Hightower Creek Vineyards is nestled high in the North Georgia mountains along the banks of Little Hightower Creek in the Upper Hiwassee Highlands American Viticultural Area, just outside of Hiawassee, GA. At 2200 feet, the vineyard is one of highest in Georgia. This high elevation is great for more than just picture postcard views. The elevation protects the vines from disease pressures encountered at lower elevations and provides large diurnal temperatures variations that allow us to fully ripen grapes while maintaining outstanding structure and acidity.
The Family Vineyard is located about 1/2 mile from the tasting room on Barefoot Road. The largest of our two vineyards, this vineyard is situated on a steep, south-facing slope. The soil is sandy, composed of eroded granite, gneiss and schist. This vineyard is planted with Cabernet Franc, Traminette, and Norton. These were some of our earliest plantings, with the oldest vines dating to 2008.
The Friends Vineyard surrounds our tasting room on Highway 76. This is our younger site, planted with Vignoles, Pinot Gris and Merlot. Soils in this vineyard are heavier and more fertile with a higher clay content. The first vines were planted in 2011 in our Pinot Gris block.
With the exception of Norton and a small block of Catawba, all of our vines are trained to a single-curtain/bilateral cordon vertical shoot positioning trellis. The vines are not irrigated or fertilized, and the valley breezes keep disease pressure (and its requisite spraying) to a minimum. Fruit yields are quite low from this system (often 1-2 tons/acre), but quality is exceptional as it allows us to easily keep vines in balance.
The vineyards are managed entirely by hand, from pruning in winter and spring, to shoot tucking and canopy management in the summer, to harvest in the fall. It takes longer, but it ensures that we are always in contact with our vines.
Cabernet Franc: Cab Franc is one of the kings of Georgia wine. More cold tolerant than its better known relative Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc has made a home in Northeast Georgia. The vine has a very upright growth habit and, in our vineyards, is not overly vigorous. In the cellar, Cabernet Franc makes a wine with firm tannins, a bright and lively acidity and aromas of strawberry jam, tangerine and even smoked meat or leather! Cabernet Franc is the primary component of our Deliverance blend and is occasionally released as a varietal.
Traminette: A hybrid grape from the German Gewurtztraminer, Traminette offers spicy, fruity aromas and a crisp, clean body. The grape is very hardy and seems to love the North Georgia mountains. It’s one of the heaviest producers in the vineyards and makes up the majority of our Chatuga White blend.
Pinot Gris: Genetically the same as grape as Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris is our winemaker Travis’ favorite grapes. While many pinot grigios are light, crisp, straightforward wines, we let our Pinot ripen well into the season then barrel ferment after a period of skin contact. The wine is then aged sur lies in barrel for at least 8 months. The result is a luscious, decadent white wine with tons of body and character. Pinot Gris is almost always destined for our Trillium blend.
Vignoles: One of a number of grapes developed in response to the Phylloxera outbreak in France, Vignoles is believed to be a cross of a Pinot Noir varietal and another unidentified parent. While it is most well known for the production of late-harvest or ice wines in New York’s Finger Lakes area, Vignoles has found a home at Hightower Creek. The vine is very easy to manage, is hardy, disease resistant, and reliably produces a quality white wine with overtones of green apple and pear.
Merlot: A favored component in Bordeaux-style reds, Merlot is often seen as a varietal wine as well. The vines produces lovely clusters of dark-blue berries and the vines themselves are well-behaved without excess vigor. At Hightower Creek, Merlot produces a very distinctive wine with overtones of fresh berries and floral notes. Tannins are medium to soft. Merlot pairs with Cabernet Franc as a component in our Deliverance blend.
Cynthiana: Also known as “Norton”, this grape is often called the “Cabernet of the Ozarks.” However, we prefer to take Cynthiana on its own terms. It produces a big, dark, often rustic wine that can have outstanding spicy and fruity characteristics. On the vine, it’s easy for Cynthiana to get out of balance with too-high acidity or vigor. Cynthiana makes you work for a good wine, both in the vineyard and in the cellar. When it comes together, however, Cynthiana produces a fantastic wine with flavors that you are unlikely to encounter anywhere else. Cynthiana appears in our Chatuga Red blend or as a varietal.