From Fargo to Florence, North Dakota, a Fanbase is Building in the World of Wine – InForum

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia — Many people may dream of getting paid to travel the world and drink wine, but Fargo’s Carolyn Covington has a real shot at making it happen.

The 27-year-old grabs everyone’s attention like a corkscrew in Napa as The American Wine Girl.

Thousands of wine lovers (or those aspiring to be) follow her on her website, Instagram and Facebook pages, where she helps even beginners understand the nuances of red, white and everything in between.

It’s a path she never thought possible as a child growing up in Fargo.

Covington is a 2014 graduate of Fargo South High, where employment was a pastime. In her younger years she was on the FM Acro Team, later she ran track and field and got involved in theater and music. But the love of wine permeated her family. She has memories of her parents Kevin Pifer and Kellie Pifer sipping wine by the lake on summer nights.

“They had friends over, they always had a lot of different types of wine. They talked about the specific wineries or took a trip to Napa. They just always showed so much love and passion for it,” she said.

And what was Carolyn thinking when her parents let her take a little sip?

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

Born in Fargo, Carolyn Covington never thought she would make a career out of teaching people about fine wine. But that’s exactly what she’s been doing 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 get it after spending part of her junior year at the University of Minnesota to study abroad in Florence, Italy.

“I still haven’t really drunk 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 her because I realized how big she is in her culture. It’s people’s whole lives. I went into the vineyards there and talked to people about it and saw how passionate they were. It just piqued my interest.”

So she brought that passion back to the Midwest.

“I started tasting wines and seeing what I could afford on a student budget. Not things like cheap Moscato, but wines that are really decent to drink,” she said. “I remember my friends would always say, ‘I hate wine. It’s so gross.” And I was like, ‘What are you talking about? You just don’t drink the right wine.’ So I was like, ‘Okay, how can I teach people that?’”

That’s why she founded The American Wine Girl in 2017.

“I’m just going to write about it and learn as I go and share with people all the things I’m learning about wine and try to get 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 real estate agent. The couple met in Minneapolis in 2018 when the Twin Cities were hosting the Super Bowl. At the time, Maurice, a former professional football player, was financial manager for a number of Minnesota Vikings players.

Carolyn & Mo - Rehearsal Dinner
Carolyn Covington has husband Maurice’s help and support in building her American Wine Girl brand.

Contributed / Danielle J Norton

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

“I’m kind of pulling him in,” Carolyn says, laughing.

But Maurice has also been dragged along on some of Carolyn’s trips to vineyards around the world, from Italy to Greece to South Africa.

It’s not just exotic beaches and sunset drinks, though. Covington spends many 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 blogging, photography, research about wines. I’m always learning and studying and reading wine articles and exposing myself to as much wine knowledge as possible,” she said.

It also reaches large and small wine producers.

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

For the future she would like to continue her final level of wine education (WSET Level 4) and do more tasting and public speaking events.

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

American Wine Girl answers your wine FAQs

IMG_0631 (1).jpeg
A 2014 Fargo South graduate, Carolyn Covington later graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Economics and Marketing. She has completed three levels at WSET, the Wine and Spirit Education Trust. She hopes to soon complete her final level in wine education.

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 know nothing about wine or wine and food pairing, this is a safe place to start. But I think it’s definitely outdated because there are so many different types of dishes and wines. I think you need to look at more than just the protein because other elements can come into play when pairing wine and food, including the sauce or sweetness of the dish. I think the most important thing is to balance the weight of the wine and the food and make sure you choose a wine that doesn’t overwhelm the dish but complements it.

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

A You can definitely get really good wines in the $20 range. I’d say that’s always a really safe bet. As for white wines, you can find so many good white wines even in the $12-$15 range. I wouldn’t spend less than 10€ on wine. It’s probably mass-produced, 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 goes with everything. I have my go-to list of “goes with everything crying.” But I always like to start with champagne or bubbly. It acts as a palate cleanser, and sipping it during the meal is really great for neutralizing your taste buds.

As for red wines, I always recommend a Pinot Noir or a Beaujolais because they have a lighter body, lighter tannins and more fruit. So these will go great with turkey, cranberry sauce and everything.

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