No, the title isn’t a joke, and no, I didn’t mean Napa Valley or Sonoma. I will say it again, Georgia has award-winning wines and they’re made at Yonah Mountain Vineyards. Yonah Mountain Vineyards’ harvested land sits on 20 acres and grows Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Petit Manseng, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot up in Cleveland, Georgia. Now that I have your attention, let me take you on a tour of the only wine cave in Georgia.

Don’t Have Time to Read? Watch This 2-Minute Video of the Trip

Next year is Yonah Mountain Vineyards’ 10 year anniversary, and I can’t believe I’ve been missing out on the place for 7 years. In celebration of their contribution to the wine community, I wanted to introduce you to the vineyard. These gorgeous grounds are owned by Bob and Jane Miller. Now I’ve never met Jane, but I’ve had the pleasure of being a patron on 2 of Bob’s wine cave tours, and I can assure you he is the only tour guide on the East Coast to make you laugh for an entire wine tour.

There’s a Lot to Learn About Making Good Wine

If you’re like me, then you love a tour that teaches you things you actually didn’t know and find quite interesting. I certainly love drinking wine, and hell, I’d love the opportunity to stomp grapes to make the wine, but I had no idea all of which actually goes into owning a vineyard…until now.

Wine Making Fact: Winemakers Have to Wait 7-9 Years Before They Make Wine to Sell

I assumed winemaking was expensive, after all, it costs between $15-$150 for a bottle of Napa Valley wine, and Napa wine tours at the best wineries can run you between $50-$150 per person. Yet, here are 4 shocking facts I learned about the winemaking timeline:

  • Once you decide on the type of wine you want to produce, you typically have to order rootstock unless you’re in Napa or France or one of those countries that natively have grapes. Unfortunately, it can take up to 4 months before you receive the rootstock you requested
  • Once you plant that rootstock, it can take 3-4 years before you can harvest the grapes
  • Nope, you still haven’t produced a product or made any money for 3 or 4 years. THEN, you have to wait another 2-5 years before you can make wine from the grapes you harvested

Short Roadtrip to Cleveland, GA

Let’s talk about the wine tour. I mentioned in my previous blog post that this wasn’t my first Yonah Mountain Vineyards rodeo. I went on the wine cave tour last year thanks to my Hand-Picked Atlanta app deal. It was a wine cave tour for 2 for $55 which is a steal considering a tour for 1 is normally priced at $40. That’s why I was so surprised to see that deal again this year! I snatched the deal right up for me and my Mom to enjoy for Mother’s Day.

The drive from Atlanta (Vinings) was an hour and a half, which isn’t so bad when you get to see so many interesting things along the way. You start in the city, drive through luscious foliage, past farms, and then you see the beautiful Yonah Mountain as you hit the home stretch of your drive.

The tasting room and adjoining event facility is a quarter of a mile from the entrance to the property with Yonah Mountain as the backdrop. When you arrive for the tour, you checkin at the bar, get your wine tasting glass, and a list of the wines you’ll be tasting for the day.

Laughing Through 8 Delicious Tastings

You’ll think the guy playing the piano while you wait is a hired musician, but you’ll quickly learn that he’s the owner, Bob Miller. He’ll give you a nice welcome speech, and then escort you and your new drinking buddies on a short walk outside to the entrance of the distillery.

Bob holding one of the root stocks

I won’t ruin the interesting facts you’ll learn on the tour, it’s definitely worth hearing yourself if you love wine and have any love for the state of Georgia. I will, however, tell you that you’ll be surprised to learn just how many “firsts” and “exclusive” things the Yonah Mountain Vineyards folks have achieved in the past 9 years. This is an importantly hilarious inside joke that you’ll have to find out when you go on the tour for yourself.

Wine Caves

You’ll make your way into the distillery, learn more very interesting facts from your extremely entertaining tour guide, all the while tasting a new wine at every stop. Two of those stops are in the wine caves. Yes, I said caves, because there are two. One that holds most of the aging barrels, and one that is used for private events that hold a few barrels as well, and comes complete with a light show (you have to be there).

You get a sneak peek at Bob’s private tasting room (which looks suspiciously like a fancy man cave), before you move along to the event hosting facility. Before you get to that facility, do know you will have already tasted 5 wines, and probably be feeling pretty toasty at that point. Yes, they’re only pouring the standard 1oz. portion, but that stuff adds up!

You’ll watch a pretty sweet light show (this guy loves his lights!), taste your final 3 wines (some of their more expensive bottles), grab your souvenir glass, and be set loose onto the property. Most people return to the tasting room where you can finally get a full glass of whichever wine was your favorite along the tour or you can buy a bottle to take home.

A Moment to Fantasize About the Wines You Taste on the Tour

Speaking of the wines, you didn’t think I’d forget to tell you about the actual wines did you? On the wine cave tour you’ll have the opportunity to taste 8 wines in total including:

  1. Non-Vintage Sauvignon Blanc– a nice summer wine
  2. Cuvée White– a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. They considered this one the “house white” but it was better than any house wine I’d ever had the pleasure of tasting
  3. 2016 Estate Chardonnay– Made with a blend of 3 vines grown here in Georgia (when you see the word “estate” on the Yonah Mountain Vineyards wines, you’ll know it was homegrown
  4. Young American White– A blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Symphony, and Viognier from their secondary label and one of the most affordable wines offered at the vineyard. Fun fact: it’s the bottle I purchased last year after the tour
  5. An Exclusive Taste of an unreleased 2016 Pinot Noir– This was freaking delicious, but won’t be released until October (I believe)
  6. 2015 Estate Meritage– the first red they made from homegrown Georgia vines
  7. Genesis 9 (yes there are other Genesis versions, expect 10 to be released next year)- an oaky red that should come with a steak
  8. 2016 Steamboat– a deliciously sweet, yet strong 100% Georgia port
Tasting Room at Yonah Mountain Vineyards

Bottles of the wines from the tasting menu will run you between $22-$75. I tried the most expensive one that they mentioned at the end of the tour called the 2016 Vidal Ice Wine. They don’t offer it on the tour, but I knew I needed to taste it. It’s a dessert wine, and boy is it spectacular. One glass of that bad boy will run you $20 but is so worth it if you love dessert wine.

Don’t feel rushed to leave after the tour. Stick around, listen to the live band that’s usually playing outside on the patio, sip wine in the tasting room, roam the vineyards, or (in our case) try a hot dog from the food truck if they have one when you’re there. We had a Chicago dog and an a-la-carte hot dog from the Chattahoochee Dog Haus truck and they were fantastic.

What Makes Yonah Mountain Vineyards Top Quality

I know Yonah Mountain Vineyards isn’t the only winery in Georgia. I actually got engaged at Chateau Elan, married at Montaluce, and heard North Georgia has a few other wineries worth checking out. But, there are a few reasons why I think you should support Yonah Mountain Vineyards by including them in your winery lineup if you live in Georgia or ever come to visit:

  • They use French oak barrels
  • They have high heel proof grates in the brewery (this is thoughtful as hell)
  • Their wines are as good as anything from Napa Valley at half the price
  • They store their wine in wine caves like they do in Europe and California
  • They use solar panels to conserve energy

Check out their website to see what else they have to offer. I know they host movie nights in the fall/winter, have a fun 5K run that people love, they host the wine cave tour, as well as private tastings of their more expensive wines of which I didn’t get a price for, but I’m sure is more than $75 a bottle.

This year I decided to buy the 2016 Estate Meritage wine because it was one of my favorites and I really wanted a homegrown wine. Yonah Mountain Vineyards is located at 1717 Highway 255 S, Cleveland, GA 30528.

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