How many years have you been in the business? Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.
I refer to myself as a “Physician by Day, Blogger by Night”. I run The Sophisticated Life, LLC. It is a travel blog and brand. I started it about 8 years ago and it covers affordable luxury travel, culinary travel, wine regions and winemakers. I have visited major wine regions around the world including Hunter Valley Australia, Stellenbosch South Africa, Bordeaux France and Tuscany Italy. I am also an author with 3 best-selling e-books, one of which is “USA Wine Guide for Travelers”.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
I would say visiting Tuscany in 2005. The rolling hills with vineyards were breathtaking. Also spending that week in Italy and drinking wine with every meal.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I love learning and writing about wine. My wine guides give people the information they need to explore local and international wine regions. My goal is to one day curate wine tours and visit all the major wine regions in the world.
Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry?
I don’t work full-time in the wine industry, but I was invited on a press trip in 2019 to Bordeaux, France and Mosel, Germany. I was the only person of color on the trip. The winemakers did not look at me or speak to me even when I asked questions. My group walked away from me and actually left me several times while I was on the trip. And they questioned my qualifications for being there.
What changes do you hope to see the wine industry in the next five years?
More women and BIPOC individuals in leadership positions and as winemakers, owning their own labels and as viticulturists. This starts from the college level and having scholarships and internships for women and minorities interested in this very expensive and male-dominated field.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
Gender and race equality in high level positions, ownerships and certifications such as Master sommelier, Master of Wine, etc.
When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by advocating for diversity and inclusion?
Everyone benefits from having a more diverse community. We can all learn from each other. People bring unique and creative ideas based on their cultural and personal backgrounds. There is also a tolerance that can be learned from learning to work with people from all age and ethnic groups.
In what ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?
There are not a lot of Black females that write about luxury travel and wine. I hope my writing inspires other people of color to learn about wine and not be intimidated by it.
What message do you have for anyone now entering the wine profession?
Stay committed. Find a network and a mentor. Keep up with your studies and don’t be discouraged. There are a lot of resources out there and people willing to help.
What other industry heroes do you admire and why?
Tahiirah Habibi , sommelier, for her work with The Hue Society and The Roots Fund to increase Diversity in the wine community and raising money for scholarships Julia Coney, wine journalist and founder of Black Wine Professionals, for increasing sisibility of Black wine professionals and she is a great wine educator Madeline Puckette, sommelier and co-creator of Wine Folly. I have been reading her blog for years and own 2 of her books. Great educator and now a mentor thru The Hue Society Carlton McCoy Jr., Master Sommelier, Heitz Cellar President and CEO and one of the youngest people to obtain Master Sommelier and one of only three Black Master Sommeliers in the world DLynn Proctor Sommelier, Ambassador Penfolds Americas in Napa Valley and featured in the SOMM documentaries showing his quest to become a Master Sommelier.