Seven Things This Wine Woman Can’t Live Without

Nov 12, 2018 | Seven Things

Michelle holds a glass of Azur Rose.

Michelle Mandro, founder of the lifestyle brand Wine Country Women LLC, began her career in Louisville as a sophomore studying communication and English at Bellarmine University.

“I developed an interest in media relations and had some wonderful opportunities that allowed me to take clients to local radio and TV stations,” Michelle says. “I actually expressed interest in working in television news to Gail Henson, who was the head of the Bellarmine Communications Department at the time. She helped me land a position at WAVE-3. I give her credit for helping me start my career.”

Michelle’s robust career gave her the opportunity to work for a number of other well-known companies including WLKY, the Kentucky Derby Museum, Universal Studios, and YUM! Brands.

“I consider myself a Louisvillian, however I was not born here,” Michelle says. “It is the place that I have lived most of my life. Collectively I’ve spent about 25 years here. Now I split my time between Louisville and California, but I call Louisville home.”

During her time with YUM! Brands, Michelle joined the local chapter of The American Institute of Wine & Food.

“I wanted to run that association,” Michelle says. “I am of the belief, nothing ventured, nothing gained. The answer is always ‘no’ if you don’t try, so I  approached the organization to see if it would consider me as its new leader.”

So from 2004 to 2005, Michelle relocated to the Napa Valley, where she served as the executive director of the national association of The American Institute of Wine & Food. She spent eight years in the Napa Valley, working for a number of family owned wineries.

“It became apparent to me that there was a group of visitors who dreamed of living in a wine region, and there were others who were very curious about those who live there,” Michelle says. “I had this idea to satisfy this curiosity by providing a glimpse into the lives of accomplished and celebrated women who live in wine country. Hence Wine Country Women was born.”

Wine Country Women, she says, is a luxury lifestyle entertainment brand focused on bringing wine country to the world through storytelling, events, and media. Michelle’s Wine Country Women of Napa Valley, a coffee table book, is the first in a three-book series about the women who shape American wine culture. Michelle is currently working on the second book, Wine Country Women of Sonoma County, followed by the third, Wine Country Women of Willamette Valley.

“The books provide a glimpse into the lives of these women through photographs, a narrative, and a favorite family recipe,” Michelle says. “They include their suggested wine pairing for that recipe with an explanation of why that pairing works so well.”

In addition to Michelle’s book trilogy, Wine Country Women hosts events at restaurants, retail stores such as Williams Sonoma, and the Culinary Institute of America.

“The events really run the gamut,” Michelle says. “Whether it’s a tasting and book signing, a paired dinner and reception, or a panel discussion, the book lends itself to a number of things. The women in the Napa Valley book are female winemakers, to winery owners, to entrepreneurs, to chefs, restaurateurs, and artists. It’s really important for me to educate the consumer that there are successful women in other industries in these wine regions, and this is a venue to showcase them.”

Michelle is excited to bring some of these “wine country women” to Louisville for similar events and to show them around the city she calls home.

“You hear it all the time, Louisville is the city with small town charm,” Michelle says. “I really do feel like it has continued to maintain that. I love the community, the flourishing food scene, great chefs, the thoroughbred industry, and the bubbling bourbon business. I think Louisville has finally come into its own, but it’s been able to maintain that small town charm, and I think it is a really inviting place to be.”

It’s no surprise that Michelle’s seven things include wine and travel, but there may be a few you wouldn’t expect:

Michelle pours one of her favorite Rose wines. The winery owner’s wife is featured in Michelle’s Wine Country Women book.

Wine – Especially Champagne and Rosé

“I can’t live without wine, I love champagne and rosé. They pair with almost anything, which is a bonus.”

Passport

“I love to travel and experience new places,” Michelle says. “I am a huge fan of Italy, I love the town of Positano. It’s on the coast — on the west side — and it’s built into the hillside overlooking the water. Just a few miles north is a place called Sorrento with fabulous Limóncello. Positano isn’t a wine region, but it’s just a beautiful place that is unlike any other.”

American Express Platinum Card

The American Express slogan used to be, “You can’t leave home without it,” and that’s exactly how I feel. “I never leave home without it — it’s great for everything!” Michelle says. “It has an endless amount of benefits such as airline credits and access to premium luxury airport lounges. Plus, it offers TSA pre-boarding.  

Collection of Sentiments from Family, Friends, and Loved Ones

Michelle has a small collection of  cards, photos, and letters from people she holds dear.

My Mother’s Ring

“My mother passed away 22 years ago. My father had given her a pretty amethyst ring with diamonds that he passed along to me,” Michelle says.

The Occasional Dinner with My Father

“My father lives in Louisville, and he’s my only living relative so I spend as much time with him as possible,” Michelle says. “ We have a few favorite restaurants, but love to try new places as well. He loves Josh Moore at Volare so if we want to do something special, we go there.”

Life’s Unexpected Surprises

“You can’t live without those — everyone loves a good surprise,” Michelle says. “For example, I was dining at Science Hill in Shelbyville and I didn’t know it. The waiter told us that this individual was in the restaurant and wanted to treat us to dinner. Those little unexpected surprises make me appreciate life more.”