Kaya Vineyard looking northeast in the New Dahlonega Plateau AVA. Photo from Wayne Crawford
Dahlonega Plateau acquires long-awaited American Viticultural Area designation for the wine vinyards
The United States Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) approved the long-awaited American Viticultural Area (AVA) for the Dahlonega Plateau on June 29, 2018, effective July 30, 2018. An AVA is a delimited grape-growing region having distinguishing features attributing a given quality and reputation to wine made from grapes grown within the AVA according to United States Code.
“An all Georgia AVA is a momentous milestone in Georgia wine history,” Smoke Signals wine columnist Wayne Crawford said.
AVA recognition allows vintners to describe the origin of wines to consumers accurately. Napa California is an AVA and over time has grown synonymous with quality wine. Dahlonega Plateau is the first all Georgia wine region awarded AVA status and comprises a 133 square-mile area. Further north is the Upper Hiwassee Highlands AVA approved on July 18, 2014, containing a 690 square-mile area covering a wine growing region jointly defined by mostly North Carolina and four Georgia vineyards.
The Dahlonega Plateau AVA, centered on the historic North Georgia Gold Rush Town Dahlonega embraces hilly country, with excellent wind flow, good annual rainfall, and drainage in Lumpkin and White counties. Seven wineries currently plant nearly 120 acres in vineyards at altitudes ranging from 1,500 to 1,850 feet above sea level within this Piedmont physiographic region. Significantly, Dahlonega and its surrounding vineyards contain more wine tasting rooms than any other area within the state and have become a vital wine tourist destination in Georgia to enjoy excellent wine, food, entertainment and Georgia history. Notably, other seasoned vineyards within Georgia maintain tasting rooms around the historic town square.
The transition to AVA status comes with additional responsibilities and high standards. One crucial benchmark is 85 percent of the wine labeled AVA must come from within that region. Today it is difficult to project how many vineyards will pursue complying with the higher requirements associated with AVA status but you can be confident with the long journey traveled for approval many will seek this special recognition. Credit for this AVA selection goes to the first vineyard and winery pioneers who had the foresight to see the enormous potential this growing region provided for Vitis vinifera and other grapes starting in 1995: Doug and Sharon Paul, Craig and Cydney Kritzer, Karl and Linda Boegner and David Harris. Indeed, thanks also go to the team at Dahlonega-Lumpkin Chamber & Visitors Bureau who labored along with the vineyard owners to prepare the petition.
This approval marks another significant milestone in Georgia wine history. Today Georgia has 59 wineries and perhaps nearly another dozen grower vineyards contributing $4.1 billion to the economy. We should all look forward to savoring Dahlonega Plateau AVA labeled wine.