Goddess is the new guru for Evanston
Easy access: At the Wine Goddess in Evanston, Diana Hamann says her main focus is shrinking the distance between grower and guzzler. (Handout)
"I think people should drink it every single day of their lives," says Hamann, who has been teaching wine classes at The Chopping Block in Chicago for nine years.
It's in that vein of thought that she decided to open The Wine Goddess, a boutique wine shop in downtown Evanston. The homey, bucolic store, which opened in late December, features about 225 wines from around the world, ranging in price from $7.99 to $150 (though more than half retail for less than $20). The bottles are housed along bright purple and yellow walls in white Ikea cubes. In the back of the store, two large tables are ready for weekly classes and tastings; up front, a plush burnt-orange couch and paisley chairs invite window-shoppers to take a load off with a glass of the day's tasting selection.
In selecting the wines for the shop, Hamann says her main focus is shrinking "the distance between grower and guzzler" in order to cultivate a selection of handcrafted, artisanal products from smaller purveyors without skimping on quality.
"I basically told (my team) that the wine is going to be from anyplace on the planet. They can be any grape. They can be (wacky); they can be completely staid and textbook. The only common denominator is that I want them to be all gobsmackingly delicious," Hamann says.
The real draw of the store, though, isn't so much the selection, but Hamann's vast, yet accessible knowledge of wine. A native of the Chicago area, Hamann served as wine director for Japonais and Le Colonial restaurants, and as beverage director at the now closed Le Passage. On the side, she ran a wine consulting business (also called The Wine Goddess, a name Hamann picked to quickly relay the fact that she was female in an otherwise male-dominated business), eventually taking a position as an instructor at The Chopping Block, where she will continue to teach Wine Academy classes.
Yet for a woman well-versed in the world of viticulture, Hamann makes bottle selection approachable for all types of drinkers, shelving the wine speak for adjectives like "cool," "alive-and-kicking" and "rockin'."
Additionally, each bottle is accompanied by what Hamann calls a "merchant profile," a laminated placard that includes each wine's type of grape, appellation, aromas and flavors, an exact cheese and food pairing and an online link to a recipe from the likes of Bon Appetit or Fine Cooking, which can also be emailed to patrons.
What patrons won't find on those placards: wine scores.
"I'm the expert. I don't need somebody else's scores to direct my customers to wine," Hamann says. "The (ratings) guys, you will never meet these guys in your life. They will never get to know your palate, and bless them for what they do, but I'm trying to get people to trust myself and Kate (Soto, the manager) as really their guru."
The objective, says Hamann, is to shed the perception that wine is to be enjoyed as an expensive addition to a celebration — something to be ogled and collected.
"I'm trying to get people to be jazzed about wine, and I'm really trying to get them to drink it," says Hamann. "I want them to buy it and pop the cork tonight, and then come back tomorrow and tell me what they thought."
702 Main St., Evanston, 847-475-9463; for information, go to winegoddess.com.