Thought Leadership

Representation matters!

I passed the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 exam in March 2021, which gave me the award, and, more importantly, the confidence to become a sommelier.

I didn’t grow up around wine or Commercial Real Estate, but both of these are now a part of who I am.

In college, I had an architecture professor who used his design background to flip houses. This concept was so insane to me as I was so closed-minded in my vision of what an “architect” was. I always figured I had to be an architect to design big amazing buildings like my favorite architect Zaha Hadid Architects but I realized that wasn't necessarily in the cards for me. I appreciated that this professional took his background and education to make a career for himself & guided others toward their own.

Wine was much different. Honestly, I wanted to be a Sommelier, because I saw no one else that looked like me in the industry, and wanted to change that. So I started drinking wine more and started with the easiest entry-level, sweet wines. This didn't start until around 2010.

In 2012, I saw the film SOMM. I saw DLynn Proctor pursuing his dreams of becoming a Master Sommelier, which might be one of the hardest tests in the world. I thought, that guy looks like me and is going after his dreams.

In 2020, I experienced my first Blind Tasting and “formal” introduction to the wine world. I liked this approach to learning and enjoying wine at the same time. The great experience was with Lifetime Vintage

In 2020, I saw the Netflix Movie Uncorked, which DLynn Proctor was an associate producer of, and figured this was the sign I needed. The movie was about a Black Man who wanted to become a sommelier while his family and close friends disapproved & knew nothing about the wine industry. This movie had similar tones to my life, and I immediately signed up for the WSET exam.

In 2020, I read an article about Tahiirah Habibi pushing back on racism and unjust practices in the wine industry. Not allowing anyone or any title to get in her way.

In January 2021, I saw an article about a black-owned Wine Distributor in Richmond called RichWine RVA. Lance Lemon, looked like me and was also following his dream.

In 2021, I passed the exam and was given the opportunity to work directly with Lifetime Vintage, conducting blind wine tastings with family, friends, and local businesses. Thanks for giving me the chance to represent your brand.

In 2021, I saw a youtube series conducted by Bon Appetit with a black sommelier Andre Hueston Mack. He was making the complicated world of wine more approachable to consumers and educating them on how to find and enjoy a good bottle of wine for any occasion.

In 2021, I started an Instagram page about wine education and inclusivity, and I received a warm response about making wine more inviting. @theblacksommrva

In 2022, I attended the Two Up Wine Down Event hosted by @Oenoverse. An inclusive community-focused Virginia Wine festival shining a spotlight on BIPOC wine professionals, enthusiasts, and allies. Everyone there looked like me.

Now, in 2023, I continue to sell Commercial Real Estate & Drink wine (mostly dry now) with anyone who wants to enjoy both with me. I write articles like these for people to read, and hopefully, they can inspire you to reach for your dreams as well.

THANK YOU - to all the people who were before me who showed me the light and gave me the courage to jump into industries with little representation.

I hope this article can be the spark you needed to make the leap & follow your dreams.


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