The Georgia Wine Producers’ first-ever executive director is settling into the role as the group plans the future of the industry in the state.
Karla Roper of Jasper started work in May, having previously worked as a tourism manager for the winery-laden Gilmer County. Georgia wine has “always been my passion,” she said in early October.
And now, she’s using that passion to help focus the mission of the group representing more than 60 wine producers in the Peach State.
She’ll help organize not only the group’s annual conference held in the winter at Chateau Elan, but also help with the North Georgia Wine Growers’ wine highway event held in the spring.
The North Georgia-specific group is helping fund Roper’s position in exchange for her help with the highway, she said.
“Vineyard owners are super busy, so it’s extremely difficult for them to manage an organization on top of their 14 other hats they already wear,” Roper said.
But it’s an exciting time to be in the Georgia wine industry. The state is quickly approaching a tally of 100 wine producers, and at the same time there’s statewide brand identity for Georgia wine — something Roper will help craft through GWP.
“There’s no branding, no marketing, no promotional materials — there’s nothing to promote the wine industry in the state as a whole, so it’s like I have this blank slate that I get to work with,” she said.
The next GWP-involved event is the Georgia Trustees Wine and Spirits Challenge at the end of October. Next is the February annual conference, which includes a “Taste of Georgia” event that is open the public and features not only Georgia wine, but Georgia-made food and other goods.
The group is also working on a new website in addition to other new marketing materials.
“I think you’re really going to start see Georgia wines pushed out there from a state level,” Roper said.