Photo: Michael Edwards
They had hosted dinner for 150 people the evening before, then stayed up half the night making nametags and centerpieces for today's luncheon, but the Divas Uncorked look amazingly serene as they greet their guests. Rosalind Johnson approaches me with a charming smile, a glass of Roselle Syrah Rosé, and a friendly exhortation: "Breathe!" she says. “You're here now.” Though I'm frazzled from a long and noisy train ride to Boston, right away I begin to relax.
The event at which I have just arrived—a weekend conference featuring multiple-course meals with wine pairings, plus lectures, presentations, and a reception—is called “Wine, Women, and....” It is the highlight of the Divas' year, and the culmination of nearly a decade of learning, planning, organizing, and sipping.
Divas Uncorked started in 1998 when a group of friends decided to learn more about what they were drinking. Now it's a thriving business dedicated to educating consumers about wine, and educating winemakers about consumers—particularly women and African-Americans, who are often overlooked by the industry. To that end, the Divas organize frequent Divas Dine events in restaurants across the country, inviting the public to eat and drink while learning about wine. They act as marketing consultants to wineries and wine stores that become members of the Divas Uncorked Collaborative Consortium. They also manage a Web site, divasuncorked.com. They even have their own wine, Divas Uncorked Chardonnay, produced in partnership with the Mendocino Wine Company.
All of this could be quite enough to occupy the friends, ten energetic women in their late 40s, 50s, and early 60s. But each of them also has a high-powered day job, ranging from executive consultant to educator. “We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into when we started,” says Callie Crossley, a commentator with NPR and WGBH-TV, as she walks with me to our seats at the luncheon.
As we dig into our appetizers, the conversation in the room grows raucous. Although I don't know any of the hundred women gathered here, I feel as at ease as if I were sitting around with friends at a girls-only cocktail hour. And I realize the Divas have succeeded in doing what many of us fantasize about: They've built a business out of their favorite pastime.