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New Winery Sautee Nacoochee Vineyards
By David Darugh
One more vineyard and winery has joined the growing list of North Georgia producers of fine table wine. Real Estate investor Hue Rainey and wife Jane have planted grapes, built a new winery and tasting room, all in the historic village of Sautee.
Hue Rainey has been a longtime fixture of the North Georgia Mountains, having owned a bed and breakfast inn, motel, been in construction and is currently President of the Helen Chamber of Commerce. After selling off some of the investment properties and retiring from the inn-keeping business, Hue started casting about for something else interesting to be involved in. One day his daughter called him while touring Napa California and suggested he get in the vineyard and winery business. A seed was planted.
Hue and Jane did not make this leap without some serious study and constructing a business plan. They visited a number of North Georgia wineries seeking advice on equipment, grape varieties, trellising and farming. Three Sisters co-owner Doug Paul proved instrumental in offering advice on uncomplicated trellising for grapes and sizing his operation and investment. In addition, Steve Gibson of Habersham Winery, and former President of Wine America, allowed as how nearly 90% of all wineries from New York to California are Mom and Pop operations, and many are very successful in their niche. Finally, in order to get an additional perspective the Rainey’s toured the growing Missouri wine country and studied several small operations that offered a good model for their vision.
After much study the two concluded there was room in North Georgia for a small family run winery making carefully handcrafted wines. The Rainey’s already owned about 8 lovely acres of land that looked optimum for a vineyard, so no new land purchase would be necessary. The family also owned a former veterinary office in Sautee that they refurbished into a beautiful tasting room offering a spectacular view of part of the vineyards. An old barn located on nearby land has been remodeled into the winery operation. The first vines were planted in April of 2009 to Cabernet Sauvignon. The tasting room was opened on Halloween 2009. In 2010 they expect to produce about 1,000 cases of wine. The winery currently has a capacity of about 3,000 gallons. While Hue and Jane are insistent that their operation will remain small and focused on quality wines, Hue also has a vision of building an amphitheater near the winery that will facilitate live music in the vineyard and offer a venue for weddings and special events.
Currently the Sautee Nacoochee Vineyards offers 7 wines. We tasted through the wines and would characterize each wine as exceptionally well made and each perfectly reflects the soils and micro-climates of north Georgia. I was especially pleased with the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, which had medium body, nice round tannins and a lovely blueberry and blackberry bouquet. Another favorite was the White Merlot, which was very crisp, barely off-dry and smelled of fresh strawberries.
I asked Hue about the wonderful deer logo on their tasting room. Hue indicated that his farm was part of historic hunting lands of the Cherokee and Creek. He and Jane believed that the winery and vineyard’s image should pay homage to the earth and its rich Native American history. Hue quipped “sipping our wines is like slipping into your favorite pair of jeans and enjoying the sunset with someone you love. We want everyone who comes into our tasting room to feel like part of our family.” After our visit we sure felt like we had made new friends. Congratulations to Hue and Jane, you are off to a great start.
Sautee Nacoochee Vineyards
98 Nacoochee Way (Just off Highway 17)
Sautee Nacoochee, Georgia 30571