Friday, April 17, 2015

Want to test-drive brilliant new wines in comfort or at a party? Kelly Bowen talks about her innovative new business, WineShop At Home.

For me, going to a wine store makes me want to reach for the Valium. There are so many choices, and half the time, I make the wrong one.  Or I stick with the wines I'm already familiar with, and then I realize I'm missing out on some fabulous new possibilities. 

Kelly Bowen is not only the genius publicity director at Algonquin Books (My publisher! One of my publicists!), but she's also started this innovative new wine business, WineShop At Home.

I'm thrilled to have Kelly here to talk about it--and I admit I have a glass of wine at my desk as I'm typing all this up! Thank you, Kelly!

What is Wineshop at Home and how does it work? And how can people get involved?

Wineshop at Home is a Napa Valley-based winery that offers its own exclusive, handcrafted limited production wines and in-home tastings with wine consultants. We take all the guesswork and stress out of the wine tasting for the host - the wine consultant leads the tasting, offering information about each wine and fun wine facts, making it a really enjoyable, low key evening for everyone. We want guests to have the freedom and comfort to try wines they’ve never experienced before, and also pair each wine with food to show how the wine changes.

This is a wonderful company for all types of wine lovers: people looking for limited edition, artisan wine not available anywhere else, someone looking to create their own wine label for a special occasion (such as corporate gifts or wedding party gifts) and wine lovers who want to host a tasting. And we’re looking for people who like wine and people, and would be interested in pouring wine and making a little extra money as a consultant!

I love your tag line (Come for the taste, stay for the lifestyle.) Can you talk about that please?

Our goal is simply to provide the best wine lifestyle experience in the world! If you’re like me, you dream about having simple elegant wine parties on the patio, or having your girlfriends over for an evening of conversation and wine, or maybe it’s simply a better appreciation and understanding of wine. We want to seduce you with delicious wine, and then keep you coming back because you love the easy yet sophisticated lifestyle that goes along with ordering our wine.

Your website is not only lots of fun, it’s interactive. I did the “Find Your Vinotype” which was shockingly accurate. How do you know what types like what kinds of wine?

I’m curious, Caroline, what’s your vinotype?? (Caroline: I'm a sensitive!) Every person is unique with different likes and dislikes, passions and values. And each person reacts and adapts to new experiences differently. All of those factors are incorporated into the “Find the Vinotype” quiz, which helps determine the range and intensity of sensations people experience and how they adapt to the environment, thus helping wine consultants understand their wine preferences.

For example, I’m a “sensitive” vinotype out of 4 types: sweet, hyper-sensitive, sensitive, and tolerant. The description is pretty darn accurate and in the wine world it means I’m on the less sensitive end of the spectrum and more open to a broad range of wines and foods. Basically, I’m an equal-opportunity wine drinker.

You’re a genius publicist for Algonquin Books, so I want to ask--is promoting wines and a wine club different than promoting books? Is anything surprising you about it?

Awww… you’re so sweet, thank you! Being a wine consultant actually fits perfectly with my skill set as a publicist. I plan events for a living, so coordinating in-home wine tastings is a natural fit. And I LOVE wine, so talking about wine with friends, family, and new clients is pretty similar to talking with the media, booksellers, and readers about new books we’re publishing. And to be honest, I’ve found that many avid readers are also avid wine lovers, so the two go hand in hand. Except now instead of bringing a bottle of wine to my book club conversations, we can have a fantastic wine tasting!

What’s the one mistake people make when choosing a wine?

I’ve been guilty of a bad habit that I think many others have of buying the same varietal all the time, like only selecting chardonnay or Cabernet sauvignon, rather than trying different types of wines. Our pallets change, our moods change, our eating habits change, so you might be missing out on a great type of wine that you’ve avoided in the past.

Also, not thinking about how wine pairs with food and selecting a wine from your wine rack that complements and accentuates the meal, rather than grabbing the first bottle you see.  

So tell us three great wines everyone should have in their house right now?

An excellent question! The most important thing for wine buyers to think about is everyday wines, weekend wines, and special occasion wines. The everyday wines are within the $12-16 price range, and add excitement to even the simplest of meals from Chinese takeout to mom’s favorite recipe. The weekend wines are in the $17-24 price range, and these are wines that pair nicely with a more leisurely-prepared meal, a higher quality wine that can take a special place of honor on your table. And the special occasion wines are typically $25-40, wines that you keep in your wine storage rack for a birthday, anniversary, the boss coming to dinner, or as a gift. You should expect fine quality, great taste, and lasting pleasure on the palate.

What question didn’t I ask that I should have?

You didn’t ask how you or your readers can host a wine tasting! It’s easy entertaining – you invite 6-12 wine loving friends and I take care of everything else. The cost is $50 and includes 6 full bottles of our latest artisan wines. I do a guided tasting and your friends will have a chance at the end to pick their favorites, and those wines will ship immediately from our Napa winery. And now I’ve started doing Skype wine tastings, for any of your readers in an area that I don’t travel to. And if you or any of your readers are interested in learning more about pouring wine, I’d love to tell you more about it.

Like my Facebook page ( to keep up on our latest specials and new available wines, recipes, and fun wine tips!

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