Behind Bars: Ayisha King at Aerial Wine Boutique

Erica Thompson

Whether it's admiring South Africa, exploring monuments in China or taking cooking classes in Italy, Ayisha King is frequently traveling. During an early-November interview, she proudly announced that she'd visited each continent except Antarctica.

“But I am interested because I really want to go whale-watching,” she said.

Through her travels, she witnessed the popularity of wine bistros and tasting rooms, and she wondered if Columbus would be receptive to the concept. Using her extensive experience and education (she holds an MBA and a master's degree in project management), she opened a wine tasting room in Gahanna in 2016.

“I envision Aerial Wine Boutique to become a staple name when people are looking for good-quality wine, especially in this community,” King said. “It's hard when you go to the grocery store to find something you like because it's just rows and rows of wine.”

At King's wine bar, customers can select wine brought in directly from myriad suppliers, including Ohio wineries like JW's Wine Cellar, and even the country's oldest winery: Brotherhood Winery in New York. They can enjoy a flight at the bar or purchase bottles to take home. All offerings are 90 points and above (on a 100-point scale used by wine critics).

“What we like to tell each customer is this is a no-judge zone,” King said, stressing that new wine drinkers should not be intimidated. “I just do my job of telling you the proper way of doing your wine tasting and what to look for.”

And Aerial Wine Boutique offers more than just cheese plates to pair with wine; there is a full menu of appetizers, “lite bites” and dinner.

“I have people that travel from Cleveland … for the Seafood Stuffed Portobello mushroom,” King said. “[Others say] they need to smack me for the Crawfish Etouffee.”

Beyond the wine and food, the establishment is about curating an experience, beginning with the ambience. The decor is simple and soothing, with gray walls and chairs and black tables accentuated with red flowers. Candles are added during the evening to create a more intimate atmosphere.

Young professionals can often be spotted at Aerial for a “wine down, catch up,” or parents in town for a visit with their adult children. Others rent out the space for private events, or line up to attend King's events, like the popular “Jazz & Mimosas.”

Though the bar keeps her busy, King still works a day job.

“I'm not going to tell you that I love being an accountant more than I love helping people relax and seeing smiles on their face,” she said. “That's no more fulfilling to me.”

“It's a way of life,” she said of her workload. “I have multiple passions.”