Photo Credit: Pop the Cork Tours
Pop The Cork Wine Tours: A Black-Owned Wine Tasting Experience Near Atlanta
La Tanya Eiland was 17-years-old when her grandmother gave her a trip to Italy for a work-study program as a graduation gift. It was the first time she saw vineyards and the winemaking process, and she fell in love. Now, more than 50 years later, Eiland’s passion hasn’t waned.
“I enjoy every aspect of it,” she told Travel Noire, “including tasting and drinking wine.”
Now, together with her husband Chuck, Eiland is hoping to inspire a new generation of oenophiles through Pop The Cork Wine Tours. It’s described as a ‘memorable wine tasting experience‘ that allows guests to leisurely explore wineries in the countryside, just outside the metropolitan Atlanta area. The tour is an extension of a concept the Eilands first developed on the other end of the country in an area 15 minutes from the Temecula wine country in California.
“We used to have a neighborhood wine club, and we would invite one of the winery owners. They’d do blind tastings on different wines. It started to grow. You’re getting people coming over. And so we always just took them to wine country. One day, I said, I’m going to put a tour together. I went to work with the winery owners and I rented a 50 passenger bus. I told friends and family we’re doing this wine tour, and it sold out right away.”
Her numbers doubled and tripled over the next two years. She realized she had a business on her hands. They continued for 11 years before Eiland received an offer to relocate to Atlanta for work. There was a moment of hesitation because she was close to retirement but with their kids all grown up, the couple decided to move to the South for at least two years with plans to return to the west coast.
But Eiland saw the possibility for a new venture when she discovered North Georgia’s wine scene.
“I found out that they have this huge wine country that not too many people in Atlanta knew about. So we actually started our business in 2015. It started out very small. We were the only tour company coming out of Atlanta, taking people 90 minutes up to the North Georgia wine country. From there, it just grew and grew and grew.”
A booking with Pop The Cork Wine Tours rewards guests with a full-day immersive experience. It starts with a 9:30 am pick-up for a 90-minute drive to the first winery. There the wine starts flowing with tastings followed by lunch. A caterer delivers meals based on what customers have preordered, and the day continues at multiple other wineries in the area. Even the wineries are selected based on the group’s unique tastes, whether they prefer semi-sweet or drier wines.
On weekend tours, guests are treated to live music at the venues. The day ends at about 7:00 pm.
“We are giving an education on wine, so it’s not only fun, but they’re going to leave as what I call wine snobs because now you know how to hold your glass, you know how to sip your wine properly and maximize the taste of it.”
Eiland estimates that 60% of their visitors come from the Georgia area, but they also get a lot of traffic from surrounding states like Louisiana, Florida, the Carolinas, Alabama, and internationally. They host bachelorette parties, anniversaries, birthdays, conference attendees, or moms who just want some alone time for the day.
The couple brings complementary skills to the business — La Tanya’s career was in advertising and Chuck is a retired military man and computer networking engineer who speaks five languages.
They’re at odds over expansion — “He keeps saying, ‘When are we retiring?’ And I keep saying, ‘We are retired,'” laughs Eiland — but do have plans for small group international wine tastings to Italy, France, Germany or maybe closer to home in Napa Valley or Southern California.
Whatever the future holds, what is certain is the growth of the wine industry in Georgia.
“I kind of see this area exploding the way the Temecula area grew,” predicted Eiland. “When we first started in California doing wine tours, there were 13 wineries. I think now it’s over 70. Here in the state of Georgia, there’s about over 40 to 50, and they’re just coming on board at a rapid pace now.”
Find out more about Pop the Cork Tours, including their ‘See, Swirl, Smell, Sip, and Savor’ Experience, on their website.