Is it time for a bucket list update? Wine, moonshine or bourbon trails all make a great option. Certainly, you can do this on a whim, but to make the experience far more enjoyable and avoid rookie mistakes, drink in these tips before you set out:
Make it about the experience, not the buzz. Whether you're planning a whole weekend away to enjoy, say, the Tennessee Moonshine Trail or you're just slipping off to Dahlonega for a day of traipsing wineries, remember this is a journey, not a drinking contest. A wine or bourbon trail in Georgia lets you take time to savor different tastes, along with seeing where the vino or spirits get made. That said, always make sure your first planning step is deciding who will be the designated driver.
If you do want to get buzzed, choose your trail carefully. One flaw in the concept of making a Georgia wine or bourbon trail a date escapade is that one of you will have to be the designated driver. If you're really committed to being able to drink more than the legal limit for driving, consider a mini bourbon trail consisting of just a few of the Atlanta-based distilleries. That way you can plan to call Uber or Lyft. Atlanta's ASW Distillery is a good option here, or the Kennesaw-based Lazy Guy Distillery or Decatur's Independent Distilling Company.
Do your due diligence. Keep in mind, the details tend to change a bit even at the most established places, and some of the distilleries on lists like Only In Your State's bourbon trail are just a few years old. So make sure to double-check before you jump in the car, focusing on the hours, days open and when tours are offered.
And even if you'll have a tour guide, it helps to know what spirits will be available at various places. That way you can pace yourself, skipping the reds at your first stop, knowing that a highly desirable merlot is coming up at the next winery, for example. The homepage for the Winegrowers Association of Georgia is a good place to see all the wineries in one place, along with a map.
Treat the trails like an endurance event. Wine is romantic and bourbon alluring, but you should be pragmatic before hitting a trail. Forget fancy clothes; just wear breathable layers and comfortable shoes. Consider a small money belt or cross-body bag to carry just your ID and a credit card in case you go wild in the gift store. But strive to have your hands free to swirl those bourbon samples before sipping or to steady yourself as you stroll the vineyards. And remember you'll probably be outside at least part of the time for wine trails. Don't forget the sunscreen and bug spray, and bring a water bottle to stay hydrated.
Don't get arrested. This goes without saying, right? But even those friendly rural areas that feature wineries or distilleries are governed by Georgia's liquor laws. Never bring a minor to a tasting. Always make sure you're below the legal limit for DUI before slipping behind the wheel. And take care to abide by Georgia's Open Container Law, which reads thusly, according to the Dui Driving Laws:
"It's unlawful for a person to consume any alcoholic beverage or to possess any alcoholic beverage in an open container in the passenger area of a motor vehicle that's located on the roadway or shoulder of any public highway. The open container law applies to drivers and passengers. However, when the driver of a motor vehicle is alone, the driver will be charged with violating the open container law if there are any open containers of alcohol in the passenger area."
Don't take it too seriously. You'll take all the fun out of a Georgia wine or bourbon trail if you expect every wine to rate a 95 from Wine Spectator, or every bourbon to be the sort you'd serve at a Kentucky Derby gathering. The whole point of a trail is to see new things and enjoy the scenery. If you come away from your first wine or liquor trail with a new favorite sip, here's to you!
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