Before they were Divas, the women were friends who met doing volunteer work with a nonprofit organization, the National Coalition of 100 Black Women. They started going out together after meetings. “We were always eating and drinking,” says Carolyn Golden Hebsgaard, executive director of the Boston Lawyers Group and the Lawyers Collaborative for Diversity. “Frankly, we were spending a fair amount of money, and we decided we should know more about this wine thing.” They quickly got organized, as type A personalities will, and began hosting monthly wine-tasting get-togethers. At first they served cheese, crackers, fruit, and “little nibbles,” but before long they were planning elaborate, themed dinners.
“We were just having fun,” says Karen Holmes Ward, a producer at WCVB-TV. And learning a lot. Stephanie Browne, an information technology director at Blue Cross and Blue Shield and president of the Divas, learned not to serve her reds too warm or her whites too cold, for example.
The friends have become educated in more arcane subjects as well, such as vintages and sugar-to-acid ratios. But “wine savvy not wine snobby” is their mantra, and the most important lesson they pass along to consumers is to trust themselves when it comes to taste. “Pick wines that please your palate,” says Ward.
As the conference winds down, I ask the Divas how they balance work and friendship. “The one thing we're not going to lose is what brought us together,” insists Hebsgaard. So on top of all their other responsibilities, they still plan monthly wine-tasting dinners, just for themselves.
No wonder, then, that where others might describe a wine in terms of its nose or finish, Browne compares it to something closer to her heart. “My aha moment was when I realized how a balanced wine tastes,” she says. “The fruit and acid and alcohol are all in perfect harmony. It's like having your favorite food next to your favorite person in your favorite place.” In other words, delicious.
The Wine Divas solve 7 great mysteries of the wine world
Julie Powell is the author of Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously (Back Bay Books).