Black History Month! It's one of my favorite months of the year. We get to celebrate America's diversity and raise a glass to those who helped make this country great. Without diversity, America would be just as boring as Pinot Grigio.
Lucky for us, we have options... and lots of them. With diversity, no one wine is the same as the next, nor do they all come from the same place. However, it does have one major similarity: wine brings people together.
With that being said, here are a few very influential leaders in the wine industry doing just that…bringing people together.
André Hueston Mack
André Hueston Mack: Winemaker
Ahh Corporate America. It’s not for everybody - especially this guy. Mack left his suit and tie back at Citicorp and headed to Texas to become a sommelier. Quickly earning the title “Best Young Sommelier in America”, Mack’s career rapidly shifted and opened an opportunity to work as the head sommelier for Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York City. From there he pursued a real interest of his: winemaking. Through building a brand Mouton Noir (aka Black Sheep), Mack’s creativity in design and marketing has risen him to be a trend setter in the wine industry. His playful wine labels and clothing brand helped take wine away from snobby to just outright hilarious, fun and witty.
Watch Grammy award winner Bridget Kelley doing a blind tasting with one of Andre's wines! VIDEO
Marbue Marke: Winemaker at Caldwell Vineyards
At the age of 15, Marbue was the first in his family to leave Africa. In doing so, he attended UC Davis for medicine and eventually decided, “Blood and selfishness weren’t going to work for me." So he switched his degree to Enology (winemaking) and went on to attain his MBA from Sonoma State. Working under some of the best names in the wine industry, Marbue began to define himself and craft his own wines under the “Caldwell” brand. Even though he is thought to be one of the most talented winemakers in the world, Marbue keeps a low profile. You can still find him in the cellars of Caldwell, hand-crafting small lots of fine wine every year.
Iris Rideau: Owner of Rideau Vineyards
New Orleans native Iris Rideau happens to be one of the first African American female winery owners in the United States. Iris, who was born into poverty back in the 30’s, has built a well deserved name for herself. She produces award-winning wines and is recognized from her work as a local activist in Los Angeles back in the 60’s and 70’s, where she helped secure jobs for ethnic minority women. Her winery, Rideau Vineyards, in Santa Ynez, CA focuses on Rhone varietals and refuses to grow. With a production size of less than 8,000 cases, a bottle of her wine is rare to find. Iris is, truly, a great representation of the American dream.
Dylnn Proctor: Sommelier
Most famous for his appearance in the documentary Somm: Into the Bottle,Proctor has become a recognized figure in the wine (and fashion) industry. His dapper suits and immense wine knowledge are just a few things that make him a stand out in the wine world. Proctor has not only proven that wine can be easily approachable, but shows the industry is becoming more diverse and a younger generation is slowly taking over.Proctor now represents the finest wine brand in Australia, Penfolds, and travels the world doing what he loves most: sippin wine and spittin knowledge.
Red Carpet conversation with Dylnn at the Somm 2 premiere in Napa! VIDEO
Your #SommNextDoor: Nicholas Ducos. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and a Certified Sommelier, Nicholas has worked in many prestigious restaurants in Miami, Florida. As a chef and as a sommelier, he is dedicated to creating a memorable dining experience and making wine relatable to others in a witty yet refined style. Nicholas is currently traveling the world learning the art of winemaking and plans to create his own label in the near future. Follow Nicholas's latest adventures through his website and Instagram.