I recently sat down with Martin Reyes MW, one of the founders of the organization, Wine Unify. 10% of proceeds from all Virtual Vino tastings go back to Wine Unify, an organization that seeks to welcome, elevate, and amplify the diverse voices of underrepresented minorities within the wine industry. I felt their story was compelling enough to share with you all.
Giving back is a cornerstone of life. I was raised with that sensibility as a child, as my grandmother spent her entire life/career giving back. She worked tirelessly for the Democratic party, on the school board, and in many non-profit organizations for children with disabilities/special needs. She also dedicated her life professionally working with at-risk youth in recovery and retention. I lived with my grandmother growing up and saw her live by this philosophy every day.
Giving back means many things to me. I stock homemade care packages in my front seat. I make them regularly and they include: non-perishable food items, a nice note, socks in the winter months, and a bottle of water. I pass them out to people suffering from homelessness that we see as we drive through town.
Giving back also means using your skills and talents for good. The original founders of Wine Unify: Martin Reyes MW, Mary Margaret McCamic MW, and DLynn Proctor birthed the organization with the idea to bring awareness and more of a conversation around diversity and inclusion in the world of wine, an industry they are all deeply involved in. Unsurprisingly, the wine industry has a reputation for being elitist and predominantly white and male. This has created a culture and an atmosphere in the industry of not always being welcome to other more diverse groups.
The death of George Floyd undoubtedly helped to kickstart difficult conversations (and incite change) around race in this country. Martin wants to be sure we acknowledge this. Even though the foundation for Wine Unify was already in progress, Floyd’s death was the final catalyst.
A few other organizations with DEI initiatives in the wine industry also formed around the same time, including the Roots Fund and Black Wine Professionals. I chose Wine Unify as my beneficiary specifically because I appreciated their holistic and all-encompassing mission to not only help to welcome diverse voices into the wine industry, but to also elevate and amplify existing diverse voices already in the industry. This feels sustainable and thorough. A year later, over 50 people have benefitted from the three initiatives of Wine Unify, which I have outlined below.
Welcome: helps give participants access to basic levels of knowledge in the wine. It includes both outreach into the community and educational award opportunities. Wine Unify chose the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) school specifically, as they’ve had a natural and more healthy evolution in the DEI space, in terms of wine education. The welcome recipients are given entry to the WSET Level 1 certificate. In addition to the Level 1 WSET class, award recipients will be welcomed to the Wine Unify community by way of virtual group meetings and happy hours and access to mentors. Eventually in-person events will be a part of the “welcome” program as well.
Elevate: identifies and acknowledges underrepresented minorities working directly or indirectly within the wine industry and seeks to give them support to continued success by way of funding for their WSET Level 2 and/or 3 certificates, access to wines critical for their studies, and access to mentors.
Amplify: celebrates the diverse voices of those who are already thriving in the industry and also offers access to mentors. Their goal is to eventually offer financial support for the WSET Diploma program.
Aside from all of these concrete and specific goals, the goal is to also enrich people (all people) around food and wine. Also, to encourage the wine community to listen and pay attention. And as Martin says: always be collaborative and be generous with your time. That generosity can change the path of someone’s life.
Diversity and inclusion matters- both in life and in wine. If you want to help support diverse voice in wine, what can you do?
1. Donate to Wine Unify directly
2. Book a private Virtual Vino tasting
3. Attend a public Virtual Vino tasting
4. Support a black-owned winery
I am so grateful to my Virtual Vino community for your support. Since March of 2020, I have seen over 5,000 people on my virtual screen in the last 16 months. And together, we’ve raised just over $10,000 for Wine Unify. Thank you for being a part of this incredible journey with me!