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A Spotlight On Women In Wine: Sweet July x The Roots Fund

Sweet July and The Roots Fund partnered to host an evening celebrating women in the wine industry, where guests could sip and mingle—and leave with expert insight and fresh inspiration for their wine repertoire.

Community and impact are prime at Sweet July. So it was a no-brainer to partner with The Roots Fund, an organization whose mission is to empower and support emerging wine professionals of color. The result: an interactive tasting spotlighting women in wine and the chance to donate to The Roots Fund’s ongoing efforts to provide equitable opportunities in wine.

“Ayesha Curry always speaks so passionately about how the Oakland community has embraced her,” says Ikimi Dubose-Woodson, executive director of the Roots Fund. “That’s one of the many reasons we wanted to partner with Sweet July. Working with the Sweet July team that reflects a team of women, along with women entrepreneurs, was another way to shine a light on our communities.”

Held at the Sweet July Oakland store, this women in wine event featured bottles and merchandise from Brendel Wines, La Fête du Rosé, The Wino Shop, LoveLee Wine, and Domaine Curry as well as food pairings curated by Bay Area-based chef Michele McQueen.

Pictured: Ikimi Dubose-Woodson; Photo: Lance Carr
Photo: Lance Carr
Photo: Lance Carr
Photo: Lance Carr

And at the center of it all were four of the Roots Fund’s wine scholars, who led the night’s tastings and informational sessions (including teaching the 5 s’s to enjoying wine!). Below, these scholars share their journeys to joining the Roots Fund family, tips on how to navigate the industry, and the under-the-radar grapes and wine regions people should know about. 

Photo: Lance Carr

Aamira Garba, Founder and CEO of LoveLee Wine

On the best part of working in wine…

I want people to know that I am doing this for the culture. We need to see more women and more women of color in the wine industry being taken seriously and being respected. I make great wine—period. 

On being part of The Roots Fund family…

The Roots Fund has really allowed me to see that when people have a cause and a mission that they really believe in, they’ll do the work to make sure they see the fruits of their labor. All of them are really doing the work, because they see the vision. The vision of an inclusive wine industry is absolutely beautiful—and it’s way more fun. The Roots Fund will always have my love and support. 

On her go-to wine…

I have a Pinot Noir that was just featured in VinePair as one of the top 25 Pinot Noirs of 2021 and top 50 wines of the year. When I’m not drinking my wine, I’m really into Spanish wines right now, anything Tempranillo, anything from Rioja. Cava, [Spanish sparkling wine], is the only bubbles I’ll drink.

 

On the wine region people should know about…

As the Pinot snob that I am, I think people should really be looking at Oregon. When it comes to Pinot and the Willamette Valley, they know how to do it.

On where to start if you’re new wine…

Start at wine tastings—there’s always someone conducting a wine tasting—just to see if the conversation is interesting to you. Don’t just see if the wines taste great but: Do you like being in the environment? Do you like the culture of wine? Do you like tasting? Do you like pairing? Do you like sipping? Wine tastings will tell you that, especially if you don’t have access to vineyards.

Photo: Lance Carr

Andrea Manrique, Paralegal, Wine Bodega Hostess

On the best part of working in wine…

You will always be learning. You learn about your community—and just seeing that community come together for wine is really exciting to me.

On being part of The Roots Fund family…

I stumbled up on The Roots Fund through social media. From the get-go, I met Ikimi and she immediately brought me in—I had no clue about anything in the wine industry. I was able to get my WSET certification level one through them. I am waiting to submit my application for level two. The fast way that they include you and they make you feel like you’re family is just awesome.

On her go-to wine…

I go through cycles. Right now, it’s Chardonnay. Unpopular opinion: I like oak Chardonnays lately. I think it’s just part of me wanting to understand them. That’s where I’m at right now.

On the wine region people should know about…

South Africa. Especially women winemakers in South Africa. There’s so much good red South African wine that I think is underrated.

 

On where to start if you’re new wine…

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Especially if you’re just in the wine aisle at the supermarket, ask the wine merchant. If you’re curious about a wine, try it. If you hate it, make note of it. If you love it, make sense of it.

Photo: Lance Carr

Candace Keeton, Hospitality Manager at Brendel Wines, Educator

On the best part of working in wine…

Prior to being a tasting manager, I was actually an elementary teacher for eight years. I feel like a lot of people, during the pandemic, kind of reevaluated their life, where they saw themselves, where they wanted to go. As a teacher, I had my summers off, and I did a 26-day solo trip throughout Europe; I went to Spain, learned about Spanish wines. I did that [through the Roots Fund].

On being part of The Roots Fund family…

Mentorship is the biggest part for me. I wanted those connections. From scholarships to a family, I received all of that and more.

On her go-to wine…

Hands down it’s Cab Franc. Cab Franc is just sexy. That’s what I’d order on a date. 

On the wine region people should know about…

Pennsylvania! I’m from Pittsburgh—I would say Pennsylvania has great wines. I would also say the Finger Lakes.

On where to start if you’re new wine…

People get caught up in other people’s ways of thinking. I want to first start off with saying: like what you like. Find out why you like what it is that you like. Research as much as you can—figure out the region, figure out the soil. Write down your tasting notes, you can carry around a notebook if you want to do it that way. Also, Wine Folly is a book that I love because it’s all broken down. As a teacher, I’m like ‘tell me what I need to know. Give it to me straight.’

Photo: Lance Carr

Desiree Harrison-Brown, Founder of The Wino Shop, Wine Educator at Napa Valley Wine Academy

On the best part of working in wine…

The thing that I love most is the community. I’ve met so many amazing people throughout the wine industry who have become my closest friends, my study partners…and you can start that anywhere you can. I started by taking wine classes. I didn’t go to school for wine, I didn’t even know wine careers existed. So having a community and seeing this whole new world has been really amazing.

On being part of The Roots Fund family…

I learned about The Roots Fund through social media, and I was awarded a scholarship to start my WSET diploma, which is a wine education program. The Roots Fund has really just catapulted me on my journey to be able to study wine education. I’m also the mentorship coordinator for The Roots Fund, and it’s been really rewarding to see not only the impact that The Roots Fund has had on me, but all of the mentors and mentees.

On her go-to wine…

My favorite category of wine is sparkling. But maybe [for wine] it’s a Chardonnay just because it’s so versatile. Ask me next week and that might change.

On the wine region people should know about…

Lodi. They are making amazing wine. I would also say Languedoc. A lot of people don’t think about the south of France for amazing wines but they have such a versatile terroir depending on where you are in the region. You can get really amazing sparkling, you can also get amazing blends.

On where to start if you’re new wine…

My number one tip is to drink everything in your price range. A lot of people might say grocery store wines aren’t the good place to start, but they really are. It’s a great place to start. Don’t buy the same label every time you go to the store. Drinking wine is a little bit of risk taking, but with risk, there is always a reward.

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