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Bon Vivant, making wine more accessible to all

Jin-ah Kim | 7/16/2008, 6:24 a.m.
Back in 1999, Stephanie Browne co-founded Divas Uncorked, a group of African American women whose mission is to...
Back in 1999, Stephanie Browne co-founded Divas Uncorked, a group of African American women whose mission is to make wine more approachable to women and people of color. The group will be the featured guests at the next “Get Konnected” networking event, slated for next Tuesday at 28 Degrees in the South End. Their second annual “Divas Uncorked Wine + Food Festival” is scheduled for Aug. 7-10 in Martha’s Vineyard. Colette Phillips Communications

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Back in 1999, Stephanie Browne co-founded Divas Uncorked, a group of African American women whose mission is to make wine more approachable to women and people of color. The group will be the featured guests at the next “Get Konnected” networking event, slated for next Tuesday at 28 Degrees in the South End. Their second annual “Divas Uncorked Wine + Food Festival” is scheduled for Aug. 7-10 in Martha’s Vineyard.

For the uninitiated, descriptions of wine tell only part of the story. More often than not, they require a little more hands-on explanation — or, even better, a taste.

To close the gap, Stephanie Browne and her husband, Basil, opened Bon Vivant Wine Company in Randolph in May and have held weekly seminars to help demystify all of the colorful language.

At one recent seminar, for instance, a description of a 2006 Clay Station Viognier read, “Floral aromas of stone fruit and orange blossoms accompany flavors of ripe peach and guava on the palate.”

If that wasn’t enticing enough, the description also recommended compatible foods: “ … matches well with calamari antipasto, pasta dishes with cream-based sauces, fresh seafood and spicy chicken curries.”

Of course, customers tasted wines and chatted about their favorites as they played with the store’s innovative “WineConnect” kiosk that provides profiles of every wine in the store, including ratings, wine-makers’ notes and food pairings.

“At Bon Vivant, we aim to provide education with every bottle,” said Browne, who fulfilled a long-time dream of opening a wine store.

Browne, an information technology executive at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, comes to the store on weekday nights and Saturdays. Browne’s husband is a retired teacher, and runs the daily operations for Bon Vivant, which is closed on Sunday.

“He can drink wine all day long,” said Stephanie with a laugh.

Stephanie said she and her husband have tasted every bottle in the store — “But not all in one night,” she quickly added — to ensure that Bon Vivant’s shelves are stocked with quality merchandise.

The store’s instructional focus grew out of a desire to give those unfamiliar with the finer points of wine-drinking the same enjoyment that the Brownes have experienced for decades.

“I started to have this kind of passion for wine, probably 50 years ago,” said Stephanie, one of the founding members of Divas Uncorked, a group of 10 African American females formed in 1999 with the goal of educating people about wine “in a fun and relaxed way,” according to its Web site. The divas have hosted many informational and tasting events, such as the upcoming “Divas Uncorked Wine + Food Festival,” scheduled for Aug. 7-10 in Martha’s Vineyard.