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From Fargo to Florence, North Dakota native building a following in the world of wine

Carolyn Covington, a 2014 Fargo South graduate, is The American Wine Girl

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Fargo native Carolyn Covington in a vineyard in Italy where her passion for wine was born. She's now attracting world wide followers with her business American Wine Girl.
Contributed / Carolyn Covington
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - A lot of people might dream of getting paid to travel the world and drink wine, but Fargo native Carolyn Covington has a real shot at making it happen.

The 27-year-old is turning heads like a corkscrew in Napa as The American Wine Girl.

Thousands of wine lovers (or those hoping to be) follow her on her website, Instagram and Facebook pages, where she helps even novices understand the nuances of reds, whites and everything in between.

It’s a path she never thought she’d be on as a kid growing up in Fargo.

Covington is a 2014 graduate of Fargo South High where keeping busy was a pastime. She was on the FM Acro Team in her younger years, then later ran track and participated in theater and music. But a love of wine permeated her family. She has memories of her parents Kevin Pifer and Kellie Pifer sipping wine on summer nights at the lake.

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“They’d have friends over, they always had a bunch of different types of wines. They would talk about the specific wineries or they would go take a trip to Napa. They just always showed so much love and passion for it," she said.

And what did Carolyn think when her parents would let her take a small sip?

“Not good. I didn't really understand it. ‘Why are they so obsessed with this drink?’ I thought,” she said.

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Fargo native Carolyn Covington never thought she'd have a career teaching people about good wine. But that's what she'd done for more than five years with her business American Wine Girl and as a wine educator for Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyards in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Contributed / Sera Petras

But she began to understand it after spending part of her junior year at the University of Minnesota studying abroad in Florence, Italy.

“I still wasn't really drinking a lot of wine, just the cheap stuff you drink in college,” she said. “But in Italy, I just started to fall in love with it, because I realized how big it is in their culture. It’s people's whole life. I’d go out to the vineyards there and talk to people about it and see just how passionate they were. It just sparked an interest in me.”

So she brought that passion back home to the Midwest.

“I started trying wines and seeing what I could afford on a college student budget. Not things like cheap Moscato, but wines that were actually decent to drink,” she said. “I remember my friends always being like, ‘I hate wine. It's so gross.’ And I was like, ‘What are you guys talking about? You're just not drinking the right kind of wine.’ So I thought ‘OK, how can I teach people about this?’”

She started The American Wine Girl in 2017 as a means to do that.

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“I'm just gonna write about it and learn as I go and share with people all the things that I'm learning about wine and try to influence people my age to drink good wine,” she said.

She runs her business from Charlottesville, Virginia, where her husband, Maurice Covington is a consultant and realtor. The couple met in Minneapolis in 2018 when the Twin Cities hosted the Super Bowl. At the time, Maurice, a former professional football player, was doing financial management for a few Minnesota Vikings players.

Carolyn & Mo - Rehearsal Dinner
Carolyn Covington has the help and support of husband Maurice in building her American Wine Girl brand.
Contributed / Danielle J Norton

A few years later, the couple married and settled in Virginia, where along with his real estate work Maurice has become an amateur photographer/videographer for his wife’s website.

“I kind of just drag him into it,” Carolyn says with a laugh.

But Maurice has also been dragged along for some of Carolyn’s trips to vineyards all over the world from Italy to Greece to South Africa.

However, it’s not all exotic beaches and sipping drinks at sunset. Covington puts in long hours honing her craft. She has completed courses 1-3 of the Wine and Spirit Education Trust, one of the world’s leading providers of wine education.

She also works part-time at Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards

“But as far as just my personal business, it's a lot of content creation, a lot of writing blogs, taking pictures, doing research on wines. I'm always learning and studying and reading wine articles and just exposing myself to as much wine knowledge as I can," she said.

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She also reaches out to both large and small wine producers.

“I like coming up with really fun concepts to work with the brands,” she said. “It’s nice to be able to be selective and choose brands that I genuinely love.”

As far as the future, she wants to pursue her final level of wine education (WSET’s Level 4) and do more tasting and public speaking events.

“My newest goal with my blog is to make more meaningful relationships with wine regions around the world and cover those and teach people about them,” she said.

American Wine Girl answers your wine FAQ's

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Carolyn Covington, a 2014 Fargo South graduate, later graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in business and marketing. She has completed three levels in WSET, the Wine and Spirit Education Trust. She hopes to complete her final level in wine education soon.
Contributed / Sera Petras

Q. Is it still a good idea to pair white wine with chicken and fish and red wine with beef?

A. If you don't know anything about wine, or wine and food pairing, that's a safe place to start. But I think it's definitely outdated because there are so many different types of dishes and wines out there. I think you need to look at more than just the protein because, in wine and food pairing, there are other elements that can come into play, including the sauce or sweetness of the dish. I think the most important thing is just matching the weight of the wine and the food and making sure you're choosing a wine, that's not going to overpower the dish, but that compliment it.

Q. How much do I need to spend to get a good bottle of wine?

A. You can definitely get really good wines in the $20 range. I would say that is always a really safe bet. With whites, you can find so many good whites even in the $12 to $15 range. I wouldn't spend anything less than $10 on wine. It's probably a mass-produced, manufactured, you know, just not the highest quality.

Q. What wines do you recommend for Thanksgiving?

A. With Thanksgiving, there are so many different dishes on the table. So you need a wine that can go with everything. I have my go-to list of ‘go with everything wines.’ But I always like to start with champagne or sparkling wine. It acts as a palate cleanser, and sipping it throughout the meal is really great for neutralizing your palate.

As far as reds go, I always recommend a Pinot Noir or a Beaujolais because those are going to be lighter in body, lighter in tannins, and more fruit-forward. So those are going to be great with turkey, cranberry sauce, and everything.

For dessert, I always say pair sweet with sweet because if you have a dry wine, like a really heavy tannic dry wine with something sweet, it's going to taste bitter and really off. So even if you don't like sweet wine, something that's just a little bit off-dry or lighter would be really good with dessert. I would do a Vinsanto or Sauternes. A Vinsanto is an Italian dessert wine that has notes of honey and caramel, golden apple, and things like that. A Sauternes is a French dessert wine, which has similar tasting notes. So something like that. It's always fun to just have an ounce or two at the end of the meal with dessert.”

Related Topics: FOODFARGO
Tracy Briggs is a News, Lifestyle and History reporter with Forum Communications with more than 30 years of experience, in broadcast, print and digital journalism.
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