How many years have you been in the business? Tell us briefly about your background and your current position today.
I'm new to the business as a wine professional, starting my own business in 2021 after years of appreciating and enjoying wine as a consumer. It can be intimidating to pursue a new endeavor that wasn't a focus during ones academic education or professional career. Deciding that my professional career experience (outside of wine) wouldn't hinder but only enhance and serve me in my pursuit of following a passion of wine and is the reason behind me becoming a wine entrepreneur, Founder of Noire Wine Lounge.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
A trip to Napa Valley with some friends in 2021 visiting a tasting room located in Oakville---I've visited Napa Valley over the years but this trip was different. During our visit to the tasting room, trying the wines, I was a bit disappointed at the selection and the lack of diversity represented in the selection of wines/wine makers. That disappointment quickly turned into my "aha!" moment as I was instantly inspired to create and carry out my own vision of a wine tasting experience that I felt would better reflect myself and the diversity of my own community and our world.
What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
Meeting and connecting with the diverse array of winemakers & proprietors of wine brands whose wines I will be carrying within my wine lounge. Learning from them first hand about their passion of winemaking, their unique stories about why they decided to pursue winemaking and/or create a wine brand and being able to taste the literal fruits of their labor is very rewarding and special to me. Surrounding myself with individuals pursuing a similar journey is reassuring and uplifts me as an entrepreneur.
What do you do to create wellness balance in your life? Any particular activity, practices, etc that are meaningful to you?
Stretching my body and taking deep breaths. I have my yoga mat on the ground next to my desk, so whenever I have the urge to release tension within my body, I make sure to stretch and practice deep breathing. It helps me to recenter---my body, mind and spirit, especially in moments that may feel overwhelming or challenging.
What changes do you hope to see in the wine industry in the next five years?
Definitely the continuing of programs & opportunities that support and encourage the participation of BIPOC professionals within wine. I think it's also important that as positive changes are made within the wine industry, accountability be practiced within the circles of wine industry professionals that are afforded the resources to create advancement within the wine community---accountability of their practices that include gatekeeping within the industry.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
Equity across all sectors within the industry.
How do you feel you’re contributing to creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive wine industry?
My contribution is my business, Noire Wine Lounge! NOIRE spotlights and celebrates vintners, wineries and wine brands of color. Welcoming everyone to experience a contemporary wine tasting experience that is reflective of the diversity of the contemporary world we live in.
What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the same sector of the wine industry as you?
Lead with integrity and build a community that supports you.
Name some people who inspire you in the wine industry and please explain why.
Pata Airaudi, Co-Founder & President of Sapere Wines, Theodora Lee Founder of Theopolis Vineyards and Dan Glover Wine Maker & Proprietor of L'Objet Wines, are some of the people within the wine industry that inspire me. I'm inspired by their drive in carrying out the visions for their wine brands, willingness to extend support to others (like myself) within the wine community and carving out their own unique paths that speaks to their perspectives & backgrounds, sharing that with others through the wines they produce. It's inspiring to build alongside a community that is reflective of myself as a woman, as an African-American and as a wine professional.