“Women Changing The Wine World” Transcript
Deb Perelman: Hi, I'm Deb Perelman and you're listening to Radio Cherry Bombe. You're the bombe.
Kerry Diamond: Hi, Bombe Squad. You're listening to Radio Cherry Bombe and I'm your host, Kerry Diamond. Each week, we talk to the most inspiring women in and around the world of food. Let's thank our sponsor, Handsome Brook Farm pasture raised organic eggs. Handsome Brook Farms' secret to making rich, flavorful eggs is simple.
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Kerry Diamond: We are featuring three women who are changing the wine world. First up, the dynamic duo behind the phenomenon know as Yes Way, rosé: Nikki Huganir and Erica Blumenthal. They have taken the rosé world by storm and this year, they release their first book, also called Yes Way, rosé. It's a colorful collection of wine advice and rosé inspired recipes.
Kerry Diamond: After Yes Way, Rosé, we'll hear from Cha McCoy who is working hard to diversify the world of wine. Before we get to my conversation with Nikki and Erica, let's hear a word from our sponsor.
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Kerry Diamond: Enjoy my chat with Erica Blumenthal and Nikki Huganir of Yes Way, Rosé. For those who don't know what Yes Way, Rosé is, what is Yes Way, Rosé?
Erica Blumenthal: Yes, Way Rosé is a wine and lifestyle brand intended to spread joy and happiness and positivity.
Kerry Diamond: Now, when you launched Yes Way, Rosé, what was the plan? What was the intention?
Erica Blumenthal: The plan when we launched... Nikki and I are best friends. We grew up together and we were obsessed with rosé and drinking it all the time and had all these inside jokes between each other. It was consuming so much of our thoughts and time together, not even just drinking it which of course we were doing but making each other crack up about it.
Erica Blumenthal: Our texts back and forth were all about it and we had all this rosé energy bottled inside and we decided to start our Instagram in 2013 as the first place to share the beauty of the wine matched with the humor it was inspiring in our lives and then really quickly after that, Nikki designed our tote bag and introduced our logo as a way to share our rosé spirit and also because it was something we were enjoying in real life that we wanted to have something that existed in real life.
Erica Blumenthal: It was really very organic. It wasn't like we were intending to start a rosé brand. It was we need to do something with all of this, these ideas, and-
Nikki Huganir: The vibes, the rosé vibes.
Erica Blumenthal: The creativity and then we were able to grow from there.
Kerry Diamond: In 2013, were you both like, "Wow. We're going to turn this into a multi-million dollar business"?
Nikki Huganir: Erica would probably say yes, but no, I thought it was a fun, creative outlet. I think we didn't set out to create a brand, but we knew that we were doing something early on that was something. We were getting great response from people.
Kerry Diamond: I remember sitting in the backyard of Roberta's with the two of you on a day not unlike this one, eating pizza, drinking rosé of course and all of us just kind of laughing because we had launched Cherry Bombe and you had launched Yes Way, Rosé and it wasn't our main gig and just being like, "Oh wow, look at these things we created."
Erica Blumenthal: At the beginning, I definitely didn't have a clear vision but I knew that it felt really special, really right, really timed right and I had actually dreams where I was flying in pink skies. I did. I couldn't sleep in the best way possible and it really kept me up at night thinking we got to do this, we got to do this, we got to do this.
Erica Blumenthal: Then we-
Nikki Huganir: She finally convinced me.
Erica Blumenthal: I convinced Nikki.
Kerry Diamond: Did you ever see the point where you would have your own wine, it would be in Target?
Erica Blumenthal: Not at that point.
Kerry Diamond: Yeah. It really was about other people then and, like you said, celebrating the spirit and the vibes of rosé and other people at that point were reaching out to you to kind of host parties and things like that, right?
Nikki Huganir: I think that was, at the time, our experience. My background is in graphic design for fashion brands and Erica being a writer in the fashion space, we were doing what we knew how to do which was tell stories and participate in media and we didn't know that much about wine. It was really the love for rosé that led us into learning more about winemaking.
Nikki Huganir: It took a couple years to get to the point where we realized oh, we could actually have our own wine somehow some way.
Kerry Diamond: How important has Instagram been to your success? Could you have existed and grown into what you became without Instagram?
