This is How Diversity Happens

ram cellarsIt’s widely acknowledged that the wine industry has a diversity problem.

But I found this article in Thrillist inspiring. Entitled “These LGBTQ+ Wine Pros Are Shaking Up an Age-Old Industry,” the article’s focus is on Vivianne Kennedy, owner of RAM Cellars, an urban winery in Portland, Oregon. As far as she knows, she is the only openly transgender winemaker in the industry.

“I came out in 2018, and there were a lot of difficult things about coming out and moving to that liminal space,” Kennedy says. “I went back and forth about whether or not the winery would even continue. I was genuinely concerned that there would no longer be a place for me in the industry.”

Happily, she decided to soldier on:

The conclusion I came to is that we needed to change our focus and make sure we were taking steps to support queer and trans folks,” she explains. “So in 2019, we created another label for the winery dubbed the VIV label. It’s a shorthand for my name, and it’s also a French root word that means to live, to be alive…. For every bottle sold, $5 goes directly to nonprofits dedicated to improving the lives of LGBTQ+ folks. Beneficiaries include the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund’s name change project and Portland’s Q Center, which provides tons of vital services to local queer and trans Oregonians. In its first year, donations accounted for 4.8% of total VIV label sales.”

Kennedy reports that there is now a robust conversation in the wine world about being more inclusive:

“…it feels like the wine industry at large, the great amalgamation of all of its various parts, is moving toward a better future,” she says.

It’s good to hear someone optimistic about the wine industry. With sales stagnating or declining, it’s essential to change wine’s image from an appeal directed to stuffy, over-the-hill boomers (like me) to a more dynamic,  inclusive image.

Change happens when people like Kennedy, with great courage and persistence, stand their ground and then work to bring others on board.

The rest of the article profiles several LGBTQ+ winemakers and people on the retail side. Buy their wines and support their cause. It’s our cause as well.

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