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Duluth couple share passion for wine, travel

David Devere of Savvy Nomad Wine Tasting & Tours pours a red wine at Chester Creek Café/Sara's Table at Taran's Market in Duluth, Minn., on Feb. 27, 2013. (Clint Austin/Duluth News Tribune)

DULUTH -- This is a love story. David Devere and Sara Duke are world travelers from Duluth who fell in love with France after taking a canal boat trip there in 2011.

One the way, the couple also fell in love with the world of wine.

The result is a new business venture, Savvy Nomad Wine Tasting & Tours, which offers wine education and also guided tours in France for a close-up look at where that wine is made.

"We were driving across North Dakota," Devere said of the couple's first discussion about the new venture. They talked about educating people in Duluth about wine and then came up with the idea of actually taking people to the places it came from.

"It seemed like a natural progression," Devere said.

The result has been several sets of wine classes at area businesses since last fall and a regular Wednesday night wine presentation at Chester Creek Café.

The couple are going to France again this summer -- leading two canal boat trips -- and are taking reservations for more trips in September 2014.

The wine and travel guiding venture is added to the duties of running the small publishing company On-Word Bound Books since 2003.

In early spring of 2010, Devere came across an article in a sailing magazine advertising a canal boat trip in France. He showed it to Duke, who agreed the trip sounded wonderful. They recruited a couple of friends to join them for a fall 2011 trip and David set about making the plans. He reserved the boat, picked flights, bought train tickets in France, planned a few days in Paris and found hotels for the beginning and end of the trip.

And then there was the wine. Devere wanted to have a better grasp of the wine made in the regions they would visit in France, so he purchased a DVD set called "The Everyday Guide to Wine." It offered 24 lessons using six bottles of wine for each one.

Knowing that going through the lessons would prove to be an expensive venture, the couple recruited friends into a wine group to help share the cost of the bottles they would try.

The group met about every other week for almost a year before the trip to France.

Devere and Duke met in Antarctica working at the U.S. research station in the 1990s. Duke grew up near Two Harbors. Devere is from Arizona. They have since traveled all over the world. They called the France vacation the best they have ever taken. When they returned to Duluth, they decided they wanted to continue teaching people about wine as a business and to guide them on similar trips to France.

Devere became a certified specialist of wine through the Society of Wine Educators -- which requires an exacting knowledge of wine -- and obtained a wine educator's license through the state of Minnesota. He is the first person to get the license since a new law passed in 2012 allowed for it. It means he can teach classes wherever those interested in hosting take him.

He has partnered with Chester Creek Café and Lizzard's Art Gallery to teach wine education in the past few months.

Classes generally come in a series with a focus on one particular wine or grape region. The couple also host a free class at Chester Creek Café on Wednesdays during half-price wine night.

Devere said the most common questions people in his classes raise are about how to read wine labels. He teaches how to know what you are reading and strives to take the mystique out of buying wine.

"Just understanding the wine label will take you so much further," he said.

The end goal of the classes is to get people to understand what they like in wine, he said, so they can enjoy it.

"We take out the intimidation," he said.

The classes are casual, Devere said. "The atmosphere is Duluth. This is not a pretentious event," he said. "We're growing a wine community."