Nikki Huganir: No, but also Instagram in 2013. It was so new really that I would take peoples' phones at fashion week and be like, "You got to follow this thing that I'm doing" and people would be okay with that. If you took someone's phone now and followed an account from Instagram, they'd have you arrested.
Kerry Diamond: I don't even remember if I had an Instagram account when Cherry Bombe launched. I don't think I did because someone had my name and I was like, "I'm not going to be on Instagram if I can't have my name" and it was Laura Brown from InStyle who was like, "Dummy, you have to be on Instagram."
Erica Blumenthal: Well, Nikki really had the foresight to make it into a brand really early on. We used the same filter. She's like, "If I'm going to do this, it has to look good." The art director, creative director in her really kicked in. If you look back on those early days, it looks way different than it does now but it was very early stages of what Yes Way, Rosé is.
Erica Blumenthal: Each caption had to make us laugh and we had an email back and forth with captions and we'd just crack up all day about them.
Kerry Diamond: I just remember it was so much fun to look at it. It was really beautifully curated, everything was that blush pink. It was pre-millennial pink.
Erica Blumenthal: We were really inspired by the specific color. That's what drew us to rosé. There was this wine that we loved drinking. We never had a drink before and at the same time, it was that perfect peachy pink color that was a dream hue, something we would want to wear. It's sexy and stylish and gorgeous, photographs well and it took to Instagram pretty well.
Kerry Diamond: Let's talk about... This is still kind of your side hustle. At what point does this become your full-time job?
Nikki Huganir: We had two full-time jobs for awhile. We both liked what we were doing before and we live in New York and we have apartments and all sorts of things and even at times, we felt ready. We didn't really go full-time until we were really ready and knew the money was going to be coming in and all of that.
Kerry Diamond: What time did you make the jump?
Nikki Huganir: I did it in stages. I was working full-time at Madewell, which I loved and I just couldn't do it anymore and it was time for something new but I wanted to keep doing that and I wanted to be working on Yes Way, Rosé, so I just... I think I had a year where I was freelance designing and doing Yes Way, Rosé and then there became a point where I couldn't even handle the freelance design projects anymore.
Kerry Diamond: Wow.
Erica Blumenthal: I was freelancing too. I would do the column.
Kerry Diamond: The column at the New York Times?
Erica Blumenthal: Yeah, then I was doing-
Kerry Diamond: It's hard to give up gigs... I mean, you two had-
Erica Blumenthal: You work your whole life-
Kerry Diamond: You two had jobs that people are dying to have.
Erica Blumenthal: I would also do copywriting for other brands which was helpful to learn about and did some work with Esquire, a lot of different magazines.
Kerry Diamond: When did you give it up? Or did you not, are you still...
Erica Blumenthal: I gave it up.
Kerry Diamond: You did, you did.
Erica Blumenthal: Yeah, felt really good. It was time. I felt that it was the right time probably for a lot longer than I should have been doing all of these different things but you know how it is. When was that really? End of 2017? Or 2016?
Nikki Huganir: Yeah, I think it's been about two years that we've both been full-time.
Erica Blumenthal: And we've really skyrocketed since that. I think that goes to show you that when you can be all in and fully go for it, that that's really when you can take the next step.
Nikki Huganir: We definitely took a huge pay cut, but we're passionate about it and we were okay with that and we decided to accept that and we're still working on that. But I think it was the merch was our kind of... We had the tote bags and sweatshirts and we were selling all this stuff online and that really was the money that we used to fund our time to spend on growing the business.
Erica Blumenthal: It's also how we funded the business to begin with. I mean, little known fact, Yes Way, Rosé started with $25 each for us to make our first tote bags and we're like, "We want to make 10." Then we kept on... Our friend was making the tote bags and she's like, "I did that one for you but there's a 50 bag minimum" and we really had to think about it because...
Nikki Huganir: Big investment.
Erica Blumenthal: It was a big investment.
Kerry Diamond: That's so funny. Have you two raised money?
Erica Blumenthal: No. We're very proud of that. We're also maybe very controlling over that. We don't want to give up ownership. We've done this all together, so that's really important to us now. We'll see. You never know what's going to happen, but yeah, we do everything.
Kerry Diamond: It's all been bootstrapped by you two.
