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First gold, then wine – magnets pulling people to Dahlonega, Georgia
By Tom Adkinson

(Editor’s note: This is one in a series of travel stories spotlighting destinations and activities to consider in a time of coronavirus and to inspire safe outings elsewhere.)

dahlonega wineries includes three sisters
A tour of Dahlonega-area wineries often includes Three Sisters, the first of several to emerge in the Blue Ridge hills; image by Three Sisters Vineyards and Winery.

DAHLONEGA, Georgia – Dahlonega is a little town in the mountains of North Georgia born in an early 1800s gold rush and sustained today in a major way by tourists, many of who come looking for another valuable commodity – wine.

The wealth-seeking gold miners, whose palates didn’t include a crisp chardonnay or a mellow merlot, poured into the area after a man named Benjamin Parks discovered gold while deer hunting in 1828. The prospectors, who disregarding the fact this was Cherokee Nation land, panned in creeks, blasted away hillsides with water cannons and eventually dug mineshafts.

Wolf Mountain Winery
Aging barrels at Wolf Mountain Winery bide their time, waiting for bottling when the winemaker says the time is right; image by Wolf Mountain Vineyards and Winery.

Today, many hillsides around this town of about 7,000 residents are adorned with tidy vineyards and wineries, some of which border on palatial. Instagrammers love the scenes. You can sample the winemakers’ modern-day gold on site or drop into tasting rooms in Dahlonega’s very walkable downtown. There are more than a half-dozen tasting rooms within a few blocks of each other.

Gold had a flashy tenure in Dahlonega. The U.S. Mint even opened a branch in 1838, coining more than $6 million in gold before closing in 1861.

The mint building burned, but there’s a sparkling reminder of it today. A building that now is part of the University of North Georgia rose on the foundation, and it is crowned with a gold-leaf steeple. (By the way, it’s Dahlonega gold that makes the dome on Georgia’s capitol in Atlanta glisten, too.)

Nearby in Dahlonega’s town square is the 1836 Lumpkin County Courthouse, the oldest in Georgia, which houses the Dahlonega Gold Museum.

It is easy to indulge today’s desire for social distancing by driving the curvy roads and byways of Lumpkin County to visit some of the wineries that have helped North Georgia earn its viniculture reputation. Here are a few.

Frogtown Cellars
Frogtown Cellars is Georgia’s most awarded winery. Its cypress-and-timber tasting room overlooks its 57 acres; image by Frogtown Cellars.

Frogtown Cellars: Georgia’s most awarded winery in major U.S. competitions may be the most awarded outside of California. Frogtown grows more than 20 varieties of grapes on 57 hilly acres and hosts visitors in a spectacular cypress-and-timber tasting room.

Three Sisters Vineyards and Winery: Lumpkin County viniculture began here (the owners label it “Dahlonega’s First Family Farm Winery”), and today the family farm blends winemaking with folk art and wine festivals. It covers 184 acres of Blue Ridge Mountains countryside.

Wolf Mountain Winery
Tasting rooms, such as this one at Wolf Mountain, are airy locations, most with great mountain views; image by Wolf Mountain Vineyards and Winery.

Montaluce Winery and Estates: Picture a Tuscan villa in the heart of Georgia’s wine region, and then add an appealing restaurant with farm-focused menus. Montaluce offers tours and tastings, but you’ll want to come when you can enjoy a locally sourced dinner of upscale Southern foods and delicious wines.

Wolf Mountain Vineyards and Winery: Another award-winner, Wolf Mountain combines lovely local wines with beautiful views from its fieldstone winery set on 25 acres. Restaurant reservations are required, but there’s an option for the non-planners – pizzas for picnics right on the estate.

Cavender Creek Vineyards and Winery: Cavender Creek is a small family farm winery that opened in 2007 and focuses on American Norton, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Manseng grapes.

Kaya Vineyard and Winery: Kaya Vineyard and Winery is the rebirth of Blackstock Vineyards, so it may seem familiar to early wine tourists. Its wines come only from grapes grown on the estate. A new twist is the addition of three-bedroom cottages if you want a home base for exploring the region.

Trip Planning Resources: and

(Travel writer Tom Adkinson’s new book, 100 Things To Do in Nashville Before You Die, is available at

Published September 11, 2020

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