Connections to Remember: The Inaugural Blacks in Wine Symposium

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By: Larissa Dubose, Resident Wine Educator

It was Magic. Pure Black Magic. That Black-Wine-Professionals’ Magic. I STILL feel this way a week after attending the Inaugural Blacks in Wine Symposium hosted by Benita Johnson, owner of The Vine Wine Club, in Richmond, Virginia. An unction in my spirit and an intrigue with the opportunity to sit in a room with the panel of powerhouse wine professionals drew me to the symposium. The panel included Winemaker/Owner Andre’ Hueston Mack of Maison Noir Wines in Oregon, Regine Rousseau, owner of Shall We Wine, Winemaker/Owner Mac McDonald of Vision Cellars in Sonoma, and Larry Boone, Owner of importing company Boone Selections.

Though I only had social media and limited phone interactions with some of the symposium attendees, I had never met anyone in person. I walked into the symposium with those distant, but familiar “new girl in school” butterflies I experienced growing up as an Air Force Brat.  However, they didn’t last long, and that’s another one of the reasons that made this meeting of the minds so special.

It was powerful and I was proud to be in the midst of such Wine influence. It was inspirational — There were attendees from all different levels and specialties of the Wine industry. It was the first time in my 8-year career that I was in a room full of Wine professionals, and enthusiasts that looked like me, and the pride that I felt was indescribable. I equate my overall experience to sitting in a room full of history, with many of the industry game changers, who will ensure that the Wine industry will one day reflect the world we live in.

I was pleasantly surprised and inspired by the stories that came from the panel. Panelists answered our questions, and their authenticity and transparency was refreshing! I connected with wine professionals from all over the country in an organic way. There was a genuine bond created as we shared our unique, yet similar, stories and experiences.

Throughout my career and love with Wine, I’ve become accustomed to being the only person of color in the room. My concerns on the lack of diversity and desire to shift this demographic and bring more like me to the “table” also led me to the inaugural Blacks in Wine Symposium.  I received confirmation, that not only was I on the right path, but that I am in a position to make a difference in this industry. That was powerful! Being a Black woman, who represents two prestigious California producers, is not only a rarity, but an opportunity to be a conduit of change by introducing more individuals to the World of Wine! By continuing to grow and thrive in this segment of the industry, I not only show and highlight our value, but begin to change the narrative. I’m grateful to have been a part of this burgeoning and needed dialogue. After the symposium, I’m more encouraged to continue to do my part!

Photo Credit: LAYLA SCHLACK, Sr Editor, Wine Enthusiast