A Glass Half Full Global WinesDec 21, 2023 11:21AM ● By Tamsen Butler
Photo by Bill Sitzmann.
Don’t know the difference between a petite Syrah and pinot noir? How about a sauvignon blanc and Gewürztraminer?
No worries if you don’t. Meghan Russo can help. The oenophile turned entrepreneur takes the stress out of deciphering wine labels and teaches taste buds all about vineyards and vintages through Pour Decisions, a business she started in 2023 to help wine lovers who, as she put it, “don’t really know a ton of things about wine.” Russo demystifies the process by bringing wine bottles out of intimidating tasting rooms directly into people’s homes, businesses, and any other places they might want to congregate and amiably enjoy a glass of wine—and learn something with every studious sip.
“Wine is one of those things that’s great as a social time with your friends—and it’s a great complement to a lot of different foods,” Russo said. “Pair the right wine with the right entrée, and it can totally change your experience.”
From Russo’s viewpoint, those experiences usually involve the act of gathering. People like to socialize when they uncork a bottle of wine. Often, it’s as much about the conviviality that occurs around that bottle as it is the nuances surrounding the cabernet sauvignon or chardonnay.
Russo, a native of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and former resident of New York City, regards drinking wine as a way to communicate with friends. In fact, she started doing wine tastings for family and friends long before deciding to turn wine tastings into a business.
“When you’re sharing a bottle of wine with somebody, it’s great because you’re both drinking out of the same bottle of wine, having a very similar experience, but everybody’s tastebuds are different,” Russo explained. “What you taste isn’t the same as what I taste. So, we’re still having a little bit of a different experience, but experiencing it together.”
A certified wine specialist with an education from the vaunted Institute of Culinary Education in New York, Russo said that the year-long certification process, which involved “a big, thick textbook,” was intense and required learning subjects she hadn’t anticipated. "When I was studying wine, I thought it would be like, ‘oh, this grape tastes like this, and it’s grown in this region,’” she recounted. “I studied so many maps, and it’s more about geography and what type of soil and climate and weather patterns and things like that.”
When Russo and her husband moved to Omaha in 2017, she left the retail world behind and started working more with wine. She partnered with smaller house distributors in sales and worked with some of the wine bars in town.
“Obviously, when Covid hit, I wasn’t really working,” she said. “I was able to do tastings for my friends and neighbors, and I just realized I know I like wine. And I know that I like developing and helping to teach and train people so that we can merge the two things together. That’s where I am probably going to be the happiest. They always say that if you love what you do, then it’s not really work, right?”
Russo helps clients discover what types of wine they actually like and offers suggestions for food pairings. If her tasters want to learn about the intricacies of the soil in which the grapes were grown for a particular wine, she can get into that, too. That’s where her wine certification comes into play. The concept of terroir, or the territory where grapes are grown, is critical for producing wine. For example, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which hails from southeastern France, derives its distinctive flavor from the famed galets roulés, or pebbles, that cover the vineyards. They absorb and store heat and water to keep vine stocks at consistent temperatures so grapes ripen perfectly.
Russo is happy to share this kind of information, but for the most part, she finds that clients simply want to enjoy good wine.
“Sometimes people who are pouring wine are like, ‘This is from this region, from this town, with this kind of soil,’ all these very small, nuanced details about wine…I can totally get into that with you, but I think that just for the common person, let’s talk about where it’s from. Let’s talk about some of the tasting notes and what you would pair it with. Let’s figure out if you like it or don’t like it, because if you don’t like it, we’ll move on and find something that you do like,” said Russo, describing her process. “And if you do like it, we can go off that and figure out other things you will like. Let’s try this same grape in a different region and see if you like it.”
Russo paused. “I think that 90% of the population doesn’t care about the soil,” she shared.
So much for terroir.
For the many Omahans who want to move past those kinds of terms, Russo’s services can be a game changer. Neighbor and friend, Amy Krupski, said she frequently turns to Russo for her knowledge of wine. “She speaks our language,” Krupski said. “She doesn’t talk over our heads but keeps it at our level. The tastings are fun, and it feels like Meghan’s just sitting down for some wine with her friends.”
Another client, Whitney Wilson, agreed. “Meghan’s very flexible and knowledgeable. I go to her when I want to try something new–it helps me avoid the trial and error of wine shopping at the grocery store.” Wilson estimated that she utilizes Russo’s services around once a month or so.
As Pour Decisions continues to grow its clientele roster, Russo sees the potential for a future when clients can come to her location for tastings. But for now, she enjoys meeting people where they are—on their own terroir, so to speak—both in terms of their geography and knowledge base. In this regard, she’s doing her part to keep glasses half full, if not more, with wines that people love.