Yvette Simpson Talks Vino

The former politician turned wine educator/maker discusses her new venture, Wine Inculturated.

Yvette Simpson, who served on the Cincinnati City Council from 2011 to 2018, has a new career. As the founder of Wine Inculturated, which hosts virtual and in-person wine tastings, she offers tips to help participants discover the cultures and tastes behind the vine. We talked to her about her winemaking journey, her business venture, and her favorite type of wine.

Illustration by Chris Danger

How did you get into winemaking?

I fell in love with wine over 20 years ago when I studied abroad in Italy. Gathering around a table with good food and great wine created a community that transcended language and cultural differences. Over the years, I began my informal study and collection of wine from around the world.

When did you start making wine yourself?

I started making wine during the pandemic. I wasn’t traveling nearly as much because of the lockdowns and had a little more time at home. Our middle daughter was with us and was making sourdough starters. I’ve never been much of a bread person, but a lightbulb went off. Not long after that, my husband, who has been a homebrewer for over 20 years, told me that Listermann Brewing was shipping wine juice from various wine regions around the world and suggested I consider making wine. It seemed like a significant investment of time, energy, and resources. When friends of mine told me that they had some equipment that they could lend me from their days of making wine, I decided to give it a try. With that, Vette’s Vineyards, my wine venture, was born.

What have you made so far?

I hosted a socially distanced bottle, label, and release party on my birthday in 2020. I’ve crafted 10 small batch wines since that time, and I’m working now on two more, a Gewurztraminer and a red blend from Chile. During that same time, I also started studying for my wine education certifications. I am now a WSET certified wine educator and plan to continue my studies to become a Master Wine Educator. Wine Inculturated, my wine tasting and education business, was born from my passion of teaching people about the history, culture, and story of wine regions, wine culture, and wine producers.

Tell us about your wine tastings.

Wine Inculturated hosts in-person and virtual tastings, private events, and events open to the public. It started when my friend, wine producer Jill Osur of Teneral Cellars, invited me to host a virtual tasting for a group called Women + Wine + Wisdom. Wine is shipped directly from the producer, then I join the group by Zoom from across the country and teach them about the wine. Wine Inculturated will begin hosting monthly virtual wine tastings and will highlight wine producers from various wine regions around the world.

Who’s your target audience?

Wine Inculturated tastings (virtual or in-person) are for everyone—wine lovers, wine learners, and the wine curious. We walk you through the basics of how to evaluate and taste wine, and we cover everything you need to know about the specific wines we are tasting at each event. We also share food pairing tips and typically have the wines available for purchase. Anyone who wants to learn more about wine and wine tasting will walk away with a greater understanding and appreciation for wine.

What kind of response have you gotten so far?

The response has been overwhelming. Our launch event was oversold within a week. We have already begun booking private and public tastings, and we are in the process of booking more tastings for later this year and are planning our first wine trip.

What are your goals for Wine Inculturated?

The wine industry has been exclusive for a long time. Even now, women only represent a small percentage of the wine industry as a whole—from production and distribution to retail, wine education, and service—women are significantly underrepresented despite being one of the fastest growing groups of wine consumers. Black women and women of color are even more underrepresented. Not only that, but understanding and approaching wine can be intimidating, so Wine Inculturated exists to demystify the wine industry. We teach you the rules and then encourage you to break them. Drink what you like. Our name stands for “wine is inclusive, wine is culture, wine is curated.” Wine is for everyone. While we feature all types of wines from wine producers around the world, I especially love to highlight female producers and producers of color.

What’s your favorite type of wine?

It’s really tough to pick a favorite wine. There are so many to choose from and enjoy. One of my first favorite red wine varieties is Argentinian malbec. My dominant notes are earthy/spicy, so I typically like wines that have those notes. Malbec is a great representation of those things. But give me a good cabernet from Napa or a sauvignon blanc from New Zealand or a rosé from Provence, France, and I’m a happy girl. One of the things I love to do at our wine tastings is help people discover their most dominant notes and once they know that, it makes it easier for them to determine which wines they will favor.

What’s the best wine you’ve ever had?

The more wine I drink, the more I realize that I will never have a favorite because there are so many wine regions, producers, and varieties to discover and love. I once had an aged Barolo from Italy and I felt the skies open up. OK, maybe I’m being a tad dramatic, but it was remarkable. A great Barolo is like a rare whiskey—you don’t drink them often, but when you do, it is something special. Italian wines will always be near and dear to my heart because that was where my wine journey started.

Anything else you’d like our readers to know?

Vette’s Vineyards is not yet available for sale commercially, but stay tuned because we are working on a partnership to make that happen.

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