Wine tasting in Georgia and Alabama? Really…where? That was the first reaction that I received from my husband when I unveiled my plan for a little weekend get-away from Fort Benning. Napa, sure; Sonoma, why not; Italy, of course, but Georgia or Alabama??, you’ve got to be kidding me! Despite common belief, there is an extensive wine culture in the South Eastern United States that begins right in our backyard!
Little more than an hour or two’s drive from Fort Benning is a myriad of local vineyards that are a wine enthusiasts’ delight! This past summer my husband and I travelled the “Georgia Wine Trail” and the “Alabama Wine Trail” and found some delicious hidden gems. Additionally, to make the trips better, we also found a rum distillery and a whiskey distillery to visit along the way! What follows are three itineraries that I recommend for couples looking to make wine the highlight of their weekend…which should be all of you.
Itinerary 1: Georgia Wine Trail (and Rum Tasting!)
For this itinerary, you can enjoy a perfect afternoon wine tasting one hour drive from Fort Benning! Due north are Warm Springs Winery and River’s Bend Winery and Vineyard. Both vineyards cultivate muscadine wines from local varieties of the muscadine grape; a species native to the South-East. Do you like dry, semi-sweet, or sweet wines? The vineyards will let you try all their wines for free, and both wineries offer a free tour of their estate.
For the extra adventurous, visit Richland Rum Distillery, the only single-estate rum distillery in the United States. Family-owned and operated, the distillery produces and distills their own sugar cane in Richmond, Georgia. For $15.00 you can take a tour of the distillery and barrel house and taste “the spirit of Georgia.”
Right and Up Tip: While visiting Warm Springs Vineyard and Winery, hop over to visit the “Little White House,” President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s second home! There you can spend time walking the grounds and touring the house between vineyard visits!
Itinerary 2: Alabama Wine Trail (and Whiskey Tasting!)
Hop over the border to explore varieties of muscadine wine in Alabama! Past Opelika in the gorgeous Alabaman countryside resides Whipoorwill Vineyards and Hodges Vineyards & Winery. While visiting Whipoorwill Vineyards, the owner Tim Watkins, gave us a personal tour of his cellar and vineyards. Not only does he grow noble varieties of the muscadine grape for wine production, but also Merlot, Lenoir, and Champannell grapes… and blueberries for picking in the early summer! His Tuscan-inspired vineyard is a perfect site for a picnic, a romantic photoshoot, or simply delicious wine from their tasting room. Across the valley, Hodges Vineyards and Winery produces muscadine wine was well as wine from their Merlot, Lenoir, Norton and Bland du Boise grapes. Both vineyards offer free tours and tastings for a blissfully fun afternoon adventure.
On the way back to Columbus, stop by John Emerald Distilling Company for a whiskey tour and tasting. Family owned and operated, this local company has perfected their craft of local, southern Single Malt Whisky, Spiced Rum and Vodka! Next door, you can visit the Red Clay Brewing Company for a craft beer or two. We both had a beer while waiting for our reservation at the eclectic Ma Fia’s Pizzeria in downtown Opelika.
Right and Up Tip: My husband and I purchased a Groupon for John Emerald Distilling Company, and for $11.00 total, we booked a tour and tasting. Highly recommended.
Itinerary 3: Blended Weekend (Best of Both Trails!)
Want to escape for the whole weekend? Spend a weekend visiting both locations, or spend one day just at the vineyards and the next visiting the distilleries! Whichever itinerary you pursue, ensure that you call ahead, as the locations and times differ on the weekends. Also, consider purchasing a Groupon for John Emerald Distilling and Richland Rum Distilling to make your experience even more enjoyable. Tailor your trip as desired, and look forward to a weekend of enjoying the simpler things in life: spirits and vino!
About the Author
Liz Brunette is an active duty Captain in the United States Army. She is a 2012 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Political Science. She is an avid reader, writer, photographer, and all-around unapologetic adventurer! Her most recent assignments were in Vicenza, Italy with the 173rd Infantry Brigade (Airborne) and the Maneuver Captain’s Career Course at Fort Benning, Georgia. She is currently stationed at Fort Stewart, Georgia in the 3rd Infantry Division. She absolutely loves being stationed in the South and experiencing all that Savannah and the rest of the “low country” has to offer!