Rustic Beauty

By on August 12, 2012

Cartecay Vineyards

The mountains in southern Appalachia are abundant with apple orchards, providing springtime blossoms that tease the senses. In Ellijay, the first awakening of grape vines is displayed by budding leaves on arbors that arouse hopes of ripened grapes and the unsurpassed beauty of Cartecay Vineyards.

It’s obvious that the owner, Larry Lykins, is passionate about his vineyard. He moved to Ellijay in 2002 for just that purpose: “I love farming. I’m a farmer first and a vintner second. Farming has been my dream for as long as I can remember. A vineyard/winery has been my dream since 1999.”  When Lykins purchased his farm in 2007, the land had lain unused for many years. The original farm-site has been established circa 1890. He was able to visualize the 13-acre planted vineyard, and designed it by combining the original farm layout with specific vineyard needs, which allows him to harvest the highest quality grapes. He restored the turn of the century dilapidated barn and the chimney from the original homestead, which burned in 2005. “I turned the chimney and the old homestead into what I call the Chimney Patio, where we often have live music.” He points out that the restored chimney is also Cartecay Vineyards’ logo.

Cartecay Vineyards holds the distinction of being the first wine vineyards in Gilmer County. The area was chosen because of its terrain, ideal climate, elevation of 1650-1750 feet and the soil, which is conducive to producing excellent wine grapes. The property is blessed with natural springs and creeks that supply the gift of water to the vines. Though Gilmer County is traditionally known as the Apple Capital, it also works for grapes. “There’s a saying among grape growers and agriculturists,” says Lykins, “‘If you can grow an apple, you can grow a grape.’”

With Cartecay Vineyards, Lykins lives his dreams. His first plantings were accomplished in 2008 with Vidal Blanc and Merlot. Since then plantings of Traminette, Norton (Cynthiana), Catawba and Cabernet Sauvignon were completed. More varieties are in the planning stage and expansion of the vineyards to 25 acres is anticipated.

The first harvest for Cartecay Vineyards was in 2010. The first vintages released in September 2011 were 2010 Vidal Blanc and 2010 Chimney Blush. In November 2011, 2010 Merlot was released, followed by 2011 Chimney Noel. Development of other areas of the business moved along swiftly, such as the recent opening of the tasting barn, officially called the Nealey Barn (named for the family who farmed the land from 1935-2007).

The unique southern Appalachia theme of the property with its refurbished tasting barn and chimney is an artful combination of a new Gilmer County business enterprise with the area’s farming history. The business buzzes with various Cartecay events from wine-tastings to special occasion parties to fashionable weddings. “The entire vineyard and events facilities are designed to encompass turn-of-the-century southern Appalachia. The wine is styled so as to embody southern Appalachia and encompass the characteristics of the site on which it is situated,” Lykins smiles, obviously passionate about this vineyard.

Forty-five guests can comfortably sit in the upper part of the Nealey barn—the old hayloft—and the main level can accommodate 80 standing guests. For outdoors events, the size is limitless, with acres of grapevines and mountain beauty.

Cartecay Vineyards - Patrick and MissyWith weddings a specialty at the vineyard, the scenic views are a definite draw. The peaceful mountain and valley views serve as a natural backdrop for engagement and wedding photography.  They almost bestow a blessing on the wedding couple and guests, inviting in the tranquility of the mountains and the vineyards.

A warm aspect of Cartecay Vineyards is that the  staff is largely made up of family members. Wedding coordinators Pat and Chrissy Daniels (mother and daughter) are a part of the family-related staff. Chrissy explains that her mother manages the tasting barn and she assists with the special events planning, including the live-music events, “We always advertise events on our website calendar and Facebook page.”  She also says that Cartecay Vineyards sells local artist’s work, small gift items, and gift certificates.

When harvest time approaches, even the youngest family members pitch in. From children to parents to three farm dogs, everyone watches out for deer and bear that enjoy ripe grapes. A propane crow cannon that sounds like a gun is also used as a deer and bear deterrent, beginning when the fruit starts to ripen.

Vanessa Wilbanks is the mother of upcoming May bride Kristen Stiles. She says that Cartecay Vineyards was chosen for her daughter’s nuptials with Matt McGraw because after one visit to Cartecay Vineyards they were both smitten with the ambiance of the site. The history of the setting appeals to this native Georgian couple. “It’s ideal. All thoughts of my daughter’s original plans for a destination wedding were forgotten when she saw Cartecay Vineyards. With the help of the wonderful staff, they’re planning a less-is-more wedding, without attendants, for a small, old timey – but simply elegant – wedding.”

Lykins, who is the secretary for the Wine Growers Association of Georgia (, a co-op marketing group, believes his involvement is important in keeping himself informed and knowledgeable  about the wine industry, and that knowledge makes him more valuable to his clientele. He’s also a member of Wine America (, a national organization.

vidalharvestIt’s easy to discern that the solitude of the Blue Ridge Mountains provides a tranquil place to come away and truly enjoy a special celebration with friends and family. Though only 75 miles from Atlanta, and 53 miles from Chattanooga, Tennessee, Cartecay is like an island in time, away from the hustle and bustle of often too-busy modern lives. Lykins, his wife, Shay, and the staff invite you to come, relax and celebrate at Cartecay Vineyards.

Cartecay Vineyards is located at 5704 Clear Creek Road, Ellijay, GA 30536. Call 706-698-WINE (9463) to plan an evening of relaxation or celebration.  To plan an event e-mail coordinator@cartecayvineyards.comThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.