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Wine Groups Let Women Uncork

Without men, it’s no skin off their grapes.

by Erin McWhorter . photos by Rimas Zailskas and Matt Rose

They heard it through the grapevine. Or maybe they heard it from Jessica Gualano, owner of Asheville’s Wine Studio and an 11-year wine industry veteran. Her increasingly popular Girls on Grapes group, which she started in 2008, is just one example of a burgeoning national and local trend—pairing women and wine.

Gualano, 31, believes women are interested in wine groups because they can learn about a traditionally male-dominated subject in a pressure-free atmosphere. Not that wine is so macho. But it is one corner of the gastronomic universe that’s long been populated by men. Just try to name one famous female wine critic. (See?)

Gualano may not be a household name—yet—but she is a certified wine specialist with the American Society of Wine Educators, and she’s getting a degree from London’s Institute of Masters of Wine, a distinction only four American women have earned. Her expertise is in wines from France, Italy and Spain, and she has traveled to all three. Next month, she heads to France to help harvest grapes at a small Rhone Valley vineyard, Montirius.

Girls on Grapes started with just a dozen women meeting once a month. Now, around 30 women meet three times a month. Her largest gathering ever—a lesson on French Beaujolais nouveau—drew 93 women. “After that, I thought—we’re really onto something if we can reach this many people,” she says.

Girls on Grapes meetings get geeky at times, with Gualano venturing into history and botany lessons. But not all wine meetings are like class. Karen Weihs started Asheville Women on Wine in January 2008 as a way to make friends after she and her husband moved here from Charleston. Now, she donates proceeds from her monthly events to charity. “It’s not just about wine,” says Weihs. “Women on wine can mean women on wine, food, community or friendship.”

Whatever you do, don’t feel that you have to spend a lot on wine, says Ariel Glassman. She and her partner Lawrence Kobesky opened the wine bar Vue last January, hoping to bring some awareness of Old World wines and smaller vineyards to downtown Hendersonville. In her opinion, price is almost never an indicator of quality when it comes to wine, and neither is a high ranking from Wine Spectator. “A lot of wines here—you’ll never see ratings on them,” she says, reeling off a few of the bar’s more unusual bottles, like a Greek wine from Domaine Skouras. This summer, she’s drinking a rosé from Chateau Peyrassol. While some wine connoisseurs might turn up their noses at a rosé, it’s hard to beat in the hot summer months. Always do what your taste buds tell you, she says. “If you want to drink a big cab with scallops, drink what you want to be drinking.”

Posted on Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 08:09PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments6 Comments | References6 References

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Reader Comments (6)

Thanks for a great magazine about the fabulous women of Western North Carolina. I enjoyed reading this article and found the photos beautiful!

However, the copy and the photo placement is confusing. The cover photo is Ariel Glassman and the first photo in the article is also Ariel, yet the copy is all about Jessica Gualano until the very end. We then see a photo of Jessica and then the copy switches to Ariel Glassman's comments on wine. My thought is to switch Jessica's photo to the top of the article and Ariel's photo at the end.

Again thanks for bringing us this magazine!
July 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarilyn Brannigan
Per the above comment, I too was confused. The article seems to focus on Gualano's "girls on grapes," yet Glassman was used for the primary visual piece. As a friend and supporter of Jessica, I am disappointed that her beautiful face was not more clearly connected with her contribution. Without a doubt, she should have been on the front page of this issue.
July 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteranonymous
to anonymous above: i'm truly not trying to be rude or make a jab at you, but out of curiosity, have you been to Glassman's place? Vue is a fabulous wine bar in Hendersonville, with what I consider to be one of the most unique and best wine lists in the area. She and her partner are doing great things for the wine (and food!) world, and perhaps you should go check Vue out before you say Glassman is not worthy of the cover.
July 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteranonymous
Glassman doens't have the experience that Gualano does; while both women are worthy of being in this article; it is confusing that most of the copy would be about Jessica and not feature her on the cover. Makes no sense.
July 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSD
Are we adults here? Congratulations for both ladies and the excellent work they are both doing.
August 3, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteranonymous
It is incorrect to write that there are no famous wine critics. Jansus Robinson, a Master of Wine, wrote the Oxford Guide to Wine and many other books on the subject,and she is an internationally acclaimed wine expert,
October 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commenternancy brown

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