Erica Blumenthal: Yep.
Kerry Diamond: Okay, any debt?
Erica Blumenthal: Yep.
Kerry Diamond: Okay.
Erica Blumenthal: A little bit, not any amount that keeps me up at night.
Kerry Diamond: Yeah. We're trying to talk more about finances this year as you could tell as I pepper you with finance questions. So many of the issues around #MeToo and a lot of other stuff is just because we don't talk about who owns the businesses, who runs the businesses, how do women pay for business.
Erica Blumenthal: We own our business 50/50 and we have a beverage partner and the way that that deal works out is that they're putting up all the money which is really how we've been able to grow that business and that was a very conscious decision of how we wanted to grow our wine business.
Erica Blumenthal: We had actually met with a business developer, someone to help us really figure out the directions we wanted to take our business in and we did a lot of soul searching and were-
Kerry Diamond: Wait, go back to that. A business developer? I didn't even know there were people like that.
Erica Blumenthal: Yeah. We had all these different parts of our business that we liked. There was our merch and promoting other brands and collaborations and social media and content and all of that. We were spread pretty thin and wanted to take it into a very intentional direction.
Erica Blumenthal: We sat down and talked about everything we had going on and ways we wanted to grow and that's when we identified, we really want to go after Yes Way, Rosé wine. We want to go after a book. We want to develop our lifestyle products in this way and then that's what we set out to do and that's what we're doing.
Kerry Diamond: Have you written the business plan?
Erica Blumenthal: That was really the closest we got to writing a proper business plan, but we want to do this, we want to do this, we want to do this and that's how we did it. We don't really have a document that's like, this is what's happening in the next five years. But we talk about it.
Kerry Diamond: Do you feel like you need one?
Erica Blumenthal: We're in the midst of growing in the way that we want to so there's some new stepping stones, I think.
Kerry Diamond: Got it.
Erica Blumenthal: We know what we're doing.
Kerry Diamond: All right, let's talk about your wine label because I am so excited that you have your own wine. That is tremendous.
Erica Blumenthal: So are we. Thank you.
Kerry Diamond: Tell us how that came about.
Nikki Huganir: Since we fell in love with rosé, it was all about the light, peachy pink rosé from the south of France. Provence was this dream world to us. We had never been, but we fantasized about it and that was the rosé that really led us to this passion.
Nikki Huganir: So, we wanted to find a way to create something like that to bring to the people. We explored multiple ways of how we could do that and ended up with a beverage partner who is an importer that we work with to make wine from France. It's pretty amazing.
Erica Blumenthal: Yeah, we went to France and worked with a wine maker, had a line up of 12 blends and kept on going back to this one and that was the wine that we chose to bottle as Yes Way, Rosé and Nikki designed the packaging with the brilliant ombré cap. I have to thank her for that.
Nikki Huganir: That's the same logo that was on that tote bag or toté in 2013.
Kerry Diamond: Amazing.
Nikki Huganir: That hasn't changed.
Kerry Diamond: So, you have two wines.
Erica Blumenthal: We have Yes Way, Rosé wine-
Kerry Diamond: I was trying to think what the fancy term is but it's wine. You have to wines.
Erica Blumenthal: And Yes Way, Rosé bubbles.
Kerry Diamond: Okay.
Erica Blumenthal: This year we also introduced our Yes Way, Rosé wine in cans. It's the same wine that's in the bottle but in these super cute cans-
Kerry Diamond: I'm holding on of them right now.
Erica Blumenthal: That Nikki also designed the packaging for them.
Kerry Diamond: Nice work, Nikki.
Nikki Huganir: Thank you.
Kerry Diamond: Is your wine exclusively in Target?
Nikki Huganir: The cans are in Target only right now, but our original wine that we launched last spring is now widely available-
Kerry Diamond: Wow.
Nikki Huganir: Which we're so excited about.
Kerry Diamond: Are you distributed nationally?
Erica Blumenthal: Yes. We're in almost every state and in Manitoba in Canada. We're starting to cross the border.
Kerry Diamond: Wow. Oh my god, I'm so excited for you two.
Erica Blumenthal: This is a huge year for us and we introduced the wine last year. Target was a really incredible supporter and is an incredible supporter of the brand. Now we've been traveling around the country and meeting with our distributors and we just spend a few days in Baltimore where we're from, going to wine stores and introducing the local shops to our wine.
