Whitfield County commissioners expected to vote on farm winery law in October, one wine maker ready to apply for license

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Sep. 30—Farm wineries — which both make and sell wines and grow the fruits and berries used to make the wines — are common in Fannin, Gilmer and Pickens counties. And one local businessman is looking to start the first farm winery in Whitfield County.

The county Board of Commissioners is expected to vote at its Monday, Oct. 11, meeting on a law that would allow the operation of farm wineries in Whitfield County. Michael Roberts said if commissioners approve that law and he receives a county license he will be able to apply to the state Department of Revenue for a license to operate a farm winery.

"If the commissioners approve the (local) law, I can apply for my county license on Oct. 12," he said. "I'm told that will take about three weeks to be processed. Once I get that, I can apply to the state, which will take about another 14 days. Once we get a state license, we can begin production. It will take about 90 days before we have sufficient quantity to begin selling our own product. But state law allows new wineries to sell and taste wines from other farm wineries."

Roberts has been making wine as a hobby for 40 years.

If all goes to plan, he should open the winery at 1606 Beaverdale Road N.E. before the end of the year. Visitors would be able to tour the winery, sample wines and buy them.

"When we open the doors we will have 20 different labels on our list of available wines," he said.

Georgia law requires that farm wineries must produce at least 40% of their wine from fruits and berries grown in Georgia, must be on property "a substantial portion of which is used for agricultural purposes," and must grow a "substantial portion" of the fruits and berries used to make their wine.

County commission Chairman Jevin Jensen said he is "excited to work with" Roberts.

"Bringing the wine-tasting experience and vineyard tours of the Napa Valley (in California) to our local community will be a real treat for residents and visitors alike," he said.

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