North Georgia has become one of the most popular destinations to visit for folks who live and work in Atlanta or the greater metropolitan area. With a slew of outdoor activities, unique shopping opportunities and a laid-back lifestyle that can be infectious, it’s no wonder that cities like Ellijay come to mind when the term “getaway vacation” is brought up.
While cabin rentals and zip-line adventures are as popular as ever, local vineyards have quickly gained a loyal following by offering tours of their property, weekly events and the chance to try award-winning wines that can only be found in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.
Travel just over an hour north of Atlanta into Ellijay, Georgia, and you’ll find Engelheim Vineyards: a one-of-a-kind winery owned and operated by Gary and Jan Engel and their family.
Originally born in South Alabama, Gary is a retired army officer of 28 years who has spent time in Iraq and Kuwait. It was during those years as an Army Officer that Colonel Engel began formulating the idea of opening a winery and growing grapes.
“While I was in the army, I was stationed in places where I saw grapes grow, and I thought it was fascinating. My mother used to make wine growing up, and I just decided I wanted to grow grapes. So, I retired, and Jan, my wife, said OK,” said Engel.
German for “Angel Home,” the land upon which Engelheim Vineyards sits was purchased in 2007, with the first vines planted in 2009. Their first vintage was produced in 2011, and since that time Engelheim has seen growth and success with every subsequent year.
This vineyard, tasting room, and winery are truly a family-operated business. Jan, an international flight attendant for American Airlines, often works in various aspects of the operation when not on travel. Emily, their youngest daughter also helps in the tasting room and manages many aspects of the business especially with social media marketing and digital design work. She is also a full time senior at Georgia State University. The other two children, Katie and William, come and assist although they currently reside in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The passion that the Engel family puts into making the vineyard special is evident from the moment you step foot on their property: German architecture and design are used in abundance at Engelheim Vineyards, a tribute to the family heritage. They will readily tell you that the business is a Christ-centered operation where we attempt to give God glory in all we do. God makes great wine and touches hearts at Engelheim. They also strive to honor the Cherokee Nation who originally occupied the land that the vineyard sits on.
Once you arrive at Engelheim Vineyards, there are plenty of sights to see and activities to do. One of the most popular attractions, of course, is their wine tasting room where guests can try an assortment of wines. Some of these wines have won major awards made from grapes that are estate grown on the property and just feet from where you’re standing.
Not familiar with wine? Don’t sweat it, as you’re sure to find something that you’ll like at Engelheim Vineyards.
“It doesn’t matter what you know as far as tasting wine,” said Engel when asked about newcomers.
“We have had lots of people come in and say they don’t like wine. Well, maybe you haven’t tasted the one that you would like. Never say never, because you’d be surprised at what you might like. You don’t have to be an expert on wines when you arrive, because we’ll walk you through your tasting. We’ve got a trained staff that will ask you questions about what you do like, and will try to steer you in a direction to find something that you will enjoy.”
Engelheim Vineyards also hosts a number of different events for guests to enjoy, which often change depending on the season:
“We have live music most of the time on Saturdays and Sundays – other times we have dinners, tapas events, even painting events where people will paint and drink a little wine. People can have picnics; get a glass or bottle of wine, sit out in the vineyard and have a picnic with their family,” said Engel. They also host numerous weddings, rehearsal dinners, and have an excellent event coordinator on staff.
Engelheim Vineyards holds true to the laid-back lifestyle and atmosphere that people love so much about visiting the southern Appalachians; in fact, children and furry family members are welcome at the vineyard as well.
“We are a family-friendly place; we love for little ones to come here, and people can bring their dogs if their dogs are friendly and are kept on a leash,” said Engel.
The goal of the Engel family is for each guest to “experience a taste of heaven,” as he puts it, whether they swing by for a quick tasting, spend an afternoon touring the vineyard, or enjoy a romantic Valentine’s Day date with that special someone. Wine tastings are $10 and include any 5 wines from the wine list featuring a variety of dry and sweet, red and white wines. No reservations are required except for tours.
Bring your friends, family and loved ones the next time you’re in town, and find out what makes Engelheim Vineyards so heavenly!
For more information:
127 Lakeview Road
Ellijay, GA 30540
Tasting Room Hours:
7 days a week from 12:30-6 pm.
Vineyard & Winery Tours:
Tour the vineyard and winery with the owner (Gary Engel). Tour lasts approximately 45 mins to an hour.
Monday, Thursday, and Friday: By Appointment Only
Saturday and Sunday: We conduct 1 tour, usually around 3 pm. Please call ahead on day of tour to check for availability.
Group discounts available.