Montaluce Winery & Estates, Three Sisters Vineyards & WineryWolf Mountain Vineyards & Winery, Kaya Vineyard and Winery, Frogtown Cellars, and the Cottage Vineyard and Winery.
“The Dahlonega area already has a solid identity as a place people love to visit. This designation further enhances our reputation as a premier tourism destination,” says Zunker. “We not only have wineries but gold history, art and music, culture, and gourmet dining, all set against the majestic mountain scenery.” 
The wine industry’s growth in Georgia has already had a significant impact on the state’s economy, with more than $14 million in revenues generated statewide.