The SOMM Journal

April / May 2018

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Page 80 of 108

80 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } APRIL/MAY 2018 { diversity in wine } WHEN I DECIDED to bring fine wines, winemakers, and winery owners to Oakland for a day and night of relationship-building and wine-sharing, many doubted I could pull it off. Some did not see the logic or validity of bringing some of the world's most iconic vintners to interface with both the wine enthusiasts and the wine curious of Oakland. As a proud Oakland native, I was undeterred, and I built a be - loved annual event that has continuously accomplished my original vision: I wanted to bring people to the table who might not have previously had the opportunity to interact with wine industry legends. Since its inception in 2014, the Oakland Wine Festival has hosted a minimum of 300 outstanding vintners and wineries and has helped them introduce well over 600 of their wines. Ninety- five percent of the winemakers had never been to Oakland, nor had their wines yet been poured here. In late 2017, as I was nailing down the details for the fourth an - nual Oakland Wine Festival on July 21, 2018, I seriously examined the entrepreneurial, educational, and professional borders that exist for African Americans and other people of color through- out the vast wine industry. This has nagged at me for decades. I wished to systematically and collaboratively examine what I could do, with the help of my friends in the industry, to unpack and mend this. That there were possible barriers of access to this industry right in my own backyard rattled me, creating an imme - diacy rooted in a sense of moral urgency. That sense of urgency directly inspired a call to action. This year, the Oakland Wine Festival will debut The Exceptional Vine Initiative, which is focused on welcoming, educating, and mentor- ing students from community colleges, historical black colleges, and universities. The initiative will also provide career resources for interested adults of color seeking to join the industry. The growing list of partners and supporters for The Ex - ceptional Vine include: the Executive Wine Master of Business Administration and Executive Wine programs at Sonoma State University; Russ Weis, President of Silverado Vineyards; Brown Family Estates Winery; winemaker and consultant Aaron Pott; the United Negro College Fund; the Pinotage Youth Development Academy in South Africa; and more. We are also calling on sommeliers and wine educators to join us at the festival on July 21 to help us pour for The Judgment of Oakland. You can contact me at or visit for more information. Melody Fuller, Founder of the Oakland Wine Festival and Oakland Wine and Food Society. A Call to Action THE EXCEPTIONAL VINE INITIATIVE TO PUBLICALLY LAUNCH AT THE FOURTH ANNUAL OAKLAND WINE FESTIVAL by Melody Fuller PHOTO COURTESY OF MELODY FULLER

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