Love Wine? Discover B-Town’s Meetup Group for Vino Aficionados
August 11, 2021
by robyn fogle
“What do friends and wine have in common?...The older, the better.”
And the only thing better than good wine, is good wine enjoyed with good friends - whether they be old or new! So if you love wine and enjoy meeting new people, then read on my friend, this one’s for you.
While taking a class at City Vineyard, Trish Behrends, and several other folks in the class, began to discuss how fun it would be to have regular meet ups for like-minded wine enthusiasts. She went home that night and searched for a group or club they could join, but found nothing.
Not one to sit around and wait for someone else to start one, she decided to form the group herself. Using the Meetup platform, she started the Billings Wine Meetup in 2019. (For those unfamiliar, Meetup is a free, popular website and app where communities can form social groups and “meet up.” It’s an easy way for city newcomers and locals alike to meet new people with similar interests.)
Five folks showed up for the first Billings Wine Meetup event and it has continued to grow ever since. The group now boasts over 200 members, but average attendance at the monthly Friday night meet-ups ranges from about 10-25 people - an easy size to get to know fellow wine devotees. While some members never miss a month, others have only come once or twice and “there’s always new faces every month which is wonderful for me” says Trish, emphasizing that everyone is welcome.
“We have all different ages, walks of life, people who know nothing about wine and people who know everything about wine...it’s always an interesting mix of people,” she shares. The eclectic members range in age from roughly 30-75 and include singles, as well as married couples. And they all share one thing in common - a love of vino!
Their meetups are held the last or second to last Friday of the month from 5-7pm. Locations change each month though the group enjoys returning to favorites such as Jake’s Downtown and Stacked. “There are so many wonderful places in Billings to meet,” says Trish, who quickly adds, “but of course they have to have good wine. That’s the pre-requisite.”
Most attendees order wine and appetizers. While some folks order and pay simply for their own glass or two of wine, others generously order a bottle or some appetizers for the table to sample and share. As they begin to imbibe, the conversation begins to flow.
“We always talk about wine,” she says, “but also about food, who’s been to what restaurant, what was good, what’s coming up in the community...all kinds of fun things.” And when the meetup officially ends at 7pm, nearly everyone lingers. After all, wine flies when you’re having fun!
As casual as the group is, Trish also enjoys challenging folks to be more adventurous and try something new. “I’ll have people tell me ‘I don’t drink red wine,’” she says, to which she responds “Oh really, why is that?” and encourages them to try new styles and grapes.
“I do some funny things with them,” she laughs, sharing how she’ll bring along a black wine glass to disguise the color of the wine and then encourage the doubters to blindly sample and evaluate the wine with no preconceived notions based on color. Many times people will discover a new style of wine that they might have been hesitant to try previously.
“I think it’s really opened up some minds to try things they might not have tried before. Be more adventurous. Try something new. It’s a learning experience” Trish says. But she humbly admits that she learns with everybody else as they all expand their palates together. “It’s a great way to learn more (about wine) and make new friends at the same time,” she says, describing their casual, social group.
So who has the best wine list in town? Trish says her favorites include Buffalo Block Steakhouse, BIN 119, and City Vineyard’s bottle selection.
Whether you just moved to Billings or have lived here all your life, if you love good wine and good conversation, give this B-Town Meetup group a try! You won’t regret it!
My only regret in life is that I did not drink more wine. –Ernest Hemingway
Though not native to Montana, Robyn Fogle is now proud to call the Treasure State home. She and her husband Rob are outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy rock climbing, hiking and finding new ways to wear out their Aussie, Whipper. She balances outdoor adventures and road trips with quiet nights at home spent cooking and reading while enjoying a glass of wine or pint of craft beer.