On a recent trip to Napa, after speaking with several vineyard stewards, Maria Calvert and Lydia Richards made a surprising discovery. “We learned some of them don’t even taste the wine they’re harvesting,” says Calvert. “That just speaks volumes to the limited accessibility and opportunities there are for individuals who are the backbone of the industry.”
Vineyard stewards, or those who tend to the grapes at the start of the winemaking process, are just the beginning. While the majority of the U.S. wine industry workforce is Latinx, they remain frequently left out of other aspects of wine culture, from education to events.
Calvert and Richards, who met while working together at a culinary-focused PR agency, saw a chance to bridge the gap.
In September 2020, the duo launched Hispanics in Wine with a mission to provide educational and career-advancement opportunities to the ever-growing Hispanic and Latinx community of wine professionals in the U.S.
“We saw, as the two Latinas within the company, but within the industry itself, the lack of representation of people working in the industry beyond vineyard workers,” Richards says. “Then, obviously, the pandemic happened and that fueled all our emotions.”
They’d seen how Julia Coney helped open the door for Black representation in wine when she founded the organization Black Wine Professionals, and how conversations surrounding diversity “started to heighten a little bit more,” Richards says. They wanted Hispanics in Wine to be a social space for highlighting Latinx people across the industry, whether in education, marketing, or winemaking itself.
Of course, landing on a name for the budding group was a challenge in and of itself.
“That was a month-long conversation,” Calvert says, laughing. “We were going back and forth with the name. Ultimately, we decided [on] ‘Hispanic’ just for being as inclusive as possible— in terms of, look, if you speak Spanish, you’re in the community.”
Interest in the group has grown rapidly. More and more people want to find ways to be involved with the organization, Richards says. “We have something big in our hands. The idea has sort of snowballed.”
Come December, the group will host its second annual Latinx Wine Summit in Napa. The theme is “Somos Visibles: Unheard Voices en Vino,” and it will be presented in a hybrid format, with both in-person and virtual participation. Moderated by Gabriela Fernandez of The Big Sip, the one-day summit will feature a series of panels, networking, special guest speakers, and tastings.
In naming the summit, Calvert and Richards chose ‘Latinx’ in an effort to capture the different terms that the community might use or identify with. “Not one word will fit all,” Calvert says.“We’re open to whatever you are, however you identify yourself, of course,” Richards adds. “Everybody’s welcome here.”