Women of the Vine in Westborough

By Cathy Huyghe

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"It’s one thing to attend a wine tasting. Normally they’re organized according to a theme, like the wines of South Africa or the Russian River Valley. You go. You hold out your glass. You taste. You hold out your glass again, and hopefully during the course of the event, you find something that interests you.

It’s another thing to work at a wine tasting. You go. You pour wines into the glasses of outstretched tasters. You pour again, and hopefully you interest the tasters in what you’re pouring.

Rebecca Miller, a member of WGBH’s Kitchen Crew and a wine associate at Julio’s Liquors in Westborough, worked at a tasting on Friday night called Women of the Vine. The tasting was held at Tatnuck Bookseller, partly because Women of the Vine is the name of a book as well as a wine company, and Deborah Brenner (the author and founder) was in town for a discussion and wine tasting.

Today’s Q&A with Miller is a glimpse of the event from the perspective of a fly on the wall.

CH: Who was the audience for this event?

RM: Between 20 and 30 people attended, and each of them was already very interested in wine. Interestingly, most people seemed to have learned about the event from flyers at Julio’s rather than at the bookstore itself. Brenner sold out of all of her books and she could have sold more. A lot of people bought the book at Tatnuck’s, and a bottle of wine, then went over to Julio’s to buy a bottle of wine to give as a gift.

CH: What wines did you pour?

RM: A 2009 Sauvignon Blanc by Alison Crowe ($15), plus the following:

    * 2006 Chardonnay by Alison Crowe ($18)
    * 2007 Signature Series Chardonnay by Signe Zoller ($27)
    * 2006 Pinot Noir by Alison Crowe ($30)
    * 2006 Merlot by Alison Crowe ($16)
    * 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon by Alison Crowe ($18)
    * 2007 Signature Series Cabernet Sauvignon by Signe Zoller ($30)
    * 2007 Signature Series Zinfandel by Carol Shelton ($34)

CH: How did you decide which wines you’d pour?

RM: Heather Christensen decided; her mother, Pauline Mullen, owns Gilbert Distributors, one of the very few women-owned distributors. Julio’s wine buyer, Tim Korby, also decided to stick to the sweet spot in terms of pricing, between $12 and $25.

CH: What was the reaction of the audience to the speaker and the content?

RM: Very positive. As I mentioned, most were already interested in wine, but I think when they left they were very interested in the story behind the wine. I mean the story of the author, Deborah Brenner, and how she got into the business, but also the women winemakers and how important it is to promote that. Women winemakers are there, they just don’t get much press.

CH: What was the reaction of the audience to the wines?

RM: Also very positive. Almost everyone who bought a book also bought some wine.

CH: Is a book discussion and event an effective way to educate an audience about wine?

RM: Absolutely. The wine and the story go hand-in-hand. Wine tends to be a male-dominated industry and, even though women have always been involved, their presence is now becoming more prevalent.

CH: What surprised you about this event?

RM: How differently women and men approach wine. Wine is a male-dominated industry, yet women are the primary purchasers of wine. Deborah Brenner emphasized the commitment, and I was surprised how physically hard people in the industry work. Winemakers and growers work in agriculture and farming; they love it but it’s hard work and a difficult life. She made it very clear that, as a winemaker, you don’t just show up in a cute outfit and taste wine. You’re there in the trenches.

Cathy Huyghe writes for the WGBH Daily Dish blog. Read new WGBH Daily Dish posts every weekday, where you can explore myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.
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