Caitlin Heikkila, founder of Book & Wine Club, has always loved reading.
“I was quite the book-addict child. I remember days where my mom would come into my room and say, ‘Are you going to go outside today?’ I was always pouring over all the books that I had.”
Heikkila recently became a certified sommelier, and nearly six years ago started the Book & Wine Club in Brooklyn, a women’s-only meet-up group where attendees can discuss wine varieties along with that month’s read.
“I started Book & Wine Club originally about six years ago… I love wine and I love books, but more so to bring women together and kind of foster a conversation because I think that’s really important,” she says.
Since the club’s beginning, Heikkila has expanded the concept to Chicago; Washington D.C.; Los Angeles; Toronto; Portland, Oregon; and Orange County, California.
“I feel like not only do we get to talk about amazing women writers—because I only choose women writers—but I often find the most exciting part is introducing people to wine that they normally wouldn’t buy themselves.”
How it works is a newsletter and social media post announce the book and the wine of the month. Members then meet on the last Wednesday of the month to discuss the book while tasting the wine. Each city has a leader, and that leader decides where the group will meet. The venue could be at someone’s apartment, a restaurant, bar or even an Airbnb.
Book & Wine Club recently started a monthly subscription service, which will send subscribers the club’s current read, along with a wine accessory.
But how does one go about finding the best wine and book pairing? Heikkila says readers should approach the idea a few different ways.
“I kind of think about it as you would pair food, so choosing comparative flavors or contrasting flavors,” she says.
She also says it’s important to consider the season.
“So I’m usually pick something more full-bodied in the winter more red wines. And then in the summer I’ll choose lighter, you know, one that you’ll want to drink at the beach,” says Hiekkila.
Finally, she talks about the importance of “creating a mood.”
“You’re telling a story within the pairings.”
Your starter wine and book pairing guide
To help you get started picking a bottle for your book, we looked at some of Book & Wine Club’s pairings, along with some of our own suggestions.
Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir (Penguin Random House, 2019) by Ruth Reichl
It’s a non-fiction book with recipes, so Heikkila opts for Albariño. “[It’s] a wine that is bright and citrusy and paired well with several of the recipes shared within the story.”
Bodegas Aquitania 2017 Bernon Albariño (Rías Baixas); $18, 90 points. Entirely fresh aromas of apple and honeydew rank as pure and inviting. On the palate, this is buffed and stony, like a good Rías Baixas Albariño should be. Nectarine and citrus flavors finish well on a long, effortless finish. Regal Wine Imports Inc. —Michael Schachner
Daisy Jones & The Six (Ballantine Books, 2019) by Taylor Jenkins Reid
This novel looks at the rise of an iconic ’70s rock group, and Heikkila encourages readers to pick their own rosé to enjoy with the book.
Mathilde Chapoutier 2018 Grand Ferrage Rosé (Côtes de Provence); $25, 91 points. This rich wine is generous in structure, making it quite food friendly. Its smooth texture and bright fruit are lifted by bright acidity and an edge of tannins. Freshness lingers on the finish. Terlato Wine Group. Editors’ Choice. —Roger Voss
A Place for Us (SJP for Hogarth, 2018) by Fatima Farheen Mirza
“It’s [a] quietly written beautiful story that kind of unfolds in just a very elegant way. And while it’s a quiet book, I wanted to kind of do something a little bit contrasting. So that’s when we chose a bolder wine, like a Zinfandel,” said Heikkila.
The Perfect Nanny (Penguin Books, 2018) by Leila Slimani
“To pair with that kind of creepy bloody story [we] chose kind of minerally, sanguine—I don’t want to say bloody reds because you know that turns people off—but there’s kind of like a mineralieness to the red wine.”
Boundary Breaks 2017 Cabernet Franc (Finger Lakes); $20, 90 points. Blended with 25% Merlot, this wine offers a mix of black- and red-berry aromas on the nose, with hints of peppercorn, tilled earth and a sanguine tone. It offers a persistent, juicy core of thick-skinned berries, with a slick of granite and tangy acidity. The tannins are light yet peppery, offering the perfect amount of support for easy enjoyment in the near term. —Alexander Peartree
The Gunners (Counterpoint, 2018) by Rebecca Kauffman
Heikkila chooses Gewürztraminer to pair with this book. “I thought we needed something seemingly sweet, but surprisingly rich and full-bodied.”
Hugel 2015 Classic Gewurztraminer (Alsace); $27, 89 points. Tender notes of jasmine and rose rise from the glass. The concentrated palate has both freshness and texture from citrus zestiness. Pear and peach notes are subtle but long on the dry, textured finish. Frederick Wildman & Sons, Ltd. —Anne Krebiehl MW