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Grateful to Witness Diversity in Wine: The Black Wine Experience

Do you remember writing, “What I did during my summer vacation” essay? This blog invokes middle school memories trying to convey an entire summer in 500 words or less. I promise to spare you every detail and only share the highlights of my amazing and transformative experience.   The Swirl Suite, a weekly podcast I co-host with three extraordinary women, broadcasted live in New Orleans over the July 4th weekend. We attended the Black Wine Experience. The Black Wine Experience was a weekend of celebrating African-Americans in the wine industry. Winemakers, importers, wine brokers, distributors, and of course, media influencers gathered to recognize diversity in wine. During this season of gratitude, I am grateful to have witness diversity in wine.  

Swirl Suite Hosts
Swirl Suite: Tanisha Townsend, Leslie Frelow, Sarita Cheaves, and Glynis Hill

Diversity is a hot topic. The craft beverage industry has not escaped this topic. The wine industry has been called out, chastised, placed on “front street” for its lack of diversity in ownership, vineyard managers, winemakers, distribution, virtually all segments. Women and black and brown people are STILL not represented in sizeable numbers. Blogs like Julia Coney, “Your wine glass ceiling is my glass box. An open letter to Karen Macneil and the wine industry” provoked an international discussion. Her blog sheds light on the plain sight disparities.

The Black Wine Experience was a platform to celebrate notable individuals. My Swirl Suite sisters and I had the honor to interview these celebrated individuals. Brenae Royal, the first and only African-American female vineyard manager, and Isiah Thomas, hall of fame basketball icon, entrepreneur, and now Champagne producer, are among individuals we interviewed.

The entire weekend was epic, and we have the audio to prove it! We talked to so many great blacks in wine. I am excited to share with you our interviews. The podcast is a two-part series.

Episode One

The first episode features Gallo Wines vineyard manager Brenae Royal; Gallo Wines diversity and marketing professional Derek Epps and winemaker Jennifer McDonald of Jenny Dawn Cellars. Jenny Dawn Cellars brought California winemaking to the mid-west. It is a new winery in Wichita, KS.

Episode One

Episode Two

Episode two is so large that we created two segments. The first segment features Chris Wachira, Ph.D., and Chadwick Spell of Wachira Wines. Wachira Wines is a woman-owned winery and a culmination of the extraordinary vision and effort of Dr. Chris Wachira, the first Kenyan-born, Californian winemaker, distributor, importer, and exporter. Winemaker Paula Harrell of Harrell Wines is a California native who was introduced to wine while studying abroad. Isiah Thomas of Cheurlin Champagne known for his business savvy and philanthropic endeavors as much as his storied athletic career. Isiah and his wife Lynn wanted healthier, great-tasting champagne without the added sugar. He is a hands-on owner of Cheurlin Champagne.

The second segment features a wine importer and distributor Larry Boone of Lawrence Boone Selections. Lawrence Boone Selections is dedicated to finding the best biodynamic and natural wines sourced from small family owned wineries. Mohamed Morretta founding partner of LaKool Champagne. Morretta and Robert “Kool” Bell, from legendary Kool and The Gang band, are the inspiration for LaKool Champagne.

Episode Two, part 1
Episode Two, part 2

Please take a listen to the Swirl Suite shows. I think we captured the excitement and positive energy flowing through the weekend. 

If you want to hear more Swirl Suite shows, you can click here.

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