You're really going to like this one," Steve Gibson says with a smile. He reaches into a small refrigerator under the tasting counter at Habersham Winery, extracts a chilled bottle of last year's Viognier, and pours me a generous sample.
I breathe in the fruity bouquet before letting the wine roll across my taste buds. Much to my surprise, I do like this wine. But tasty Georgia-made wines aren't my only discovery at Nacoochee Village on the outskirts of Helen, Georgia.
Almost 2 million people make the trek each year to visit the faux-Bavarian village tucked into the picturesque Northeast Georgia mountains. But now a small community of businesses has taken root along State 75, just outside the city limits on the southern edge of town. Together they're known as Nacoochee Village, and they give Helen a whole new dimension.
Standing at the counter at Habersham Winery, I watch as resident winegrower Andrew Beaty and his crew bottle a new vintage of red wine. A native of Tennessee, Andrew learned his winemaking skills at the University of California, Davis. At the 2000 Atlanta Wine Summit International Wine Competition, Habersham's 1999 Creekstone Viognier was selected as the best wine produced from grapes grown in the Southeast.
Across the road at Nora Mill Granary, two young women are busy stacking boxes on the porch for the UPS driver to collect. Nora Mill ships grits and other grain products to customers all over the world, including many gourmet food stores, supermarkets, and restaurants. If you arrive at the right time of day, you can watch as dried corn and other grains are ground by the mill's original water-powered 1,500-pound French buhrstones. Visitors can select from the products ground and mixed on-site plus a variety of gift items.