Kerry Diamond: Do you two consider yourselves wine experts now?
Erica Blumenthal: I think we consider ourselves rosé experts.
Kerry Diamond: Tell me about your knowledge today versus your knowledge back in 2013. When you look back at the two young women you were in 2013, were you like, "God, we knew nothing about rosé and now we know everything"?
Nikki Huganir: I literally knew nothing about rosé. I did not know it was made from red grapes, which it's okay if you don't know that now. I'm telling you now. Rosé is made from red grapes and the color comes from the skin and how long the skin stays in contact with the juice during the winemaking process. That was something that I did not know in 2013 and is kind of Rosé 101.
Kerry Diamond: Erica, how about you? When you look at the Erica of 2013...
Erica Blumenthal: So much more. I think there were some fundamental things that I knew like the color that I liked and I wanted it to be dry and that I was really drawn to the rosés from France. Those were the three big things that I knew, but we know so much more now. It's crazy. We go to France and we were tasting wine and going to the wine facilities and winery and we're learning a lot.
Kerry Diamond: Okay, let's take a look at this book. "Yes Way, Rosé: A Guide to the Pink Wine State of Mind". You two should be so proud. It's such a charming book. I know you were really awesome and got me a very early copy. In case you're wondering, a whole entire book about rosé. Yes. Oui, is the answer. What is in this book?
Nikki Huganir: It starts out with our story and goes into a very accessible Rosé 101, winemaking process, rosé geography, all the places around the world where rosé is made. There's a whole section on rosé vibes and really just that thing that makes rosé so special and then yes, recipes in the back and food pairing suggestions.
Erica Blumenthal: Frosé recipes. There's a whole section on frosé.
Kerry Diamond: Oh, frosé. Where do you stand on frosé today? Frosé jumped the shark a little the other summer, right? Last summer.
Erica Blumenthal: I think that it's ready to really happen.
Kerry Diamond: The comeback. 2019 is the year of the frosé comeback. You heard it here.
Erica Blumenthal: Yeah.
Nikki Huganir: We've always been a fan of the rosé ice-cube as you know.
Kerry Diamond: Oh my god, we didn't even talk about the rosé ice-cube.
Erica Blumenthal: We talk about it in the book too.
Kerry Diamond: I think we've talked about this every time you've been on the show, but I was scrolling through Instagram, as one does, and Nikki and Erica had posted rosé ice-cubes and I was like, "Oh my god, stop the presses." It literally was if you have leftover rosé, but who ever has leftover rosé. If you have leftover rosé and you put it in an ice-cube tray... I'm not embarrassed to say I like ice in my rosé.
Erica Blumenthal: I love ice in my rosé.
Kerry Diamond: You do?
Nikki Huganir: I don't, but I like a rosé ice-cube in my rosé on a summer day.
Kerry Diamond: I have no shame and everybody knows I love to go to Paris and you are treated just like a barbarian when you ask for ice for your rosé, but I don't care. Nothing is sadder, I think, than warm rosé. When I saw your rosé ice-cube thing, I was like, "This is a game changer."
Kerry Diamond: Yeah, you literally just take your leftover rosé, put it in an ice-cube tray and then you have this... It doesn't get rock solid.
Erica Blumenthal: It's like a slushy, solid consistency.
Kerry Diamond: Yeah.
Nikki Huganir: Solid enough though to use and certainly to put into a glass of rosé to keep chilled, but also we like to pour some soda water on top for a little spritz. It's like a slowly developing cocktail.
Kerry Diamond: Okay, rosé ice-cubes. Lots of cocktail recipes in here but then also, cakes and savory things.
Erica Blumenthal: For the food, we wanted to organize it around different parties. There's an entire pink party where all the food is pink and the ladies at Ovenly made us our dream rosé infused cake. We did an entire meal inspired by Julia Child, which is all French pairings.
Nikki Huganir: Some of the food actually has rosé in the recipe and some of it is just meant to be enjoyed alongside as a perfect pairing.
Kerry Diamond: How was the process of doing a book?
Erica Blumenthal: It was awesome.
