Woodbury Wine Gal

Karen Irwin Hasegawa brings fun and expertise to neighborhood wine tastings.
Karen Irwin Hasegawa, right, hosts wine tastings in Woodbury.

If you like to drink wine or want to learn about selecting wines to go with foods, or if you’d like to know more about how to formally assess the quality of a wine, you’re not alone. But if a trip to a French vineyard isn’t in your budget and you’re not hot on attending a fussy wine tasting where you feel totally intimidated, then I’ve got a Wine Gal for you.

Her name is Karen Irwin Hasegawa, and she is a wine guide for the Traveling Vineyard. She’ll come to your house on an evening selected by you (and in the company of 10 or so of your wine-loving and potentially wine-buying friends); bring five bottles of different kinds of wines and the glasses to serve them in; and entertain you and your fellow wine drinkers for a few hours with a tasting of each wine with and without food, educating you about them in a friendly, informal setting. Your responsibilities as host?  Provide the people, the home, and a few easily purchased or homemade food items (as simple as barbeque potato chips, says Hasegawa). Then make way for an evening of fun and laughter, she adds.
Hasegawa has done similar work in direct sales with other companies. She is also an experienced interior decorator; her Facebook page will give you an idea of her work. “I’m handy and crafty,” she admits. “I like making items and using them to stage peoples’ homes” for various events, she says.

Right now, however, her primary business is the Traveling Vineyard. “It’s a natural fit for me,” says Hasegawa. “I love to share, have fun, educate and bring people together.” She became interested in supplementing her income as her children approached college-age. The direct sales model offered by Traveling Vineyard suits her because “there’s not a huge buy-in of product required,” she says. Sales reps like herself buy only a distribution kit, which includes wine glasses, brochures and the first two tasting kits of wines. “We are not wine experts,” she wants to make clear, but Traveling Vineyard “has a great focus on both creating the wines we sell and giving us the best and most information about them as they can,” she says. “Where the romance happens,” she says, “is in educating others and sharing the wine with them. These wines sell themselves.”

Hasegawa’s friend and fellow wine lover Amy Elliott recently hosted a wine-tasting event at Elliott's home. Before the event, Hasegawa coached Elliott about the evening, including basic expectations about the gathering, and what food tidbits she wanted Elliott to have on hand. When guests arrived, Hasegawa taught the group about wine-tasting basics like “the four S’s—see, swirl, smell, sip,” says Elliott. “Then we taste the wine while we eat a particular piece of food and talk about how the food enhances the wine.” All evening, Hasegawa informed Elliott’s guests about wine varietals, blends, and about Traveling Vineyard, too.

“This is a fun business that’s being conducted right here in Woodbury,” says Hasegawa. She wants to get the word out about it, especially to other Woodbury folks who might want to join the Traveling Vineyard and become wine gals or guys themselves. “What’s not to like,” she asks with a laugh, “about friends getting together and drinking wine?”