By Joel Hall
With wine becoming more accessible and wine marketing changing to reach a more diverse audience, The Highway 138 Package Store and Arts Clayton are taking advantage of the drink's growing popularity to host a wine tasting to benefit the Arts Clayton mural project.
On Thursday, Nov. 8, from 6-9 p.m., Arts Clayton will host Carols & Cabernet, a holiday wine tasting which will feature a variety of wines from six different vendors, hors d'oeuvres, light jazz and holiday-themed music.
For a $10 contribution, tasters will be able to enjoy the gallery, sample food, and purchase items from the Mistletoe Market, a seasonal offering of holiday-inspired arts and crafts designed by Georgia artists.
Linda Summerlin, executive director of Arts Clayton, said this is the second holiday wine tasting the gallery and the package store have hosted together.
"We have learned that partnerships in the community are very important," said Summerlin. "I think that art and wine go together like apple pie and ice cream. The wine tastings that we've had have been very successful."
Brian Richards, wine consultant for The Highway 138 Package Store, organized the wine tasting, contacting the different distributors and booking the musical talent. He said wine is perfect for the holidays, because it offers something to everybody.
"I'm not a wine snob by any means," said Richards. "Wine is to be enjoyed with your friends and family. I want everybody not to be intimidated by wine."
Richards said that wine experts from national distributors will have about five or six different wines each, including German-style white wines, dessert wines, and bold and dry cabernet sauvignon. He added that there would also be Gewürztraminer, which Richards describes as "the ultimate turkey wine," perfect with seasonal favorites, such as stuffing and sweet potatoes.
He said the number of wineries, as well as the selection of wines, have exploded in California since he was there in the 1980s. He said the result is the Georgia wine industry coming "full force" in the last 10 years, with wine bars becoming more common and wine tastings becoming more popular.
"The wine community is a real approachable thing," said Richards. "It's nothing that everyone can't enjoy. There are a lot of wineries that are catering to people with a wealthier lifestyle, but I think that there are a lot of people who are trying to reach a broader audience."
Kathleen Higgins, business manager of The Highway 138 Package Store, said, when the store opened six years ago, it hardly sold any wine. Now, because of the market, the store sells more than 1,000 types of wine, and the wine section takes up a third of the store's floor space.
Higgins said the wine tasting is a chance to "educate" people about different wine brands, well as a way to thank customers, many of whom are art patrons.
"It's a chance to browse the art with a glass of wine in your hand," said Higgins. "They can start enjoying themselves from the minute they walk in the door."
Arts Clayton is located at 136 South Main Street in Jonesboro.