I admit it. I love wine. Not that I needed proof, but Facebook confirmed this for me after I submitted to one of those end-of-the-year applications whereby a list of your most frequently posted words is generated. My top two for 2010 were “wine” and “love.”
Granted, it's a pretty common topic of discussion for me, considering that I help put on a wine and food festival. But beyond that, good wine is hands down my favorite alcoholic beverage — at times exotic, always comforting and elemental. So there’s no surprise that ever since the Wine Studio of Asheville opened a year ago, I have continued to be one of its many happy regulars.
I know this piece is called "Bar Tab" and that the Wine Studio of Asheville is not a bar. But it's also not your average wine shop. Stop by on any given evening during a tasting and you’ll see staffers pouring into raised glasses and hear laughter and lively discussions over great music — characteristics of any beloved neighborhood bar. One of the main components separating the Wine Studio from some other wine shops is its license, which not only allows for tastings and classes to take place on site but also for one to be able to go in, buy a bottle of wine, sit down and drink it there.
The wine shop is on Charlotte Street (just a stones-throw from Charlotte Street Pub) and always has a full schedule of classes and tastings, my favorite is Winesdays. Each Wednesday, owner Jessica Gualano orchestrates a sampling of five wines based upon a theme (there were bubbles the week before New Year’s, and, more recently, new arrivals under $12), and then she and her wildly approachable and knowledgeable staff not only pour for you, but also tell you about each wine — either briefly or in depth, depending on your level of interest. What’s more, each Winesday is only $5, and a portion of proceeds always goes to a different nonprofit each month.
Patronizing the Wine Studio isn’t just about buying wine, but about experiencing and learning about it in a warm, encouraging environment. And seriously — how often do you get to drink for charity? As far as their extensive classes go, I have been itching to take Sake Tasting 101 where you BYOS (that's Bring Your Own Sushi). And for you health nuts out there, there's Stretch & Wine, a restorative yoga session followed by — yup, you guessed it — wine. Definitely a yoga class I can get behind. And each Saturday, all afternoon, there are free tastings.
I know I am not alone in saying that purchasing wine can be intimidating. You’re going to a dinner party and you just know there will be big-time wine connoisseurs there. What to bring that will impress but not break the bank? Or what if you walk into a store and are directed towards something out of your price range, or asked questions you don’t really know the answers to, like “Are you looking for a particular vintage?"
Never fear, because even if you have absolutely no idea what you are hoping to buy, Gualano and her trusty staff will help you find a bottle of something you will feel good about. I am embarrassingly bad at retaining information on wines I’ve enjoyed, being better at describing the label than being able to recall its origin or varietal. I even bought one of those little wine journals — but of course I never have it on me when I need it. So, the fact that they can keep a log of what you purchase there is just another check alongside many others in my book.
— Ayana Dusenberry is the marketing manager for WNC Magazine and the Asheville Wine and Food Festival, and a proud alumnus of the Mountain Xpress. She can be reached at email@example.com.