Held every Labor Day weekend, the Annual Grape Harvest with the Crush Festival features live music, great food, wine tasting and everyone’s favorite – Grape Stomping!
Georgians are no strangers to wine or winemaking. Since the colonial days of the 1700s, we’ve been perfecting viticulture and bringing the uniquely Georgian terroir of our soil and climate to wineglasses around the world, with the notable exception of that dark time in American history; Prohibition. North Georgia is particularly friendly to viticulture and vintners, and one vineyard in particular is the talk of the Southern Appalachians. Set on a lovely and historic home site in the Cartecay Region of Ellijay, Cartecay Vineyards serves as a beautiful example of the emerging winemaking culture in the region. “Cartecay” is a Cherokee word meaning bountiful “bread valley,” and today, the bounty produced in Cartecay is grapes and wine.
Owners Larry Lykins and his wife, Shay purchased a fallow farm in 2007, which included sloped hillsides, a home site with a chimney and a barn, all built in the 1800s. The original farm grew corn and hay, grazed cattle, and raised hogs and mules. The once working farm proved to be the perfect site for growing wine grapes.
The Chimney Patio, the vineyard’s outdoor venue for live music, weddings and wine celebrations, is built on the exact footprint of the original farm’s home site. A popular spot for wedding ceremonies and concerts, it offers beautiful views of the mountain landscape and vineyard. The chimney has been refurbished and sits on its original site, giving historic flair to the many events held there. The functional chimney helps to knock the chill out of the air in the cooler months; often having a fire burning to help warm guests and add more than a little ambiance to the site. The chimney is an important center piece of Cartecay Vineyards, so much so that every bottle has its emblematic design on the label. The historic chimney truly is the beating heart of the vineyard.
The Tasting Barn is exactly what it sounds like: a tasting room fashioned out of the original barn. The refurbished barn boasts original 1800’s barn wood, Black Walnut bar and Cherrywood handrails, both made from trees harvested on the farm. The Hayloft is a private events room upstairs in the tasting barn, which has hosted countless rehearsal dinners, wedding receptions, private parties, and live music performances. The Hayloft can seat up to 40 people, making it ideal for intimate gatherings in authentically historic surroundings. The Lykins are very proud of the Tasting Barn and always eager to show it off to visitors.
While Cartecay Vineyards welcomes year-round guests with their famous hospitality, certain events are always guaranteed to draw big crowds. The annual Annual Grape Harvest with the Crush Festival, held Labor Day weekend, is one such example. A joyful celebration of the yearly grape harvest, the Crush Festival features live music on the patio’s covered stage, booths from local artists and vendors, exclusive wine tasting opportunities, delectable local food options, and of course; grape stomping, done with bare feet in the ancient tradition of winemaking. This year, the Crush Festival begins on Saturday, September 3rd at 10:30AM, and ends at 6:00PM the following day, September 4th.
Gilmer County may be most famous for its apples, but wine grape growers have quickly realized that grapes grown in its fields and valleys have special characteristics all their own. The environment of these Southern mountains, alternating from cool and cloudy to sunny and hot, creates a complexity of flavors that is fully released from the grapes and expressed in the wine created here. Vintners call this mystical quality a region’s “terroir” (TEHR-wah), which is created by site specific soil conditions, climate, elevation, and topography. The innumerable differences and combinations of elements, subtle and major, give every wine a particular character, which both the experienced sommelier and the casual wine drinker alike can appreciate. Experienced wine-sippers who prefer some wines over others, and wines from one region over another, can likely point to the wine’s terroir as major reason.
At Cartecay Vineyards, the terroir is heavily influenced by its western-facing slopes, elevation and loamy soil. The loamy soil, in combination with the elevation of the vineyard, 1650 – 1750 ft., and the Western facing slopes provides the ideal climate for growing grapes of the highest quality. Cool nighttime temperatures coupled with hot sunny days ensure that the grape vines will thrive, providing properties needed to create wines with intense colors, flavors, and tannins, as well as uniquely Cartecay characteristics.
Cartecay Vineyards currently offers eight wines, made from six varieties of grapes, all grown onsite. Vidal Blanc, Merlot, Traminette and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are used to produce varietal wines, as well as blends, while Catawba grapes are used to make Chimney Noel and Sassy Sisters. Norton grapes are used to make the soon to be released “Chimney Dessert” wine, a sweet, dessert-style wine, and both Norton and Catawba grapes are used to create the soon to be released “Chimney Sangria” wine, a sweet, light Sangria-type wine.
A precious gem nestled in the stunningly beautiful mountains of North Georgia; Cartecay Vineyards is an integral part of Georgia’s Southern Appalachian winemaking culture. Its orderly rows of vines and trellises are both charming and functional, reminding all who visit that despite the advances of a fast-paced, high tech world, some traditions are worth continuing. Growing wine grapes, celebrating their harvest, and crafting them into award-winning wines is the tradition that Cartecay Vineyards elegantly preserves for the rest of us to savor and enjoy.