How many years have you been in the business? Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.
I started working in hospitality when I was still in High School. It feels like I’ve been in the business, building skills and acquiring knowledge, forever. When I was legally old enough to bartend, I did. After several years, I hit a wall in access and realized the doors a wine certification could open. I got my first wine cert in 2015 and have been working in the industry since then. It was a natural transition from the bar to the floor as a Somm. I left restaurants in 2018 to work in sales and distribution.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
I think there are 2 very significant moments in my career. The first was the realization that wine had various entryways into the industry that didn’t exist in spirits. The second was that all of the wines that I gravitated to on the all Italian Wine list that I sold all had this quality that I couldn’t put my finger on, this soul. With some digging I found that they were all considered Natural Wine.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The flexibility. Wine is so layered and complex, you can fold anything into the industry. Coupled with the creativity that working in distribution allows, I can be anything from an event planner to an educator to a writer in a given day.
Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry?
I could, but I feel that we’ve expanded quite a bit on the BS that this industry, and all industry’s, can present. I am very much in a proactive, joyful space. Shoutout to community and the power of collective healing.
When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by advocating for diversity and inclusion?
A breadth of perspective, knowledge, and experience, leading to a range of expression and all around delicious juice!
What changes do you hope to see in the wine industry in the next five years?
I hope we normalize speaking about land access, farming, labor, and climate change the way that we speak about tasting notes, cru sites and aging. I hope we open up the space to respect non-vinifera wine.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
First, the history of land that is not European and acknowledgment of Native contribution to holistic, sustainable farming to be common. Second, the history and migration of Vinifera’s presence in non-European soil to be common. Third, acknowledgment of the Black and brown communities who have historically been vineyard and land stewards, and fair compensation for those who still are. And, of course, ownership and cooperative economics amongst Black and brown communities along the supply chain.
In what ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?
Whenever I feel comfortable, I look deeper and ask questions. I then share what I find.
What message do you have for anyone now entering the wine profession?
Find a community that you can be your full self in. Especially if you decide to go a certification route.
What other industry heroes do you admire and why?
I met Lee Campbell very shortly after leaving restaurants. She blew me away with her knowledge, her palate, her energy, and her lure. She’s a NY legend, you know? I had someone tell me they hired me because I reminded him of her. I immediately googled her, and found this interview about her embrace of natural wine. She explained that one evening, at a wine bar, she looked over at the hands of a Vigneron. They were dirty, stained, and reminded her of farmers in her ancestral Jamaica. After reading that interview, I knew there was space for me to express myself fully. She has become a fierce advocate for Virginia Wine and East Coast viticulture, really opening people's eyes to adapting the definition of sustainability in a given climate. She encourages folks to dig into the history of Black and Native contribution to the area. She has cleared a path for much of the work that I have the privilege of engaging in today.