Nikki Huganir: It's the hardest thing I've ever done. I was very involved in the process. I did all the art direction for the photography, worked with an amazing team on that. There's a lot of beautiful photos in the book and all the fonts in the book are the fonts we've been using for our brand, so I was definitely very involved.
Kerry Diamond: All right, it's rosé season. You go into a wine shop, you're confronted with dozens of bottles of rosé. How do you choose one? How do you decide? How can you tell from the label, from what information is on the label?
Erica Blumenthal: If you're new to rosé, I would suggest starting with a classic, dry French rosé and definitely ask if you're in a wine store, ask someone who works there for help but that's a good way to start because that's the mother land of rosé. Find something that's light and ask for dry and Cotê de Provence or from the south of France. Start with something very classic, a classic rosé.
Erica Blumenthal: And then I would say evolve into other regions. Buy an American rosé, buy an canned rosé from Oregon. Then start traveling around the world.
Kerry Diamond: And try rosés from different regions.
Erica Blumenthal: Try rosé from different regions.
Kerry Diamond: Such as?
Erica Blumenthal: Where do we like? We like Chiaretto from Italy, there's good Argentinian rosé, good California rosé.
Nikki Huganir: Hungarian.
Erica Blumenthal: Good Hungarian rosé.
Kerry Diamond: So, don't limit yourself to France.
Erica Blumenthal: Don't limit yourself to France. But start there.
Kerry Diamond: All right, we are going to switch to the speed round. Just so everyone knows who's speaking, we're going to have Erica, then Nikki.
Erica Blumenthal: Okay.
Kerry Diamond: Alphabetical order. All right. Favorite kitchen tool.
Erica Blumenthal: My pink Le Creuset cast iron skillet, which I see that you guys have the collection here.
Kerry Diamond: Not the full collection.
Erica Blumenthal: Not the full collection.
Kerry Diamond: We have a lot of pieces. It's our pride and joy.
Erica Blumenthal: Me too.
Kerry Diamond: Nikki?
Nikki Huganir: My favorite since we've launched our bubbles is a wine stopper so that when you don't finish a bottle of bubbles, you can put a handy stopper in and still have some bubbles the next day.
Kerry Diamond: Song that makes you smile.
Erica Blumenthal: The whole Beyonce "Homecoming" album, specifically "Crazy In Love" when it breaks down into the "back that ass up" part. I'm obsessed.
Nikki Huganir: We're pretty obsessed with Lizzo right now too. "Truth Hurts" is my favorite.
Kerry Diamond: Food you would never eat.
Erica Blumenthal: I'd never eat a spoonful of mayo.
Kerry Diamond: Oh my god. You're the only person who ever said that but that might be the best answer ever. Nikki?
Nikki Huganir: I don't eat foie gras or pate which always disappoints my French friends when we are in Provence, but I just can't with it.
Kerry Diamond: Favorite ingredient to cook with.
Erica Blumenthal: That's a good question. Salt.
Nikki Huganir: Rosé.
Kerry Diamond: What's a cookbook you love that you did not write?
Erica Blumenthal: Julia Child, Mastering the Art.
Nikki Huganir: I love Colu Henry's book, Back Pocket Pasta. Kind of a pasta addict.
Kerry Diamond: We love Colu here at Radio Cherry Bombe. What's the oldest thing in your fridge, Erica?
Erica Blumenthal: I don't know. Maybe ketchup or something. Is that old?
Nikki Huganir: I think I have, yeah, some mustard that I never use. A dijon mustard. Does that go bad? Probably.
Kerry Diamond: I don't know, actually.
Nikki Huganir: I'm going to check it when I get home.
Kerry Diamond: Okay, yeah. I don't know. We should find out the answer to these questions. Dream vacation destination.
Erica Blumenthal: Patagonia.
Nikki Huganir: Morocco.
Kerry Diamond: All right, Erica, if you were trapped on a desert island with one food celebrity, who would it be?
Erica Blumenthal: Gwyneth.
Kerry Diamond: Because?
Erica Blumenthal: I'm just a lifelong Gwyneth person. I characterize myself as rosé lover, Gwyneth person, among other things. I think she's funny and smart and loves food and fashion and all sorts of fun stuff.
