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Georgia Wine Country
Copyright 2000-2017

The first Spanish explorers that inhabited Georgian soil probably did not successfully propagate European winegrapes.  However, there is evidence they might have enjoyed wines made with Native American vines cultivated by the Cherokee and Creek Indians.

Two centuries later, Georgia’s founder, James Edward Oglethorpe tried to introduce European viticulture as a part of his economic plan.  It was his fancy to see the new Georgia Colony excel in two products, fine silk and fine wine.  Georgia had been observed as a prosperous region for mulberry trees. Unfortunately, Oglethorpe’s silkworms disliked the native variety and Georgia’s climate.  Likewise, European winegrapes (vitis vinifera) were unable to be successfully cultivated due to mysterious New World diseases and indigenous insects. The end result?  European grapes and  mulberry trees were abandoned for rice and indigo. Eventually, the cotton plant replaced those commodities. Over the decades, native muscadines were cultivated throughout Georgia for table grapes and sweet wine production. European and French-American winegrapes were grown with the aid of new scientific techniques to allow Georgia to produce its share of East Coast table wines.

All through the 19th Century, Georgians grew and produced products from winegrapes.  Local historical accounts tell of family vineyards from Blairsville to Pine Mountain.  Reconstruction Era efforts included vineyards near General Longstreet's Piedmont Hotel in Gainesville, Georgia.  He grew muscadines and raised turkeys on his hilltop home about 2 miles north of the hotel.  Rumor has it his wines may have been served to guests. A statue of the General now graces this site and one of his vines is just to the right of the statue, but on private property on Longstreet Circle. According to the Longstreet Society, cuttings of this vine are thriving at his old Piedmont Hotel at 827 Maple Street.

In the 1890’s, several hundred Hungarian immigrants relocated to Haralson County-near Bremen-to establish vineyards and make wine.  These new wine-producing communities were named Budapest and Tokaj.  Soon with the introduction of the Georgia Prohibition Act of 1907, most of Georgia’s farm wineries and vineyards were abandoned.  After prohibition was repealed, Georgia’s wine industry ripened with the aid of surplus peaches and tomatoes.  However, European winegrape production didn’t really develop into what it is today until the late 1970's-early 1980’s, when modern day pioneers like Gay Dellinger of Cartersville planted Split Rail Vineyard, Dr. Maurice S. Rawlings established The Georgia Winery in Ringgold and Tom Slick established Habersham Vineyards & Winery in Clarkesville. The Panoz family followed suit in 1981 with the introduction Chateau Elan Winery in Braselton.

In the mid 1990's, second wave grape pioneers plowed the pastures to create a new rush of vineyards and farm wineries in the North Georgia mountains from Dahlonega and Tiger. In the South, legacy muscadine farms added wine production and opened tasting rooms.

Today, a new economic impact is being felt.  Georgia has become a celebrated place to not only produce traditional sweet mucadines...but premium winegrapes as well. “Georgia’s Wine Country” stretches from Savannah to Young Harris and every where in between.  Experts have observed as much as a $400 million dollar economic impact for the state based on the number of bonded wineries and farms producing fruits and honey for wine production. The Georgian wine industry is recognized as a hot new “green agribusiness industry” categorized as “Agritourism and Agritainment."

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