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Behind the Counter: Sipping Pretty

The newest addition to Parkville's business district is excited to educate customers about wine.

If the first thought that comes to mind when you think "Parkville" isn't "fine wine," Janette Wilson wants to change that perception.

From sniffing to sipping, swirling to spitting, the Parkville resident and Sipping Pretty business owner is on a mission to educate her clients about the world of wine.

Wilson, a former floor nurse who currently manages the office at Timonium's Vein Clinics of America in her day job, has been a wine educator in one way or another for more than a decade.

"I’ve been boring my friends for over 11 years talking about wine ... 'Do you smell the wine? Taste the wine? You need to be the wine.' They told me I really needed to get into educating other people," Wilson said.

Wilson is close to earning her certification as a wine professional called a sommelier. She started Sipping Pretty back in September 2011 after Maryland passed a law allowing wine shipping directly to customers.

While the business was still in its infancy, Wilson signed up for online deal site LivingSocial where she sold over 200 tastings in just three days, leaving Sipping Pretty booked on Friday and Saturday nights through July.

Wilson bills Sipping Pretty events as "edu-tainment." When you purchase a tasting event, Wilson comes to your home or corporate event with four different wines—two dry reds, a semi-sweet white and a semi-sweet red.

Wilson currently uses restaurant wines from Castillo Alonso winery in the Rioja region of Spain.

She also provides a platter with two meats, two cheeses, a chocolate and a fruit to pair with the wine.

"We talk about wine from start to finish—where the grapes were grown ... what region, the tasting notes," Wilson said. "We want to keep it more of a party scene. I take them through the four "S's" of drinking wine — how to see, sniff, sip and summarize. How should you taste wine, what are you looking for eyeing glass, what are you looking for when you dig your nose into the bowl."

The business' basic package, Wilson said, costs about $200 for a session that lasts an hour and a half, either in your home, at a corporate event or, if the group is small enough, at the Harford Road storefront.

The sales from that first LivingSocial deal allowed Wilson to look into finding a home base for the business, where she eventually settled on the storefront at 7915 Harford Road.

"I saw there was a market, I did my research—there aren't many wine consultants who go to homes or host corporate events. In fact, there aren't many wine consultants in Maryland at all," Wilson said. "Once I saw there was a need, I decided to make a move. Even in this economy, people do pay for quality goods.

"I thought, 'I’m gonna jump into the pool and I’m either gonna sink or swim,' and, me, I’m always gonna swim. I’m a survivor.'," she continued.

The Harford Road storefront, formerly an ATM room for a bank that was once located at the corner of Harford and Linwood Roads, is warm and inviting after the renovation. A large window advertises the business to passersby and, inside, customers will find dark red walls lined with wine bottles.

"We want to keep this location quiet and relaxed. We can host about 10 people in here for private tastings," Wilson said.

While you can't buy wine at the store, you can certainly buy accessories like decanters, stemware and stemless glasses.

Wilson said that she'll be running another LivingSocial special around April 20, so keep your eyes peeled, wine lovers.

Although she's booked in what she called "prime time"—Friday and Saturday nights—there is some availability for tastings at the clubhouse during the week.

"What I love about the world of wine is that it’s new. There's always a new grape, a new crop. The more I think I know, the more I stand corrected by my clients and the more I’m able to learn and pass on at my next tasting," Wilson said.

"That's what it’s supposed to be about," she added. "The only way you really get to know the wine is to drink it and stay true to what you actually like."

neil logee April 06, 2012 at 03:31 AM
Wine Tastings Packages Package I serves guest of 3-10 (cost $200.00) Package Includes: 1 ½ Hour Tasting & Entertainment 3 Bottles 750ml Complementary Wines 1 Small Platter: 2 meats/2 cheese/crackers/chocolate/fruit/bottle water Package II serves guest of 10-20 (cost $300.00) Package Includes: 2 ½ Hour Tasting & Entertainment 6 Bottles 750ml Complementary Wines 2 Platters; 1 Small & 1 Large: 2 meats/2 cheese/crackers/chocolate/fruit/bottle water Package III serves guest of 20-50 (cost $500.00) 3 ½ Hour Tasting & Entertainment 12 bottles 750ml Complementary Wines 3 Platters; 1 Small & 2 Large: 2 meats/2 cheese/crackers/chocolate/fruit/bottle water Need Additional Platters? Small Platter $50.00 (serves Guest of 3-10) Medium Platter $70.00 (serves Guest of 10-20) Large Platter $100.00 (serves Guest of 10-25) Extra large Platter $200.00 (serves Guest of 25-30) To ensure freshness; Platters are custom made the day of wine tasting Reserved Events Minimum 2 hours Event Please contact us to make arrangements. I saw these prices on your website. Do you have these events at your club on Harford Rd.
Ruth Baisden April 06, 2012 at 12:47 PM
Good story and good luck with the new business. What wasn't mentioned was how nice the property looks since Slipping Pretty has open. The new awning and tastefully decorated large glass window really fits into the new "Main Street: theme for Harford Road. Can't wait to stop by and lean more about wine.
kc April 06, 2012 at 01:04 PM
wishing you all the best!!
JMR April 10, 2012 at 12:39 PM
Is there a reason you don't promote Maryland wines in your educational packages? Maryland has some wonderful wines and this would promote buying local; always a strong "green" practice. Who knows this parnership with Maryland wineries could lead to additional opportunities.
Janette Wilson April 14, 2012 at 10:59 AM
Yes, Ive reached out to them on several occasions and haven't gotten any response. Personally, I feel some of the wineries have some amazing wines and I would love to educated with them.

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