I’m a self proclaimed wino. That’s not a condescending term in my book. I love wine! I love learning about wine! I love drinking wine! I love visiting vineyards! But am I an expert? No. I can’t do blind tastings, I don’t know all the wine regions, I don’t recognize the names of all of the grapes, and there are some wines that my palate cannot tolerate. So, I’ll take “self proclaimed wino”.
My interest in wine came about somewhere in 2007. I just thought it was fascinating that all wine just came from grapes. No extra added fruits or spices. At the time I had no idea that there were so many varietals. When I get fixated on something, I like to learn it properly and learn it well. I started ordering wine at restaurants and happy hours. I attended a couple of wine tasting events and I have to say it was VERY intimidating. I did not fit in at all. I was a young-ish professional black woman and the events were all filled with older white people. I didn’t stop attending, because I did enjoy the wine. At the time I’m sure I was only drinking Moscato or Riesling but it was wine! The problem with these events was that I wasn’t learning about the wines I was just drinking and listening to other folks discuss why they liked what they liked.
Because I’m a researcher to the core, I started looking for other wine tasting events to attend where the attendees may be at least my age if not my complexion and I was crossing my fingers for some education. It was then that I ran across The African American Wine Tasting Society, Inc. I’d found my wine tribe! Their tastings were once a month so I signed up to attend. My memory is vague but the first tasting event that I attended, I believe was held at a restaurant in Decatur, GA and it had the word “Red” in the name…..the Red Shoe maybe? I really don’t recall. I convinced my best friend to come along with me. She was on the fence about wine but she was open. The attendees all looked like me and they welcomed us with empty glasses and open arms.
I cannot believe that it was almost 10 years ago that I discovered The African American Wine Tasting Society, Inc (AAWTS). A non profit organization that focused on the education of wine, specifically but not exclusively, for Black people. It was a place to learn and be comfortable asking questions and trying new wines. I was hooked! I could probably count on one hand how many AAWTS tastings I did not attend.
I enjoyed this organization so much and believed in its mission that I served as secretary for a few years and then as president for another couple of years. So in 2017, I have to say I’m sad to see that this will be the final year of operation for AAWTS. Renee Rowe, the founder of AAWTS and owner of The Wine Cellars, in Smyrna Georgia, did an amazing job keeping this going and because I had the opportunity to work closely with her during my tenure in office, I understand what goes into keeping the organization running smoothly. It’s no easy task. My heart breaks but I’m so glad I found my wine tribe and was able to elevate my wine knowledge. AAWTS gave me some lifelong friends and expanded my palate. I was that girl who turned her nose up at red wine but now it’s my go to choice of wine.
Just because it’s the final year of the organization’s operation doesn’t mean we weren’t going to celebrate the 14th year anniversary. On August 22, 2017 we gathered at City Winery Atlanta for our final anniversary celebration dinner. We enjoyed a pre fixe menu, an open bar with wine from City Winery’s collection and we were able to take a tour of their barrel room. And to top the night off, we were able to catch the end of the concert being held at the venue that night, Tower of Power! It was a grand evening with a great group of people that I’m sure I can still hang out and have wine with after AAWTS is no more.
So, what’s next? I’m not sure if someone will pick up where AAWTS is leaving off in terms of wine education, but i certainly hope so. I still believe there is a need for a comfortable setting for black people to learn and explore wines. There’s more out there than Moscato and Riesling!
If you’re looking to enjoy wine and gain some education via a tasting, here are a few places around metro Atlanta where you can do that. These just happen to be Black owned. Maybe I’ll see you there! Cheers!
If you know of any other spots to check out, please leave info in the comments! I do travel, so drop spots in different cities too!