I recently visited with Kari McCann, General Manager at Kaya Vineyard & Winery and learned so much about this wonderful destination in Dahlonega, Georgia.
Purchased in 2015 by Bill and Andrea Werkeiser, the property was previously Blackstock Vineyard and Winery. Kaya opened to the public with it’s first wines (from the 2015 harvest) in 2016. The winery has experienced tremendous success in just a few short years. Not only with their award winning wines, but as a destination for enjoying wine, food and the gorgeous setting in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains — and that part of the story has only just begun.
The 90 acre vineyard currently has 33 acres under vine (per Tasting Room Manager Katie Haynes), so there is plenty of room for growth. The varietals grown include Merlot, Viognier, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Touriga and Sangiovese.
The vines grow on double trellis systems, which allows for double the yield of grapes. The grapes are hand harvested and gently processed into the best expression of a balanced reflection of both fruit and technique.
The property is in Georgia’s first named American Viticulture Area, the Dahlonega Plateau — this is exciting news in the wine world, as the AVA designation just happened in June of this year.
Fun Fact: City Winery in Atlanta purchases grapes from Kaya’s vineyards for their wines!
Kaya has experienced great success with Winemaker and Vineyard Manager Ariel Padawer, and Assistant KJ Bell at the helm. The wines have received numerous awards from the Georgia Trustees Wine Challenge, the Los Angeles International Wine Competition, and the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition to name a few.
All of the wines are produced with grapes grown on the estate. On a previous visit I enjoyed two of their rose selections, one from Sangiovese and one from Merlot – both dry. On this visit I was able to taste the Oola, a Cabernet Sauvignon named after, Andrea Werkeiser’s mom. This wine was delicious and it is a wine they plan to produce every year.
Kaya currently produces 13 different wines – from sweet to bone dry, and red, white and Rose. Their case production is 2,500 cases. They apparently make a pretty amazing sparkling wine that they sell out of every year.
The Tasting Room
Kaya’s tasting room is located on a ridge at the top of the property’s elevation (slightly more than 1600′), with 12 foot windows offering an incredible view. There is both indoor seating and a beautiful outdoor covered patio offering a comfortable place to spend an afternoon, and if you visit on the weekends you will most often find live music.
The staff is incredibly hospitable and knowledgeable. Preset flight tastings are available with Classic and Deluxe options priced at $14 and $18 respectively. Private group tastings in the Barrel Room are available on the weekends, with wine chosen specifically for your group. The cost is $25, includes a Kaya Vineyard souvenir glass, and tastings must be planned in advance. Tours and tastings are also available by reservation for $35 and include the souvenir glass as well.
There is a executive chef run kitchen in the tasting room, offering some delicious options. You can see the full menu here, but if you don’t try the goat cheese with pink pepper and celtic sea salt, you are really missing out. And just look at those charcueterie boards!
The Werkeisers have always wanted lodging on their property, and a total of 15 cottages and a boutique hotel have always been part of their vision. Recently, four cottages were completed and are available for weekend getaways – check availability here. As you can see the cottages are stunning, inside and out! They all feature 3 bedrooms with 3.5 bathrooms and every amenity you can think of to enjoy a wine tasting weekend in the north Georgia mountains. You can truly have a relaxing getaway without having to worry about a long drive back to the metro Atlanta area or beyond.
Kaya offers several events throughout the year, many exclusively for Wine Club members — and the Wine Club is maybe my favorite part of Kaya.
You can become a Wine Club Member with a 1 bottle subscription! To me, this is absolute genius because one person can only belong to so many wine clubs. They also allow you to choose monthly, quarterly, semi-annual or annual pick up of your wine club wines — just in case you don’t want to make the drive every single month! When they make it that easy, it’s hard to pass up. Check out Wine Club options here.
Private events can be held at Kaya – from weddings to corporate retreats! Fun fact: the blue pick up truck parked on the property was brought to the property as a wedding prop for a family member’s wedding – it not only has become a part of the property but was the inspiration behind the Kaya Blue wine label.
On the Horizon
As luck would have it, the owners were able to recently purchase the Dahlonega Spa Inn, literally just down the road from the property. Plans for this new property include a complete renovation of the facilities and grounds, resulting in a 22 room hotel, a spa, a fine dining restaurant, an event space that can seat 300, and it’s own tasting room. A sister property, if you will, with a shuttle service between the two properties so that visitors can truly have a destination wine experience, with resort-type amenities in beautiful Dahlonega, Georgia.
And with plenty of room for additional vines at Kaya, I am looking forwarding to seeing what the future holds for their wine. — hopefully more sparkling wine maybe? I have no doubt that the wine making plans are just as ambitious as the rest of their plans.
Favorite Wine Drinking Music
One of my favorite things to ask other wine people is if there is a certain type of music, an artist, or even a specific song that makes you want to stop what you’re doing and enjoy a glass of wine. Admittedly, it’s a very subjective question that can change from day to day, but on this day, Kari McCann shared that Christmas music is her choice because the holidays are all about spending time with and enjoying the company of family friends. Cheers to that Kari!