Ashlee Cuddy says that she was born with a love for wine in her blood. She moved to North Carolina from California when she was a child and considers herself a native Charlottean. Three years ago, after graduating from college, Cuddy began working at Bond Street Wines, a hand-imported business that bought and distributed wine to private customers. When she joined the team, the retail front of Bond Street didn't exist. Shortly after, she became part owner with Jeff House and helped design a true brick and mortar tasting room and shop at 605 Providence Road.
Recently, the 25-year-old passed Level 3 of the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (a distinctive educational program based out of London and offered by Johnson and Wales), which included a comprehensive exam composed of two blind wine tastings, a slew of multiple choice questions and five essays. Today, she continues to work in the rustic yet modern-inspired Bond Street shop, where she helps clients discover boutique wines from all over the world.
Creative Loafing: What is your favorite wine region?
Ashlee Cudee: Italy. I think it's because of the tannin structure, which is a lot softer and the wine structure is very rustic. In Italy, a lot of the vineyards are biodynamic or organic in farming. They've been doing this for generations and generations. They don't believe in having to pay $20,000 for someone to come out and put a little stamp on their wine. They just make wine as their grandparents used to. The wines are very true to the land, and they just give us this elegance along with great layers.
What makes Bond Street Wines different from other wine shops?
We try to focus on family-owned, family-operated small-production wines from all over the world. We like to focus on things that you're not going to find in other retail shops. We like to push people outside of their comfort zone from what they see on the label, not in terms of what they're going to like but in terms of the labels they're so used to. We encourage them to branch out.
What's your advice for beginner wine drinkers?
Wine is intimidating enough as it is, so we try to create an atmosphere where it's not. We like to work with our clients' palates. People will come in, and typically we ask what kind of wines they like and go from there. But for a beginner, I would say, buy a couple different wines that are the same varietal, that are from different places all over the world. So, get a cabernet sauvignon from California, a cabernet sauvignon from Chile and one from France, which would be a Bordeaux, and then open them together and try them side-by-side, so you can see the differences in the wine. You'll be able to pull out the little nuances, and again, because of the climate and where it's grown, you'll be able to tell why it tastes the way it does.