On Friday evening, I had an opportunity to attend the Sips with Soul Virtual Tasting and Benefit that I wrote about last week. In past years, this annual wine celebration would’ve taken place in San Francisco, but due to current circumstances the event was held online. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to sample the featured wines, BUT I was still very glad that I got to witness so much #blackexcellence in one Zoom event. I can’t tell you how proud it made me and how reassuring it was to see so many Black winemakers and other professionals that look like me and share the same passion. David Glancy, co-owner of the San Francisco Wine School, and moderator for the evening said that they had to narrow it down from 70 Black-owned wines to just 12 for the program. I had no clue there were that many Black winemakers!
I honestly didn’t know what to expect, but I really enjoyed the flow of the evening. Each of the 12 featured sommeliers and wine professionals were paired with a winemaker. The presenters would introduce the winemaker and do a speed round of interviewing—allowing the winemaker to talk about their journey into wine and the wine that the attendees were tasting. There was even a jazz intermission with special musical guests the legendary soul band, Tower of Power: Roger Smith (co-owner of Bump City Wine Company), David Garibaldi, Marc van Wageningen, and Ray Obideo. To get all of this in a virtual event, I can only image what the actual in-person Sips with Soul would be like. Below are my favorite moments and tops wines that I’ve added to my must-buy list.
Top 3 Favorite Moments
- Will all the Black Master Somms Please Stand Up?
To become a Master Sommelier is no easy feat. A Master Somm is considered to be the highest and most prestigious title available to sommeliers around the world. There are currently 172 professionals who have earned the title of Master Sommelier as part of the Americas chapter since the organization’s inception. Of those, 144 are men and 28 are women. Break that down even more and only three of them are Black and guess what they were all presenters.It was very cool to put names and faces to these prestigious title holders.
- Carlton McCoy, MS: As I mentioned in my previous post, Carlton is the chief executive of the Heitz Cellar in Napa Valley— the first African-American to run a major winery.
- Thomas Price, MS: Thomas is a National Educator for Jackson Family Fine Wines.
- Vincent Morrow, MS: Vincent is a wine & restaurant consultant.
- Texas is Producing Some Amazing Winemakers
I’ve lived in Texas for eight years now and the winery scene is cool. It may not be Napa, but it will do. Even though I’m not a native Texan, I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t feel a little sense of pride hearing that not one, not two, but three of the winemakers were raised in Texas. It’s good to know that Texas is producing awesome winemakers like Theodora Lee (Theopolis Vineyards), James Moss (J Moss Wines), and Mac McDonald (Vision Cellars).
- Two Words, One Legend: Mac McDonald
Speaking of Mac McDonald, the myth, the legend…the Black godfather of wine. Mac was at the virtual tasting as well. I’ve read so much about him over the years. It was cool to finally see him and hear directly from him even if it was on Zoom. It’s funny because he grew up on Texas moonshine, but one taste of Burgundy wine at the age of 12 changed the trajectory of his life. He moved to California in the early 60s to make wine and the rest is history. Definitely need to get my hands on some of his wines!
Top 3 Wines I Really Want to Try
It’s hard to say that there are only three wines that I wanted to try from the evening when in actuality I want to try them all. But, here are the top three and why:
- Lyons Lambrusco, Emilia IGT NV (Chris Lyons)
Lambrusco isn’t an everyday wine that people talk about. I’ve mentioned it a couple times in my bbq/wine pairing posts. You just don’t hear about people making this type of Italian wine. A lot of times, Black people get stereotyped into drinking a certain type wine, so when I saw Chris Lyons (owner) step completely out of the box on this wine, I was very intrigued.
- Okapi, Proprietor’s Blend, Napa Valley NV (Dan & Kim Johnson)
I’m a little bias on Okapi wine. The owner Dan is a Berkeley alum. I heard about his wines a couple summers ago at an alumni event. I was hoping to stop by their tasting room, but never got a chance. I almost forgot about their wine until I saw their name on the screen. Definitely want to support my fellow bears.
- Frichette Winery, Sashay Reserve Syrah, Red Mountain 2018 (Shae Frichette, Co-Owner/Winemaker)
I literally started following Frichette Winery on Instagram a week before the event, so it was great to see their co-owner Shae Frichette on Zoom and to hear her story as well. There were only two other female winemakers on the call, Coral Brown and Theodora Lee, and I’ve tried their wines before. Love supporting Black women!
A huge thank you to the San Francisco Wine School for hosting this virtual tasting and benefit. Proceeds from the event are going to the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Check out the San Francisco Wine School for other wine programs and events. Until next time…glasses up!
**Photos provided by the San Francisco Wine School