Nights of Wine – and Books

If you’re one of those people who likes to curl up with a good book and a glass of Chardonnay (or any other wine),  that may explain why so many book clubs meet at local wine shops.


“We’ve had a few book clubs meet here over the years,” says Donnie Austin, owner of House Wine in Worthington, Ohio. “I’d say one or two a week.”


But this spring, Austin decided to partner with the Worthington Library system to form the wine shop’s own book group, Decanted, which meets the first Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. The group hopes to read and discuss as many books as it can with a wine focus.


That’s not to say, however, that the group will focus exclusively on wine books, says librarian Alison Macrina, who co-leads the book group with librarian Erin Kelsey. “We may read books that relate to food, travel or any subject that interests the group,” explained Macrina. Kelsey confirms the book selection will be open to both fiction and non-fiction and across all genres of literature.


Decanted’s first three books reflect that liberal selection process. A Good Year by Peter Mayle was the first book to be discussed, followed by the non-fiction book The Billionaire’s Vinegar by Benjamin Wallace and Merlot Murders by Ellen Crosby.


Those who came to Decanted’s first meeting in June generally liked the Mayle book.


“It was a good, light summer read,” says Lydia Falk, who says she joined Decanted because it combined two of her favorite things – wine and books.


A Good Year tells the story of an embattled London financier who quits his job to take over a failing vineyard in Provence, an inheritance from his uncle.


“It was a modern-day fairy tale,” says Mary Bushek, whose favorite book includes a similar (but non-fiction) fairy tale, Frances Mayes’ Under the Tuscan Sun.


When appropriate, Austin says he’ll try to pair a wine with the book club’s selection – a rosé from Provence was chosen to go with the Mayle book, for example. But members are also free to select their own wine from the shop’s self-serve pneumatic wine dispenser. “They’re restricted on their reading selection, so we won’t choose their wine for them as well,” he says. The option of a paired wine will simply be available.


The fact that Decanted covers wine – a subject that’s so widely appealing – means that both the age and gender of the group is different from the average book group, which typically draws an  older and largely female crowd. Decanted has male as well as female members, and readers in their 20s and 30s as well as older members. That’s why the conversation strays – as it does in most book groups – to topics like the best eating and drinking spots in Philadelphia, fine whiskeys and New Zealand’s wine growing region – in addition to other books members have read recently.


When it comes down to it, though, the members agree that a book club that meets in a wine shop seems the perfect fit. “There’s nothing more enjoyable than a good book and a good glass of wine,” says Macrina. “They go hand-in-hand,” adds Kelsey.


And as far as the next book selection – that’s still open for discussion. For Lydia Falk, however, it doesn’t really matter. “Books are like wine,” she says. “If it’s good, I’ll finish it.”

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Our goal is to educate, in a reader-friendly fashion, and take the intimidation out of wine, beer and spirits in order to enhance its enjoyment.


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