Carolyn Hebsgaard
Diva Carolyn Hebsgaard tends bar and provides insight to the ideas behind Divas Uncorked. Photos by Ralph Stewart

Devoted divas

By Eleni Collins - August 16, 2007

"We are wine savvy, not wine snobby," concluded Rosalind Johnson at Outerland last Saturday. It was a great day to be outside, sampling wines of all kinds under the shade of a large tent with an appealing circular bar in the center.

Ms. Johnson, one of 10 "divas" of the Boston-based Divas Uncorked "Sisters who sip!" wine-lovers' group, dutifully explained the group's concept.

"We are not wine experts," she said. "We want the general public to feel our passion. My number one thing is, 'how do you know you don't like it if you don't try it?'"

The Divas Uncorked two-day event at Outerland near the airport this past weekend featured three separate wine and food tastings, which began on Friday and ended Saturday night.

Joanna Kardinal
Joanna Kardinal talks about Sterling wine last Saturday.

The daytime event on Saturday focused on the "marriage" of wine and food, specifically with pizza, and then with couscous. Attendees were treated to several hours with many wine vendors who offered zinfandels and pinot noirs, among other less-common wines such as Reisling, Zarauela (a blend of three Spanish grapes), and Syrah.

Truly an educational experience, the vendors combined with the divas and eloquently presented the wines they represented, where they were made, with what type of grapes, and what food they normally complement well.

Of their dry Reisling, Yanique Bradford of The Hess Collection said, "In my opinion, it's the most food-friendly white wine that there is. It goes with seafood, pasta, grilled food, baked food."

Heritage Link chose to represent their Seven Sisters line, which has an intriguing, historical origination. Each of the seven wines in the line are named after a sister from a South African family who was separated by crisis, and reunited after 20 years. The family is currently working on a namesake whiskey for the one brother.

"They are all South African wines. We are the soul importer for South African black vitiners," said distributor Ellen Wilson. "It's a great story, we're actually helping people out."

The Divas also helped the Island out. The local charity chosen to benefit from the silent auction proceeds was Island Grown Initiative (IGI), a local effort to produce and consume locally grown food.

Chelsea Graves and Rebecca Miller
The local charity chosen to benefit was Island Grown Initiative. From left, Chelsea Graves and Rebecca Miller.

"They chose us; they wanted to support local agriculture," said Rebecca Miller, of IGI, who spent the day encouraging people to try enticing hors d'oeuvres such as New Lane zinfandel chili jam and North Tabor Farm baby pearl fingerling potatoes.

From events like this, the Divas have built a good reputation among vendors for their fun and well-attended wine and food festivals.

"They have a very good focus of what they want to do with wine," said Diageo representative Lynn Higgins. "Diageo wanted to participate after meeting the Divas at a South Beach [Miami, Florida] event."

Ms. Johnson, who coined the group's name, is proud that they have come with their own Chardonnay. "It was perfect," said Ms. Johnson, "because now we have Divas Uncorked wine, and it's a screw-cap, actually, a stelvin cap."

Originally begun in 1999 as an informal, monthly group among friends who discussed and sipped wine, the divas are currently working to create a red wine for mass production. Though their main mission is to travel the world to spread their passion for the fusion of wine and food, the divas stay grounded, for as Ms. Johnson says, "Life's too short to be stuffy and snobby."

For more information, visit the group's web site at divasuncorked.com.