Nikki Huganir: I love Chrissy Teigen. Kind of obsessed with her. I don't... I'm not a huge Twitter person, but I think I have Twitter outside of Yes Way, Rosé just to follow Chrissy Teigen. She is so funny and she can cook.
Kerry Diamond: Thank you to Nikki and Erica for coming back on the show. We'll be right back after these messages.
Jess Zeidman: Grab your notebooks, bombe squad. We're going back to school this summer with a brand new radio show, Cherry Bombe University. Each week, we'll be offering crash courses taught by your favorite members of the bombe squad to get you cooking, eating, and thinking like the smart cookie you are.
Jess Zeidman: Thank you to Le Cordon Bleu for making this series possible. You can learn more about Le Cordon Bleu at cordonbleu.edu. See you in class.
Kerry Diamond: Next, we have a special talk from our Jubilee 2019 conference with sommelier and entrepreneur Cha McCoy. Cha's talk is titled "More Than Moscato" and you're about to find out why. Introducing Cha is filmmaker Maya Oren.
Maya Oren: I am Maya and as Kerry actually told me one time, I am an OG bombe squad member. I've been coming since year one. I was born to immigrant parents and have had the privilege of experiencing both Israeli and Trinidadian cultures from a young age. In Israel, at my grandparents' house, the scent of flowering jasmine coupled with bus exhaust hit my nostrils.
Maya Oren: The sun warmed my shoulders and the sound of children laughing, their shoes slapping the sidewalks, sounded in the air around us. We'd always be greeted by a plate of seasonal fruits. I would take a bite out of one, its soft flesh giving way to sweet, juicy goodness.
Maya Oren: My grandmother would lovingly place her hand on my knee. From a young age, I fell in love with everything that happens around the act of eating. My memories drip with detail and I grew up wanting to share these experiences.
Maya Oren: Naturally, this led me to enter the industry by way of filmmaking in my early 20s. It was around 2011 and I remember telling my dad that I was going to film chefs in restaurants for a living and he laughed at me. He suggested that I focus on weddings where I was guaranteed pay. This is a Jewish dad.
Maya Oren: But I never planned to be a cinematographer or a photographer in that sense. My interest at the core of it all always resided in food and telling the stories of the experiences around that. I started a blog following my stories of the culinary landscape in the US and abroad.
Maya Oren: Slowly, I gained a following and then clients and my business, Mojalvo, an agency focused on visual brand direction was born. Currently, I live in Washington D.C. where I'm a proud part of a vibrant, female-dominated culinary landscape. It's really, really special.
Maya Oren: Clients of mine, including some currently in the audience who I spent some time with this morning, Chaia, a vegetarian taco concept, and Compass Rose and Maydon are owned and operated by strong women.
Maya Oren: Last fall, I traveled to Tbilisi, Georgia with the Compass Rose team documenting their visit to the vineyards they buy their Skin Contact wine from. We stayed with Bioswine, a dynamic wine maker duo, to help them with their harvest. We awoke at dawn, I pulled back the curtains glowing with amber light from the sunrise, and rows of green vines laid below us.
Maya Oren: We drank coffee and ate khachapuri and made out way to the vineyard with scissors and crates. I recorded the sound of snipping vines, heavy clusters of grapes thudding satisfyingly at the base of the buckets, and chickens clucked in the distance. I filmed visuals of hands as they became increasingly sticky from the grape juice and the impromptu cha-cha shots that were poured for us mid-harvest.
Maya Oren: I can still remember the taste of the grape that I ate straight from the vine before the harvest was carried off to the room of [inaudible 00:29:03] where the grapes would ferment. While all of these might just sound like details, we built our lives around these stories.
Maya Oren: We live to feel connected to each other and to a greater purpose. When these visuals get shared in D.C., suddenly a glass of wine becomes a journey to a vineyard halfway across the world where two sisters are tirelessly and passionately fermenting grapes harvested in the Georgian sun.
Maya Oren: Like my trip to Georgia, our next speaker Cha has traveled to several wine focused countries, uncovering similar stories, learning and weaving together the knowledge she garners to share with her audience. She uses these stories to empower and educate across all ethnicities, fighting social stigmas and allowing for us all to embrace our sophisticated palates.
Maya Oren: I'm incredibly humbled to share this industry with powerhouses like Cha and I'm in complete awe of her story. Cha, like me, has taken her passions across many vocations and build a career out of them. She balances a life working in both engineering and hospitality and stands ground for a shift of representation and perspective in the wine industry.
