The wine business is changing in Nashville, with wine being sold in grocery stores starting next summer. And with that change, no wine store owner is better poised to offer her customers a different experience than Laura Nevins of Harvest Wine Market. Laura and her husband, Ames Bailey, are always ready to greet their customers with warm and welcoming smiles. Their gift to you is finding truly amazing wines, most of which are unique to Harvest Wine, in a variety of price ranges. But here’s what’s really great with the new law: Laura can now purvey international chocolate, freshly baked breads and an assortment of olive oils at her store. With her gift of curating gourmet food and wines from boutique vineyards, Laura makes every customer’s experience at Harvest so special. It is our pleasure to introduce you to today’s FACE of Nashville, Laura Nevins.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I come from a fun family where getting together has always revolved around a big meal with wine, of course, and singing and dancing. Look out if there’s a polka playing! (And if you’re dancing with my Mom, she leads.) My family has definitely inspired a lot of my personal interests, many of which I share with my husband, Ames. Harvest Wine is a culmination of those interests, and I feel very lucky to spend my days with my truly amazing husband in the store we built together, and to share our love of wine and food with really wonderful customers.
Are you originally from Nashville?
I’m originally from New York State and grew up in White Plains. I also lived upstate in the Binghamton and Rochester areas, which are both very beautiful regions with lots of mountains and lakes. And very long winter seasons, which is one of the reasons I decided to move to Nashville.
The wine business typically attracts men. How did you get interested in the wine business as a career?
I’d always enjoyed wine, but a part-time job in a great wine store gave me deeper insight, which evolved into a big love. The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn. The beauty of wine is that it’s all about the vine and farming, which doesn’t get any better for me. People close to me know I’m obsessed with plants. And obsessed might be an understatement! We wanted our own store as a way to spend our days together finding wines that inspire us and sharing them with other people.
Is there an aspect of wine that’s particularly fun?
One aspect I love is the power of pairing and just how much that can transform a bottle or an entire meal. I remember a number of years ago, when I cooked a favorite butternut squash ravioli recipe with sage and shaved dark chocolate for friends, and one of them suggested an Alsatian Riesling. It was simple, but spectacular. It opened up a whole new way of enjoying wine for me. I love trying to make that same feeling happen for our customers.
Is there anything that you didn’t expect in opening your store?
We certainly hoped that our relationship with our customers would be pleasant, but we are continually blown away by the kindness, friendship and generosity of the people who shop with us. Every night on our drive home, we recap how nice it was to see everyone who stopped in that day.
There is a tremendous amount of concern from local wine shops about the new Tennessee law that allows grocery stores to sell wine. What opportunities do you see for local wine stores as they navigate the new law?
It’s unfortunate that local legislators voted against protecting local family businesses in favor of national corporations. A lot of stores and families will be hurt by this change, so the potential for the loss of a business is a serious concern. What most people don’t know is that the laws that have governed local wine shops have been very strict and limiting to the families that own them. These rules have now been thrown out the window to allow large, out-of-state chains to not only carry the wines local stores carry, but to take the revenue out of state. We’re very fortunate to have the customers that we do, and look forward to continuing to help them. We’ll keep our focus on products that we’re excited about and that really matter to us, which are unique, rare and artisanal wines and spirits.
Selecting a wine can be intimidating for many. What advice do you have for customers who don’t know much about wine?
Wine shouldn’t be intimidating. It’s about finding something that you like and something you can share at the table with friends. Talk to the folks at your local wine store. We are here to help you! If you’re trying to find wine for a specific dish, please tell us what you’re cooking or bring along your menu. That will help us make a better selection for you. And come to one of our weekly tastings, it’s a great way to try wines you might not be familiar with!
What is a valuable piece of advice you have been given?
It’s not so much a piece of advice, but an example of living. Our wonderful friend, Terry White of The English Garden, is an extraordinary example of sincerely living every day. He’ll always find some part of the day to make special, and in doing so, makes life so much more fun and beautiful for those of us lucky enough to be his friends. When Terry has a creative or artistic impulse, he acts on it without hesitation, whether it involves flowers from the garden, a jackhammer in the driveway (he actually owns one) or getting ordained, so that friends can get married on an Italian mountainside (Ames and I are those friends, and he did marry us on an Italian mountainside). It’s so easy to talk yourself out of a creative idea, to find a million reasons why it won’t work, but Terry is all in. I’m trying to get out of my own way and start enjoying that kind of living.
Is there a recent meal at a local restaurant that has wowed you?
We don’t get out much, but I have to say that my favorite go-to dish in town is the lentil stew over brown rice at The Wild Cow. I always add avocado and tofu, and it’s serious comfort food for me. When I can, I try to leave room for their triple layer chocolate chip cake.
Where in town do you go when you’re looking for an inspirational boost?
Ames and I love to canoe the Harpeth River. The wildflowers and wildlife are amazing. It’s peaceful and recharging at the same time.
What books are on your bedside table?
A stack of gardening books and magazines, crosswords and M Train by Patti Smith, which I’ve just started.
Do you have any irrational fears?
Walking up open-backed stadium stairs. I swear I can feel the force of gravity pulling me between them.
Do you have a favorite vacation spot?
Our new favorite vacation spot is where we were married this year, in the Dolomite Mountains of Italy. It was the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. We stayed in the Rosengarten, which is a remote area where there aren’t any restaurants (except for those within the hotels) or shops, and the focus is on the natural beauty of the region. The fields of wildflowers were incredible and rolled for what seemed like miles of brilliant color! I’d never seen anything like it before. We hiked the trails and walked in the woods every day, drank clean mountain water and wonderful local wines. It was pretty spectacular! The people there couldn’t have been nicer or more welcoming. It felt like the quality of their day was what was important. It was a lovely mindset to bring home.
What are three things you can’t live without, excluding God, family and friends?
Running in the woods, music and champagne with my husband on Sunday afternoon.
Thank you, Laura, for taking the time to talk with us today. And thanks to Ashley Hylbert for today’s beautiful photography!
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