Creative Juices Wine Blog

How Racial Discrimination Changed This Wine Blog…

Posted in Texas, wine, wine shop, Wine Tasting by CreativeJuicesWine on March 22, 2010

Let me begin by saying sorry for the dramatic title, but as you read this blog post, hopefully you will understand.

Those of you who follow our blog know us to be a couple of wine loving individuals that are generally upbeat, and always passionate about sharing our love of the grape with others. Despite being trained wine professionals with accreditation from two well-respected wine institutions, we have a very laid-back approach to wine. Wine shouldn’t be intimidating to anyone, yet for many reasons, it is. A lot of what I have noticed through reading several wine blogs (including ours) is that the content is pretty bland. In many cases, I have found that wine blogs are misleading, and create an undesirable image of the Wine World.

Recently, Olena and I have been discussing how to improve the content of our blog to better serve you. Rather than do the same thing that many wine bloggers are already doing, we want the content we write and put on video to be entertaining, and informational. This is not to say that all wine bloggers are doing it wrong, it is just that we have a unique situation being a married couple who happen to be Sommeliers. Why not showcase it?

After several conversations about this topic, we have decided to be honest with ourselves. What’s the point of leaving out details? We want you to understand who we are, and what we are all about. We want to share with you our everyday trials and tribulations that come with making a wine business bloom in a market that is barely budding in terms of wine consumption. We want our blog to become a behind the scenes look into what our end of the Wine Biz is all about. Being the only two Certified Sommeliers in El Paso (a city of more than 600,000 people) sounds, and looks great on paper, but it comes with a daunting uphill climb that serves as a reminder that we have to work harder. We are trying to educate the #1 Bud Light drinking city in the Country about wine. Needless to say, we’ve had easier times.

To catch any newcomers up to speed, we recently took over the wine program in a friend’s restaurant in downtown El Paso, TX. We are currently carrying about 70 labels, and plan to grow our selection to over 100 by mid-summer. Rather than our customers paying astronomical restaurant wine prices, we offer retail pricing with the option to consume on or off premise. This is an innovative way to generate a larger interest in wine, without intimidating prices (which are often ridiculously excessive). In addition, we host Wine Socials every other Saturday at the restaurant where we informally educate people on wine regions, varietals, etc. under the helpful guidelines of a tasting. The response for this has been phenomenal, and we have been rather pleased with the turnouts. That brings us to why I titled this blog post what I did…

This past Saturday was our “How do you pronounce that?” Wine Social. We were tasting a collection of exciting varietals from all over the globe that people seem to have trouble pronouncing. Going into the evening, we were excited simply because the varietals we planned to taste, also happen to be delicious.

For me, everything changed when a party of three showed up an hour late to the tasting (which is no big deal) and sat down in the bar area where we were hosting the event. From the moment the group walked in, they had an air about them that put me off. Being in the service industry, this is not an uncommon occurrence. They appeared to be well-dressed, well-groomed, and that was all I knew of them.

As I welcomed them to the event, the lone female member of the group stared at me with a furled brow, and impatiently waited for me to stop talking. The man to her left blankly glared up at me with a disappointed, bored, annoyed gaze. The other man in the group just stared at the table, and didn’t acknowledge me in the least. I thanked them for coming out to the event, and asked if they had any questions. They all just sort of shrugged, and chuckled to themselves. I didn’t pay much attention to it (there was a fairly evident language barrier) smiled, and excused myself.  As I walked away, I began to feel as though it may be of little use to prepare their glassware for the tasting. I knew they weren’t going to go through with it. I did it anyway, and while I was fetching their glasses, a fourth person joined the group. As soon as she sat down, a conversation between her and the first woman began. I know when someone is talking about me, and in this case, there was no attempt to hide that the topic of conversation was me. Because the continued glares, and disapproving looks continued to come my way, I casually paid attention to what was being said. The words that came out of woman #1’s mouth disappointed, and cut through me, leaving me with a bitter taste in my mouth. While looking at the man to her left, she said, “I don’t want to do this. They’re White.”

Moments later, Olena told me as she was returning the glassware to the bar, “they have decided not to take part in the tasting.” She went on to tell me that the man (who was staring at the table earlier) informed her, “We don’t want to do this. I already know a lot about wine. I know what I like. I like Cabernet.” Number one, we weren’t tasting a Cabernet that night, and number two, it turns out that the “How do you pronounce that? Wine Social would have benefited him after all. Cabernet is not pronounced, “Cahb-air-NET”.  As Olena finished relaying that information, all I could say was, “I know.”

I generally don’t take too many things seriously, and I feel as though I’m pretty hard to offend. However, the events of Saturday night have really stuck with me these past couple of days. I have been kind of down on myself, and El Paso in general to be perfectly honest. I’ve been trying to break out of this funk, and it has proven to be a little bit more difficult than expected. We’re often the only ‘white people’ in the room, but until now, I haven’t thought about it.

To the people who I feel are ruining the beauty of what wine should be about by painting a picture of elitism, I leave you with a quote:

“In Europe we thought of wine as something as healthy and normal as food and also a great giver of happiness and well-being and delight. Drinking wine was not a snobbism nor a sign of sophistication nor a cult; it was as natural as eating and to me as necessary.” – Ernest Hemingway

Please share any similar stories you may have. Thank you for reading.

Cheers!

Zak