Maya Oren: Every morning, I wake up in this body, a woman of mixed race, proud to be a part of this shift. Cha reminds me that the women who are now coming into this industry are trailblazers. We are perseverant and we are not afraid to do something out of the ordinary.
Maya Oren: It's about time that we embrace our diversity and elevate one another for our accomplishments. Without further ado, I pass the stage on to Cha. I cannot wait to hear from this woman who's doing some incredible things around my favorite topics and probably many of you. Travel, food and wine, and most importantly culture and the art of gathering. Thank you.
Cha McCoy: An NPR article from the Nielsen Group that tracks wine retail sales states the following. African-Americans are three times more likely to drink moscato to some other type of table wine. It went on to say the following about moscato. Much more African-American, much more Hispanic, much younger, much lower income, and much more female. Hi, I'm Cha McCoy. I'm a black woman and I'm more than moscato.
Cha McCoy: Allow me to take you on a journey. My initial experience with wine began like most American millennials. To be honest, it was box wine. I thought it was a sweet yet classy version of what my friends were doing, basically drinking Keystone Light beer. I never questioned or had a second guess about the world of wine beyond a sweet category until I took a leap of faith and decided to move to Italy.
Cha McCoy: Nevertheless, I'm convinced by my move to Italy, entering the wine industry was predestined for me. Here's why. You see, my father at a young age was forced to change his identity due to his chosen illegal career path. He adopted a new date of birth, New Year's Day which then inspired the last name Champagne.
Cha McCoy: As a young adult in the streets of New York City in the '70s with the last name Champagne, I can only imagine the high expectations people had for him as it relates to food and wine. Taken on this new persona, my father led to opening a restaurant, actually going to culinary school and eventually passing on his sophisticated palate to his future children.
Cha McCoy: My brother and I was exposed to many cultures of New York City through food and at the finest restaurants, we were often commended as black children from Harlem on how well behaved we were in primarily white and adult environments. In my preteens, I equally enjoyed eating snails and black bean sauce in Chinatown as I did having escargot.
Cha McCoy: My exposure to these abnormal spaces in gastronomy as an inner city kid pushed me to perceive the world and my palette beyond Harlem and its cliché soul food. Perhaps this is why during my senior year of high school, when I was tasked to write my autobiography, I made a declaration for my future goals that I almost forgot about.
Cha McCoy: Years later, as I was deciding to relocate to Italy and retrieve my MBA, my mom pulled out that same high school autobiography and it stated, "I moved to Rome." I made my choice to move to Italy during the time of my life when I was feeling unfulfilled and in search of a new appetite of living.
Cha McCoy: Yes, dare I say, a true Eat, Pray, Love moment. My experience there gave me clarity and in hindsight, elevated my vision for the world, my personal goals, and my appreciation for the wine and food industry. Wine and food pairings became a way of life to me because to Italians, it's basically religion.
Cha McCoy: Learning what grows together goes together was the only wine lesson I needed to know living in Italy and it was very easy to find complements because in Italy, all 20 regions are wine regions. Italy helped me to expand my wine palate beyond boxed wines, Moscato, Pinot Grigio, and Prosecco which were often served to me in New York City.
Cha McCoy: I began to appreciate the subtle differences of Italian white wines like the citrus, floral, and acidic notes and a pairing-ability of a Verdicchio, Vermentino, and a Vespaiola. I was a new woman on a new journey. I developed a genuine interest in the industry after my time in Italy and eventually traveling to other wine countries on a quest for similar experiences and education.
Cha McCoy: After returning to the States in 2012, I realized that New York City nor the world was ready for someone like me. My newly enhanced palate and wine knowledge didn't fit the mold, so I was continuously viewed in service like another statistic. Black, female, and millennial which was no surprise to me.
Cha McCoy: While ordering in restaurants, I've been questioned. Yes, questioned by waiters because I chose an obscure grape. They say someone like me usually don't pick these type of wines. I even selected a wine for the table in some instances and the sommelier still chose one of my white colleagues to taste the wine after I made the selection, which my friend and I would then have to address and correct.
