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Newbies Seek Idyllic Vineyard Living

Millennial TV Shows reflect the Current Demographic Changes in Vineyard Ownership

About ninety miles north of Atlanta, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains is the wine country of the east coast. People from all backgrounds across the country are discovering North Georgia Wine Country.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution “Montaluce is one of at least 77 wineries in the North Georgia mountains (and counting), that hosts wine tasting experiences. Overall there are about 106 bonded wineries in the state. Some offer straight up tastings while others have expanded into full blown experiences with guided hikes, fishing, music, hay rides through the vineyard or interactions with the winemaker.”

According to the Georgia Wine Industry, the wineries’ economic impact is about $4.1 billion with $1.4 billion in annual wages and $88 million in tourist expenditures. There are almost 1,000 acres under cultivation and about 214,321 tourist visitors. A Wine Trail map is available, but the best way to sample the wineries may be in March with the Wine Highway, a month-long event. In 2022, 40 wineries and 8 tasting rooms participated. What else is different about the wineries is that BIPOC people are increasingly seeking ownership of their own wineries as Georgia lives up to the moniker as ground zero for the new inclusive south.

Tilford Winery is named after the late Sir Tilford Taylor of Utica, MS. Tilford Winery & Farms is a family owned and operated winery located in Kathleen, GA. Tilford Winery grows Organic Muscadine grapes in its vineyards throughout the Southeastern region of North America. Tilford Winery produces wine & juice. All products are organic OWN TV’s new drama series Kings of NAPA which in part is actually filmed there (even though it is focused on Napa Valley wineries in California which has the highest number of black owned vineyards. The series is guided by the input of actual winery owners. Creator and showrunner Janine Sherman Barrois sought the help of actual Black winemaking families to advise the show. Sherman Barrois tapped Le Quintiss Taylor, who handles marketing for Tilford Winery in Georgia, to serve as a series consultant. Whether you are a novice or a pro, these vineyards are the perfect place to get your wine fix and learn more about the South. In California’s Napa Valley there is a small but growing community of Mexican American and African American families who started as blue collar workers and now have their own wineries. So it comes as no surprise too many the same is happening in North Georgia and the Carolina’s.

Promised Land is also the latest show to cast wine and diversity in leading roles, joining NBC's Grand Crew and OWN's Kings of Napa. Promised Land’s pilot episode was filmed in and around Atlanta, in the winegrowing areas of northern Georgia; the rest of the episodes have been shot in Southern California, at Agua Dulce Winery in Santa Clarita and Mizel Estate Vineyards in Thousand Oaks. According to the Association of African American Vintners president Phil Long (of Longevity Wines), there are more 100 wineries in the US that are Black owned and since the pandemic that number is growing quickly. For Kimberly T. Johnson, winery ownership began with a much less complicated mission— free admission into some of Maryland’s biggest wine festivals after a call to her best friend, Denise Matthews. “I said, ‘Hey, I’m so tired of this mess. Do you want to start a winery with me?’ And she said, ‘Yes, sure.’”

That conversation triggered the beginning of Philosophy Winery, Philosophy is the first Black-owned winery in the Maryland, and one of just two in the whole mid-Atlantic.

And when the director of the Maryland Wineries Association told Johnson that Philosophy is also the first fully female-owned winery in the state—she was “floored.” A popular winery for couples to visit is is a favorite destination of Wine Lovers visiting the North Georgia Mountains and Dahlonega-Lumpkin County, The Heart of Georgia Wine Country. A variety of tastings are offered inside from a large cherry wood tasting bar featuring a distinctive collection of southern folk art and pottery. What is embraced by many BIPOC owned wineries is a push away from exploitative seasonal hiring of cheap labor and instead accepting the new paradigm of wine businesses creating permanent roles to cover vineyard and winery tasks, rather than rely on seasonal workers at pruning or harvest. According to the 2021 Strategic Pays survey, updated in October 2021, recruitment for permanent staff remains high with most wineries.

A big part of that hiring change is the new wineries are becoming nature lovers' retreats, and places for vacations, weddings, anniversaries and even business meetings! Wine vacations offer the perfect combination of verdant vineyards, accomplished sommeliers and of course, delicious wines. The Southern East Coast is full of exciting destinations where you can enjoy wine tours and tastings, from traditional hotspots (Dahlonega) to small-town gems. While California is known for its famous vineyards, you’ll also find other options for wine tasting in North Georgia, including regions in Maryland, the Carolina’s and even Texas.


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