By Madoline Markham
Photos by Lindsey Culver

When Taryn Cawyer sets her table on certain Friday nights, she makes sure each place setting has not one wine glass but two. That prescription sets the scene an evening that is scripted and yet not, one that ends with memories of food and new wines but all the more so of stories shared around the table of 10 and faces that hurt from laughing so much.

The dinner group, Homewood Wine Club, started back in 2019 when all five couples had a child in the same 2-year-old class at Dawson Day School and the moms had become friends. One day Taryn was at Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park with Sarah Marcrom when she brought up the idea. She and her husband, Chase, had done family wine tastings with his parents at their house in Dallas and wanted to try doing something similar with friends. At the time, not all of their husbands had even met, but all five couples got babysitters for a particular night and decided to give it a try that February.



By the end of the night, they all agreed it was “one of the most fun nights ever” and they had to do it again.

Fast forward more than two and half years and a pandemic later, and the five families have grown into more than a wine club. They consider their 14 kids in-town cousins and have each other listed as approved adults to check out their children from school. Two of the men, Robert Adams and Chase, coach baseball together, and Sam Marcrom and Cory Minton co-lead for an elementary school Bible Club and Boy Scout pack together.

A book written by a sommelier called Great Wine Made Simple has been the group’s guide on the wine journey as it makes it easy for the average person to understand wine through experience. Each of their meetings starts with Chase recapping the section they are focusing on, and then come the tastings and discussion followed by more hang out time with friends after the “meeting” has ended. They emphasize that this is not just a 30-minute tasting but rather an entire evening spent with people they care about.

“The whole experience creates an enhancement of community because you are experiencing things with people,” Sam says. “There’s a lot of bonding, and there’s differences in how you experience things. At the end of the day there’s a commitment to each other and that’s life-enhancing.”

Those bonds have deepened alongside their relationship with wine of course too. For Sarah, she says she no idea what she liked before. She drank Cabernets for years, and now she thinks Cab isn’t as good by itself at all. Brent Jenkins thought he hated white wine, but it turns out he just hates sweet wine. A dry Riesling is a different story—the same grape as a sweet Riesling but from a different region and made differently. For Marianne Jenkins, she now feels comfortable selecting wines at wine shops or restaurants, looking at contextual clues on menus from regions or climates or grapes and asking questions about them.

For Chase, he’s realized what he is willing to pay for and what he is not. “We were tasting really nice champagnes, and we realized a $12 bottle of Prosecco was just as good, if not better value, as some of the $60 bottles of champagne,” he notes.

All of them come back to the word “empowerment” over and over again, as Cory articulates: “This book has empowered us to describe what I like and what I don’t instead of walking into a wine blindly. It’s given all of us an ability to look through wines and know why we like it. It gives you a vocabulary to lean on.”

Many in the group will change how much they like a particular wine too after they’ve eaten it with food, and likewise, Sam says his biggest revelation has been with food pairings. “I have been blown away at dishes I have liked and wines I have liked, or if paired in a certain way I liked but if paired in a different way I don’t like,” he says. “It highlights the complexities there and makes it more interesting to experience with people you love.”

Of all the things they have paired, the group is especially fond of a deep red paired with a meat Cory has cooked over live fire tableside, a red paired with a salmon, and spicy Thai food with a bone-dry Riesling.

Tiffany Adams’ biggest transformation wasn’t even about the wine itself though. “For me it was about a return to loving cooking,” she notes. “When you are at home with little people, food is drudgery. It’s routine and mundane. But it was fun to take one dish for adults and do it big and then celebrate it with everybody.”

Each of the five couples in the group goes to a different church and has a different set of political beliefs, but one thing many of them have in common is having grown up not seeing alcohol in their home or in their church. “There was no freedom around it (then),” Sarah says. “That’s been an interesting thing where we are learning about it but there’s also a freedom in loving it as well.”

Today the wine club formally meets about once a quarter (though these meetings are only a small fraction of the time they spend with one another), and they are about two-thirds of the way through the book. They have no plans of stopping when they reach its end though. Instead they intend to plan their own vintages to lay the foundation of a night spent around the table. Wine is an endless world to explore, after all.

Armed with their website, T-shirts and badges, the club is also looking to create a program, event or subscription for others to simplify the process to plan dinners like they hold and make access to wine easier and more approachable. More than anything, they want others to invest time in deep friendships over hours invested with one another and reap their rich benefits.

“Some of the wines we have tasted as a group I love, but then I try it other places and it’s just not that good,” Chase says. “Certain wine is better with friends.”

Follow the Homewood Wine Club @homewoodwineclub on Instagram and homewoodwineclub.com.

 

How to Plan a Homewood Wine Club-Style Gathering


In Advance

  1. Appoint a person to select the wines for the evening. The Homewood Wine Club bases their selections off a particular section from the book Great Wines Made Simple and visits a local wine shop like Classic Wine Co. with their list.
  2. Afterward, send out a list of specific wines for that night to all club members and ask each couple to pick one to bring a food pairing for.
  3. Have each club member research pairings for their particular wine online and prepare a dish (or get one via takeout) for the meeting.

The Night Of

  1. Set a table with two wine glasses per person at the place settings.
  2. Review information from the text about these particular wines.
  3. Pour two similar wines, one in each glass, and have everyone in the group taste it and discuss their reactions.
  4. Have everyone taste the wines again, this time with the food pairing, and discuss them.
  5. After all wines have been tasted, enjoy the remainder of the night with friends.