Certified sommelier hosts wine show from Concord

Laura Lawson of Charlotte wasn’t expecting to host a nationally syndicated radio show after graduating from the University of Georgia years ago.

But without knowing it, she quickly put herself on a path to do just that.

First she landed a job at a high-end package store in Atlanta. That ultimately led to her being recruited by E&J Gallo Winery and moving to the Queen City.

After working for Gallo for six months, she moved on to Empire Distributors, a wholesale alcoholic beverage distributor on Carowinds Boulevard, where she has worked ever since.

About five years ago, Lawson was in the right place at the right time when Performance Racing Network (home of NASCAR broadcasts) looked into branching out into lifestyle production shows.

At the time, wine was becoming a hot topic, and the group thought a wine-themed educational radio show would be well received.

PRN President Doug Rice approached Lawson to host the show. She accepted, and “The Wine Crush” radio program was born.

Lawson now hosts “The Wine Crush,” a nationally syndicated weekly radio show that originated in Concord. She keeps the world of wine real for listeners, focusing on “taking the mystery out of the grape” and promoting drinking what you like, not what you are told to like.

Guests on the show are varied and have included Dan Cohn, president and CEO of B.R. Cohn Winery; Sean Scully, editor of the Napa Valley Register; and John Lenart, a writer for

Topics have included wine pairings, what wines make great gifts, bubbles (Champagne) and basically all things grape.

Lawson, who lives in south Charlotte, became a certified sommelier in 2011 through the Court of Master Sommeliers. As such she is only a handful of female sommeliers in the U.S. The process is not easy; it entails oral, written and practical exams and took her just over five years to complete.

She loves her day job at Empire Distributing. It goes hand in hand with her radio show, she said, as the two feed off each other. The sommelier certification was the icing on the cake, bringing everything together for the wine lover.

Wondering what a sommelier drinks at home? The “Wine Crush” host is partial to chardonnay, calling herself “The Chardonnay Guzzling Diva.”

When asked whether she recommends any particular wines for fall, she tells me she leans toward blends, because at this time of year, “grapes play nicely with each other.” She recommends a blend of syrah, cabernet and merlot instead of a straight cabernet sauvignon for an interesting twist.

In the Charlotte area, tune in to WSTP (AM 1490) for future “Wine Crush” shows discussing how the harvest is going and holiday tips on what to serve at parties, which bottles make great hostess gifts and more.

Lawson also plans on discussing how the recent earthquake in the Napa Valley will affect the wine industry in the months and years to come.

“The Wine Crush” broadcasts also can be heard online at and episodes are on iTunes for free.