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Jackson Family Wines joins with The Urban Grape to help promote diversity

Top producer Jackson Family Wines has partnered with Boston-based retailer The Urban Grape on its Wine Studies Award for Students of Color, and will offer internships in California as part of the initiative.

Jackson Family Wines announced it would partner with The Urban Grape, a retail wine shop based in Boston, Massachusetts, on its Wine Studies Award for Students of Color.

Created in 2020 by The Urban Grape’s owners, TJ and Hadley Douglas, to mark the store’s 10th anniversary, the programme aims to provide career opportunities for its students while increasing diversity in the wine industry.

‘As a Black man in wine, I’ve always been, for the most part, the only one in this space,’ said TJ Douglas.

He said that people of colour often aren’t aware of the opportunities in wine. ‘Like in a lot of industries, people say that the pipeline is broken, but in our industry, I really felt that the pipeline didn’t exist.’

The Wine Studies Award launched on 22 June 2020, with $10,000 from sales. Further fundraising ultimately grew the endowment to $225,000.

Students in the 12-month programme receive education through Boston University’s Certificate Program in Wine Studies, paid internships, and mentorship.

‘This isn’t about finding a job,’ said Douglas. ‘This is about building generational wealth for BIPOC through meaningful career opportunities.’

For Jackson Family, The Wine Studies Award dovetails with its ethos. ‘Growing up, my mom and dad always instilled in us a belief that it was important to support our communities,’ said Katie Jackson.

‘They believed that part of our responsibility in building a successful wine business meant we had an opportunity to give back to our community by investing in causes that provide a positive impact.’

In 2021, Jackson Family Wines launched Rooted For Good: Roadmap to 2030, a multi-pronged climate action and social responsibility initiative.

Within this broader programme, the company established the IDEA Alliance (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Awareness), an employee-led task force focused on building a more inclusive culture via partnerships, recruitment, and career development.

Through IDEA, Jackson Family Wines learned about the Wine Studies Award and saw how their expertise and resources could enhance programming.

Jamil Antoine, district vice-president of sales, northeast, for Jackson Family Wines, and who was instrumental in building the partnership, said: ‘In an industry that has traditionally lacked diversity, it takes initiative to build a pool of candidates from different backgrounds to enter our workforce.

‘This is a step in the right direction to help our industry better reflect the demographics of our nation and the customer base we serve.’

As part of this new alliance, students will intern for three months in Sonoma, learning about wine production and sales at Jackson Family properties. Expenses, such as travel and housing, will be partially subsidised.

‘When we began the Wine Studies programme, we wanted our interns to learn about as many sides of the wine industry as possible,’ said Douglas.

‘Because the programme is based in Boston, there was no way to include a harvest or winemaking experience. This new partnership with Jackson Family Wines means our interns can now travel to the heart of America’s wine country,’ Douglas added.

‘The Wine Studies programme effectively changed the course of my professional life,’ said Suhayl Ramirez, director of consumer engagement Trois Noix Winery and a Cohort One graduate.

‘This partnership with Jackson Family Wines is an exciting point of expansion for the program. I look forward to the impact it will have on future cohorts entering the wine industry.’

Applications for Cohort Four (2023-24) of the Urban Grape Wine Studies Award for Students of Color remains open until 30 March, according to Urban Grape and Boston University

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