Known as “Georgia’s Apple Capital” and the state’s “Mountain Biking Capital,” Ellijay, Georgia, is touted for its outdoor gems, but there is more to this gorgeous North Georgia town than the natural wonders it beholds. Step inside the new playhouse, raise a glass at one of the area wineries, savor delicious eats in the revitalized downtown and see why it’s easy to fall in love with the trendy atmosphere that permeates this must-visit destination. Just 80 miles north of Atlanta and 65 miles from Chattanooga, Tennessee, Ellijay is easily accessible, offering an enticing mix of old-fashioned charm and modern draws.
At the George Link Jr. Gilmer Arts Playhouse, indulge in a Broadway-style performance without ever leaving the Peach State. A project years in the making, the playhouse will make its grand debut Labor Day Weekend 2017. Significant renovations have transformed this building into a 150-seat venue capable of hosting high-quality theatre, concerts from award-winning acts, comedy and variety shows.
Expand on your Ellijay experience and toast a trip to remember at one of the area’s five wineries. These vineyards rest in the beautiful foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, which provide the ideal location for growing quality wine grapes. Each winery is set in the picturesque countryside, surrounded by orchards of all varieties, making it impossible to just visit one.
Cartecay Vineyards sits on 13 stunning acres and produces six wines. Sip in the Nealey Barn Tasting Room or listen to live music on the Chimney Patio. On September 2 and 3, the winery will play host to Crushfest. Stomp on grapes, peruse craft vendors’ wares, indulge in wine tastings, or try out an adult slushy–all while live music fills the late summer air.
Nearby, Engelheim Vineyards will release two new 100% estate grown wines this summer–a Petit Manseng and a Pinot Grigio. These dry whites pair perfectly with the warm season. Sample something more robust with their Roundtop Red, a flavorful Cabernet Franc/Muscadine blend.
Family-owned and -operated Chateau Meichtry recently released five new wines. Sip on the Georgia Merlot, a complete representation of Georgia’s terrain, aged in French oak barrels with hints of plum, boxwood and vanilla. Try the Zinfandel, which is aged 14 months in French and Hungarian Oak and exhibits dark fruit and cedar scents, while subtle tannins and acidity lead to a big finish. Savor the sweetness of the dessert style Vidal Blanc, exuding notes of pineapple and dried apricot on the nose and a citrus fruit on the palate. For a fun blend, venture down to Mountain Treasures, a downtown Ellijay boutique. That’s where you will find their new label, Ellijay Red, produced by Chateau Meichtry, ripe for the tasting.
Established in 2010, Ellijay River Vineyards span almost 20 acres of former crop land, bordering the Ellijay River. In April of 2011 three white grape varieties were planted on just over 3.5 acres to form the East Vineyard. In spring 2012 a small plot of Merlot was added. Additional plantings are anticipated in the near future. Visitors are welcome by appointment or on the weekends.
At Fainting Goat Vineyard and Winery find handcrafted wines grown from the finest certified French vines. Here, the wine list boasts a range of full-bodied reds, crisp, fruity whites and sweet blends. Enjoy the scenic mountain view from the 50-foot veranda. Or, stay inside and enjoy the spacious 30-foot ceilings infused with live music. Floor-to-ceiling windows allow all guests to appreciate the panoramic views no matter where they choose to sit and sip.
Where to eat
Quell hunger pangs during your Ellijay adventure. For breakfast, stop at the Martyn House in Towne, Georgia’s cutest coffeehouse. Start the day with handcrafted lattes, cappuccinos, mochas, frappes and the best cold brew coffee in the North Georgia Mountains. Stay a while and savor a parfait or an assortment of baked-daily cookies, granola or scones. For lunch, pull up a chair inside Cantaberry. Sample soups, sandwiches and salads from a menu that offers lighter options with full flavor. Dine on delectable dinner dishes at Lee’s on River Street. Round out the day with menu favorites like Shrimp and Grits, Pan-roasted Salmon and Cornish Wellington.
Between a show-stopping playhouse, top-notch wineries and oh-so-good eats, Ellijay is a small Southern town with a sprawling cultural scene. Whether you choose to fill your time with memorable performances, smooth beverages, tasty bites, or all of the above, this North Georgia town is sure to leave you with memories you’ll want to re-create again and again.