Raise a Glass: Here Are the Women Who Are Taking the Charlotte Wine Industry by Storm

This article is sponsored by Charlotte Radiology Breast Services.

Charlotteans love their wine. From extensive wine lists to half priced bottle nights, there is something for every palate. In the Queen City, we are fortunate to have some of the best-of-the-best when it comes to women shaping the Charlotte wine industry. From sommeliers who create the offerings to educators who instruct us on the differences between Old and New World wines to restaurateurs and brewery owners who ensure there is something for everyone on the menu.

Here are just some of the notable QC women making oenophiles out of Charlotteans. 

We know there are many more women doing incredible things in the wine industry here in Charlotte, and we want to hear about them! Please add your favorite vino all-stars in the COMMENTS section below, so all can see and support.

Leyla Arcovio, Director of wine operations and special events at Reid’s Fine Foods 

The wine selection at all of the Reid’s Fine Foods locations, but especially at the SouthPark location, is impressive. Featuring wines from around the world, Reid’s can thank Leyla Arcovio and her team for bringing unique wines from Spain, Italy, Chile and other regions to Charlotte wine lovers. Leyla has created an unassuming environment where patrons can ask questions and discover new favorites.

Rochelle Baxter, owner of Vin Master Wine Shop

Rochelle Baxter purchased Vin Master in 2017 and has added her unique touch to the intimate wine bar nestled in a corner of Atherton Mill in South End. Rochelle, who previously owned Queen City Pantry and has a nutrition and culinary background, has transformed the once sleepy bar into a provisions market where guests can buy food and wine, and enjoy a happening wine bar with nightly events. 

Briana Cohen, Operations Manager and Wine Director for the Sonoma Restaurant Group

For over 20 years, Briana Cohen has worked with the Sonoma Restaurant Group and currently serves as the Operations Manager and Wine Director for Uptown staple Aria Tuscan Grill and the soon to open Cicchetti restaurant concept. Known as being a life-long learner, Briana has established herself as an expert in Italian wines and the Old World wine making process. Briana has even developed close personal ties to the winemaking families whose wines grace the pages of the menu at Aria. Notable fact: 25% of the wine list at Aria, and Cicchetti when it opens, comes from female winemakers. Her current obsession is Aglianico, an accessible and delicious wine that she encourages others to try. 

Lauren Deese, Executive Director at Charlotte Wine & Food Weekend

In her role as the Executive Director of Charlotte Wine & Food Weekend, Lauren Deese manages the operations, marketing, and execution of numerous events for this annual event.

Lauren, a Charlotte Native, spent almost 10 years in NYC where she started her career at Bon Appetit magazine working in both advertiser merchandising and events. Her career has also included producing events for many of the nation’s leading culinary festivals, working to create unique experiences for clients at a national marketing firm, and led operations for the first-ever NFL Women’s Summit at Super Bowl 50 in San Francisco. Her background of event planning and knowledge and appreciation of food and wine will ensure that Charlotte Wine & Food Weekend will continue to be a must attend event. 

Laura Fiorvanti, Co-founder of CorkBuzz 

Since the inception of the Court of Master Sommeliers over 40 years ago, only 255 professionals have earned their Master Sommelier diplomas, and less than 35 of those wine professionals are women. Laura Fiorvanti earned her Master Sommelier designation and was even featured in the documentary series, Somm. In 2015, Laura brought her Corkbuzz restaurant and wine bar concept to Charlotte. Featuring wine of different price points and from different regions, Laura and her staff promise to introduce you to knew varietals and to expand your wine knowledge. 

Sara Guterbock, Fine Wine & Sales Education Director with Johnson Brothers Mutual Distributing

With 18 years experience in the wine and spirits industry, Sara Guterbock has some of the most impressive designations and credentials in Charlotte. Sara is an Advanced Sake Professional, WSET Sake Educator, and International Sake Sommelier, just to name a few. Sara is an expert in the world of wine, and even beer, but she is especially versed in the world of sake and sake making.

Caitlyn Hadley, Regional Sales Manager, Southeast for DAOU Vineyards & Winery  

Caitlyn Hadley graduated from Johnson & Wales with a concentration in beverage management in 2012 and embarked on a career in the hospitality industry. In addition to working with clients and restaurants, Caitlyn has also used her love of wine to create accessible and easy to understand classes through Skillpop. Her concept is that wine should be fun and strives to take the stress out of selecting a bottle of wine to have with dinner. 

