Acquired Tastes in the Workplace

In Wine People, Michelle Wildgen ’97 is less interested in pairing wines than she is in pairing people.

Book cover of Wine People. An illustration shows a woman diving into a glass of red wine

Wildgen pairs the technical know-how of the wine industry with the narrative nuances of competing personalities.

People, like wine, are endlessly varied. They can be dry and serious or bold and sweet, smooth and refined or bubbly and bright. Michelle Wildgen ’97 explores two such distinct individuals and the strategic pairing of their opposing strengths in her latest novel, Wine People.

Wren is a hardworking, salt-of-the-earth Midwesterner. Thessaly is the daughter of Sonoma vintners. Both 20-something women work at a high-end Manhattan wine distributor. When the company’s owner announces his departure without naming a successor, Wren and Thessaly forge an unlikely alliance to establish a female stronghold in an otherwise male-dominated industry. Their bond blossoms into a friendship that may serve them better than corporate credibility ever could.

Wildgen pairs technical knowledge about winemaking with the narrative nuances of two women struggling both with each other and against their respective selves. In an interview with the Capital Times, Wildgen shared that her research for this book involved visits to wine country in California and Oregon as well as collaborations with Madison wine professionals, proving that any work about the wine industry requires immersion and air miles.

“An intoxicating story of friendship, workplace politics, entrepreneurship, and, of course, the elixir of the gods, Wine People is all the wine metaphors and then some,” writes author Elisa Albert.

Wine People was a Time magazine and Oprah Daily summer pick. Wildgen is the author of four novels, cofounder of the Madison Writers’ Studio, and current writer-in-residence at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery.

Published in the Winter 2023 issue


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