Wine Unify, a nonprofit organization founded to champion and promote diversity within the wine business, is proud to announce 10 recipients of its first annual Elevate Awards, doubling the initial goal of providing 5 opportunities. In October, Wine Unify announced 20 Welcome Award Recipients, also doubling their initial goal. In total, Wine Unify has given 30 awards to BIPOC wine professionals and enthusiasts since launching in June 2020.
Each Elevate Award includes: a fully-funded Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 Certification course through the Napa Valley Wine Academy; glassware for tasting provided by Stölzle; additional funding for supplemental study wines from Wine.com; one-on-one and collective mentorship with Wine Unify’s team of wine professionals; a subscription to Jancisrobinson.com; and access to webinars and other educational resources. These awards are one piece of the organization’s core mission to welcome, elevate, and amplify the voices of underrepresented minorities in the wine business. Specifically, Elevate Awards target those individuals looking to progress within the industry as wine professionals.
The significant number of passionate and qualified applicants combined with generous donations from supporters allowed Wine Unify to provide double the number of awards anticipated in their very first year as a nonprofit organization.
Throughout 2020, Wine Unify has sought to create a supportive community with a particular emphasis on mentorship, not just through its awards, but through activities like virtual Mentorship Sessions led by the Wine Unify mentor team. These mentorship sessions are spearheaded by Alicia Towns Franken, and include wine industry leaders like Tonya Pitts, Annette Alvarez-Peters, Gary Obligacion, André Mack, Anna-Christina Cabrales, and Julia Coney.
“In addition to the awards, we offer opportunities to build community and champion representation,” says co-founder DLynn Proctor. “We are showing people a door to opportunity that they may never have known existed for them.”
The Mentorship Sessions offered this fall included topics such as Breaking into the Wine Industry and Practical Applications for Wine Education. There will be more regular sessions held throughout 2021, open to people of color seeking informal mentorship opportunities. “Mentorship is critical to building community, and it’s ultimately mutually beneficial and empowering for both the mentor and the mentee,” says Alicia Towns Franken, who heads mentorship at Wine Unify and serves on the Board of Directors.
Wine Unify plans to offer even more Welcome and Elevate Award opportunities for wine professionals of color in 2021. “We’ll be providing awards for those seeking WSET Levels 3 and 4 in the spring,” says co-founder Martin Reyes MW, adding, “We are here for the long-term, to build meaningful change in this industry.”
“It’s been so exciting to see this community grow,” co-founder Mary Margaret McCamic MW says. “We all benefit from diversity. We are all better for it. We must keep pushing to see it in every facet of the wine business.”
The full list of recipients can be found on Wine Unify’s website, www.wineunify.org/elevate, along with details about the organization’s mission and initiatives.