For almost 30 years, Cheryl Smith has worked to bring the world to North Georgia wineries.
If you found your way into a Dahlonega tasting room, coasted down a wine highway, or got a good tip on your next trip to some far-flung winery in the mountains, send a thank-you to Smith, who has been getting the word out about Georgia wine since the long-gone days of travel agents and cheap airfare.
In December, the ebullient advocate for Georgia wine will hit her 30th year with the tourism division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development — a career spanning five governors that have seen the Northeast Georgia wine industry (second in its tourism draw only to the formidable Lake Lanier) grow from two wineries to the dozens dotting the hills today.
Smith has been a frequent face at Georgia Wine Producers, the statewide organization of winemakers where she’s a board member.
Born in Atlanta, Smith got her start in the working world as a wandering nurse with her husband, Pete Smith, who now works as a news photographer for Channel 11.
Nursing wasn’t to be, however, as the quick-smiling Smith found that caring for the sick was work that didn’t suit her. Looking for something new, she landed at Lake Lanier Islands’ former Pineisle Resort — a line of work she found she preferred.
That revelation led the Smiths to South Carolina.
“I went to Clemson University. I was (already) a nurse, but I got my degree in parks recreation and tourism management at Clemson,” she said. “That’s kind of how I got into it.”