By Kathie Farnell
Photos by Jack Purser
The mountains of north Georgia, long a popular spot for beating the heat in summer, beckon travelers with sweeping views, a chance to shop for folk art and crafts, and surprisingly innovative wineries.
Less than ninety minutes from Atlanta, the Glen-Ella Springs Inn near Clarkesville offers sixteen rooms overlooking a swimming pool and gorgeous garden. The Inn, built more than one hundred years ago as a home, later catered to travelers in search of a nineteenth century spa experience at the local mineral springs. Reopened in 1987, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has won widespread acclaim for its cuisine, featured in Southern Living, Better Homes and Gardens and Atlanta Magazine.
The Inn’s Penthouse room features a king four-poster bed, heart pine paneling, a private balcony and fine antiques, along with a beautiful view of the property’s seventeen acres.
Two suites offer whirlpool baths, a sitting room and gas log fireplaces. A six-bedroom golf villa includes two common areas with full kitchens. Guests staying in the golf villa enjoy complimentary playing privileges on The Orchard golf course nearby.
Rooms at the Inn open onto common porches replete with rocking chairs. Breakfast, included in the room rate, is served outdoors, weather permitting, on a terrace overlooking the gardens.
The property includes a mountain creek and hiking trails. Nearby activities include whitewater rafting, horseback riding, shopping in the area’s antique shops, golf, trout fishing and enjoying the scenery.
The Inn is open for dinner most evenings by reservation. Chef Chris Bolton’s menu includes herbed mountain trout, rack of lamb, and shrimp over grits. During my visit, we enjoyed a bountiful breakfast including trout cakes, homemade granola, biscuits and terrific peach preserves.
Rates at the Glen-Ella Springs Inn start at $125 double occupancy including breakfast. For more information or reservations, check the website at www.glenella.com
In addition to history and scenery, this area of North Georgia provides a wealth of shopping opportunities. Visitors may browse through folk art in the town of Clayton’s Main Street Gallery, handmade furniture at Timpson Creek Art Gallery and Millworks, and pottery at Clarkesville’s Hickory Flat Pottery, the working studio and home of potter Cindy Angliss.
Main Street Gallery, established in 1985, offers folk art including paintings, furniture, pottery and sculpture. Self-taught artists represented include Howard Finster, Woodie Long, Sarah Rakes and Dorethey Gorham, whose colorful memory paintings incorporate religious references. Owner Jeanne Krosnoble is committed to discovering new artists and showcasing their work. In Spring of 2004, she joined with Tampa, Florida, gallery owner Cathy Clayton to present a folk art exhibit at Tampa’s Clayton Galleries which included the works of some 30 Main Street artists. Nearby Timpson Creek Gallery features the one-of-a-kind furniture of Dwayne Timpson. Everything from armoires adorned with swimming trout to chandeliers made of moose antlers comes from Dwayne’s workshop on the property. The gallery also features clothing, Amish furniture and folk art.
Hickory Flat Pottery, located in a century-old house in Clarkesville, Georgia, is the working studio of potter Cindy Angliss. Most of her works, which incorporate a painterly feel, are wheel-thrown. She mixes her own glazes and fires her work in the gas kiln overlooking her garden.
Angliss’ shop is conveniently located just down the street from Batesville General Store, a home-cooking mecca famous for its biscuits.
The Georgia mountains are also headquarters for the state’s burgeoning wine industry. Vineyards got their start early in Georgia—by 1900 the state was sixth in the nation in production of wine grapes—but statewide alcohol prohibition adopted in 1907, followed by national prohibition, destroyed the state’s wineries. Georgia passed a farm winery bill in the 1980s, and its two largest wineries, Chateau Elan and Habersham, went into production shortly thereafter. The real news, however, is of more recent vintage—since 1998, vineyard acreage has tripled, and more producers are concentrating on growing vinifera, the traditional European wine grape, along with some interesting French-American varietals. The result is a thriving industry which has begun winning awards for its wines while proving an increasingly-popular attraction for visitors.
Three Sisters Winery, established in 1996 by Sharon and Doug Paul, is one of the new crop of Georgia wineries. Located on 184 acres north of Dahlonega, it was Lumpkin County’s first bonded farm winery since Prohibition. The vineyards produce traditional wine grapes including Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay as well as Cynthiana-Norton and other American varietals. Three Sisters has been featured on TurnerSouth’s Blue Ribbon Wineries as Georgia’s Best Winery. The tasting room, opened in 2001, was designed by Georgia architect Garland Reynolds and is the site of free tastings Thursday through Sunday. Visitors have the option of paying to try the “Vintner’s Tasting” on Fridays and Saturdays and a “Georgia Wine Country Tasting” featuring cheeses from the state’s Sweet Grass Dairy every Sunday. The winery schedules open house events each month, and is the site of the Georgia Wine Country Festival each June.
Another family-owned winery, Tiger Mountain Vineyards, in northeast Georgia on Old Highway 441 North near Clayton, produces 14 acres of French and Portuguese vinifera grapes as well as the American varietal Norton. Their red wines, aged in the barrel for 12 to 24 months, have won more than 40 awards including gold medals from the American Wine Society. The winery is open on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. or by appointment.
For more information about Georgia’s wine country, check websites at www.georgiawinecountry.com, www.georgiawine.com, and www.georgiawinetrail.com.