Katy Kindred, Co-owner of Kindred and Hello, Sailor

Katy Kindred, and her husband, Joe, are the owners of Kindred and Hello, Sailor restaurants. These restaurants are known for their food and cocktails, but they have also received accolades and awards for their wine list. Katy, who earned her sommelier certification when she was 21, is the brains behind the wine selections. She wears many hats at her restaurants including owner, designer, sommelier, and front of house manager. The wine list reflects her extensive travels, but also her love of having a great meal with an equally as great drink. 

Amanda McLamb, co-owner of Resident Culture Brewing Company 

Resident Culture Brewing is not yet two years old, but has already made a name for itself. With national recognition for their beers and a local reputation as a community focused space supporting the music, culture and culinary scene of Charlotte, they realized they wanted to do more to make everyone feel welcome. Co-owner Amanda McLamb understood that not everyone who comes to a brewery is a beer drinker. At the end of 2018, after almost a year of planning, Amanda announced that Resident Culture would be carrying a full wine menu. Now guests who love the brewery atmosphere, but prefer tannins to hops, have options other than one red and one white. 

Catherine Rabb, co-owner of Fenwick’s and a senior instructor at Johnson & Wales University

Catherine Rabb’s passion for wine started from critical feedback from a customer. Catherine and her husband, Don, purchased Fenwick’s restaurant in Myers Park over 30 years ago. When a patron criticized the wine list at the restaurant, Catherine took it upon herself to learn everything she could about wine. What began as a challenge soon became a passion. Catherine has many certifications to her name, including being a certified sommelier and wine educator. She now shares her passion and wine knowledge with students at Johnson & Wales University… and no one criticizes the wine list at Fenwick’s anymore. 

Bethany Richey, Co-owner and general manager and at The Wooden Vine 

Bethany Richey and her mother-in-law, Sherri Keffer, purchased The Wooden Vine in 2017. Bethany, a Level 2 sommelier, focuses on serving small production wines versus more mainstream offerings. She loves educating patrons on wine varietals and seeing the reactions of patrons when they try a new to them wine.

Natalie Stewart, Wine Director at Fin & Fino 

Although she may be known for being petite, there is nothing small about Natalie Stewart’s talent and palate.  Since 2012, Natalie has been a part of the Rare Roots Hospitality Group, and helped open Fin & Fino in April 2018. Natalie focuses on offering smaller batch wines to Fin & Fino patrons. Each wine on the wine list is produced by wineries with less than 10,000 cases in total winery production that patrons won’t find in many places. 

Lakendra Walker, co-owner Cork & Crate 

Lakendra Walker and her husband, Christopher, opened Cork & Crate in 2017 and looked to fill a void they felt was missing in Charlotte wine bars. To walk into Cork & Crate is like walking into someone’s home. Warm and welcoming may be how we would describe the wine bar located in Plaza Midwood, but we would also say the same about Lakendra. A paralegal by trade, Lakendra’s passion for wine and for ensuring her guests have a wonderful experience are what make Cork & Crate so special. 

Sara Zanitsch, General Manager at Fig Tree Restaurant 

With over two decades in the hospitality industry, Sara Zanitsch is general manager and co-owner of The Fig Tree Restaurant. She oversees all operations of the restaurant including service and wine education. Sara holds an advanced wine certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust and has worked hard to make the wine list at the Fig Tree one of the best in Charlotte, the state, the region, and the country. Under Sara’s guidance, the restaurant has received national accolades for their wine program, as well as their customer service. 

While doing research for this article, it became apparent that there are many accomplished women in the wine industry in Charlotte. While we did not have the chance to profile all of them, we did want to highlight a few more for their contributions. 

Melanie Pressonwith Black Chicken Wine; Elizabeth Tackett with Bardo Restaurant; Meredith Mullins and her team and Mere’s; Ellis Lindsay at Porter’s House; Michele Clapsaddle at Dogwood Southern Table; the women of Foxcroft Wine; Tami Vogel with Common Market (South End location); Zorana Skeva, Dilworth Tasting Room; Vonda Freeman, The Indigo Road; and Angie Packer, Tryon Distributing. 

This series, brought to you by Charlotte Radiology Breast Centers, highlights the Charlotte Women making our community the vibrant, growing, exciting place they’ve been calling home for 50 years. At Charlotte Radiology, they know women, seeing over 100,000 women a year for their breast health needs. The professionals at Charlotte Radiology believe the key to beating and detecting breast cancer early is annual mammograms starting at age 40.