Cha McCoy: No, I'm not just making this up. A New York City bartender quoted in a Vine Pure article states, "When a group of ethnic women comes in, I've been instructed to use bottom shelf booze. As far as I know, they've never been able to tell a difference and their only concern is how good I look and how fruity the drinks are."
Cha McCoy: Dealing with reverse culture shock after my return to the States, I felt a call to be a part of the solution. I noticed there was a hole in the market for women of color in the wine industry. At home, in a freshly gentrified Harlem, I applied for a job at one of the few curated wine shops in the neighborhood.
Cha McCoy: Here, I was accepted, not trapped to how America sees me, and I was able to share my wine knowledge, experience in vineyards, and even drop a few lines of Italian. I eventually enrolled in the following wine education programs: the WSET, Wine Spirits and Education Trust. The Court of the Masters of Sommelier, and eventually became a certified sommelier.
Cha McCoy: I recognize in order to have a seat at the table and a voice in this industry, these exams and trainings will be required to gain a respect from the wine industry. These certifications also helped me to better serve my community in elevating our experience and wine knowledge collectively.
Cha McCoy: While working in the wine shop, I often heard customers say how intimidating it was to select wine. I took this as a charge to help remove the barrier between wine and people and decided to create the experience called "The Communion."
Cha McCoy: The Communion is a wine and food pairing, multi-course tasting dinner. During this dinner, I share stories about wine pairings with fresh bufala mozzarella in Italy in the prestigious red wine region of Barolo and popping sparkling French icota, the Italian's true response to Champagne while driving my friends in the boat around the island of Capri.
Cha McCoy: I recognize this may not be in everyone's future, but through me, the Communion attendees receive a taste of a life that actually now seems obtainable. I'm also proving that we don't have to be rappers or movie stars to love all wine or have a sophisticated palate.
Cha McCoy: I remind my guests that wine is simply fermented grape juice, tended to by farmers and that it can be the beverage of choice for all people, which removes the snobbery and elitist views on how wine is marketed. Wine has become my vehicle to communicate, connect and challenge people and societal norms within gastronomy.
Cha McCoy: It's clear that my hospitality experience during my youth, my world travels, and wine certification makes me an outlier in relation to statistics, but it also makes me qualified to challenge the industry to take action.
Cha McCoy: It first starts with the top down approach to treat all guests equally, which should include but not be limited to educating all consumers equally about the wine list and food pairings, hiring wine and spirits trained staff that match the demographics of your community, holding diversity sensitivity trainings for all employees, hiring people of color and women as your beverage directors and consultants to facilitate said trainings, like me.
Cha McCoy: Prejudice can be unintentional and unfortunately intentional, however it's up to us to challenge it and shift the narrative. In order to reclaim the hospitality industry as a welcoming place for all people. I'd be happy to speak with anyone further about solutions on how we can encourage and educate the key-holders on how to market wine and spirits to women and people of color and create inclusive service environment.
Cha McCoy: Again, my name is Cha McCoy. I'm a black woman and I'm more than moscato and that's because I enjoy Barolo too. Thank you.
Kerry Diamond: Cheers to you, Cha. You're an inspiration. Thank you for speaking at this year's jubilee and for all the work you're doing. That's it for today's show. Thank you also to Nikki and Erica for stopping by CBHQ and telling me all about their book, their brand, and their beverage of choice.
Kerry Diamond: If you're looking for an amazing summer sip or just want to support these two, be sure to pick up a bottle of their rosé and don't forget to check out their book.
Kerry Diamond: Thank you to our sponsor, Handsome Brook Farm pasture raised organic eggs for supporting this season of Radio Cherry Bombe. You folks are excellent. Radio Cherry Bombe is a production of Cherry Bombe Media. Our show is edited, engineered and produced by Jess Zeidman and our theme song is "All Fired Up" by the band Tra La La. Thanks for listening, everybody. You're the bombe.
When Harry Met Sally Clip: I'll have what she's having.
Amy Larson: Hi, my name is Amy Larson. I'm the founded of Over Seasoned, a culinary retail brand based in Boston, Massachusetts. Do you want to know who I think is the bomb? Madison Trapkin, the founder and managing editor of Girl Squash, a women's art, food, and culture publication. Madison is as passionate about intersectionality as she is about delicious food and it really shows in her publication.