Welcome to episode 258 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Julia Coney about wine, race, and Netflix’s “Uncorked.”
Last week on the podcast, Bjork and Lindsay talked about the resources they’re using to learn about racism and some ways that we can support black-owned businesses. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
If you’ve listened to The Food Blogger Pro Podcast for a while, you’ll know that we love talking with creators and people who want to make an impact. We’re having another one of those conversations today with wine writer, Julia Coney.
When it comes to understanding racial injustice, it’s important to invest the time in educating yourself and forever be in pursuit of making a difference. Julia’s insights and experiences are one way we can educate ourselves and lean into having these tough but valuable conversations.
Today, you’ll hear Julia’s stories about race issues in the wine industry, advice for having important conversations about racial injustice, and thoughts about why the movie, “Uncorked,” is so impactful.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- How Julia started writing about wine
- How wine and race intersect
- How the Netflix movie, “Uncorked,” covers racism in the wine industry
- Why Julia is starting Black Wine Professionals
- How to start having conversations about race
- The Julia and the Sequin Technicolor Dream Coat video
- Myleik Teele
- Julia’s blog
- The story of the bookclub that was kicked off of the Napa Valley Train
- Your Wine Glass Ceiling is My Wine Glass Box. An Open Letter to Karen MacNeil and the Wine Industry.
- “Being Black in the White World of Wine”
- “Too White Wine”
- Gary Farrell Winery and their article, “We Stand with the Black Community and People of Color”
- E. & J. Gallo Winery and their initiatives
- “Uncorked” on Netflix
- The Uncorked Soundtrack on Spotify
- DLynn Proctor on Twitter
- Black Food Bloggers
- Julia’s Your Silence is Betrayal Instagram Live
- Help a Reporter
- What White Children Need to Know About Race
- Follow Julia on Instagram
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].
Transcript (click to expand):
Bjork Ostrom: Hey there friends, Bjork here. You are listening to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, it’s great to have you here. Usually you hear Alexa in the intro and outro, she’s out today so I get the honor of, once again, doing the intro and the outro for these podcasts, just like the good old days.
Bjork Ostrom: Really great conversation that we’re going to be sharing with you today, we are calling this Uncorked – Conversations About Race and Wine. We have the honor of having Julia Coney on, and Julia has expertise and has written about, and has spoken about these three things. Uncorked, which some of you are like, “What does that mean?” Well, it’s actually a movie on Netflix which we’re talking about. We’re going to be talking about race, and we’re going to be talking about wine.
Bjork Ostrom: If you can imagine a Venn diagram, go back to your math days, we’re actually going to be talking about how that Venn diagram, wine, race, and the movie Uncorked all overlap. And, being that we are the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, we are doing what we can to stay within the category of food, or food publishers, or creators, of which Julia is one of those. But, we are also wanting to make space for conversations about race, and how all of those things relate to what we are doing. We’re also going to be talking about what it looks like to use your voice, as a creator, to have some of those conversations and to step into that. And, what it looks like to do the work, and how that ties into some of the 1% infinity concepts that we talk about on the podcast a lot.
Bjork Ostrom: I will say this, we have a lot of resources that we are sharing on this, we will link to all of those in the resources, show notes for this, which you can get to by going to foodbloggerpro.com/258. So be sure to just type that in if you want to check out any of the things that we’re talking about, any of the articles that I’m referencing, and you can queue those up and read through those. And as we talk about at the end, that’s one of the things that you can be doing. In the category of education, it is articles, it is books, it is podcasts.
Bjork Ostrom: So excited to welcome you into this conversation with Julia, and we are calling it Uncorked – Conversations About Race and Wine. Julia, welcome to the podcast.
Julia Coney: Thank you for having me, so excited.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, excited to chat here. Specifically, I feel like this needs to be addressed right off the bat, as we get into it. I was doing my research, my due diligence, and I came across one of my favorite videos that I’ve seen, and it is you on Instagram, doing … The payoff, you have to watch it all the way through because you think it’s great, but then at the end it switches to slow motion. It’s you, it’s what you’re calling a sequined technicolor dream coat, doing a dance at a resort in Mexico.
Julia Coney: In Mexico.
Bjork Ostrom: And then, it switches to slow motion, it’s so captivating, so interesting. But, I have to know, what’s the story behind that, the background with that?
Julia Coney: The funny thing of it is, that retreat was a retreat created by a woman named Myleik Teele, she owns a beauty company called CURLBOX, for Black women. And she created this retreat for 100 plus women to go to Mexico, and just hang out. Part business, part self-help, but really just met all these amazing women. S
Julia Coney: So before the retreat I was like, “I want something fun,” I’m usually kind of conservative. One day, I saw one of these cheap-y ads on Facebook for this sequined coat and I was like, “I’m going to get this coat.” It was $10, it was $10 and I bought this coat. I had never worn it before, until Mexico.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome.
Julia Coney: And my roommate was like, “Go into the bathtub and dance in the coat, the coat has to move.” And that literally is what we did, we just went and danced in a bathtub in Mexico, before the last night party.
Bjork Ostrom: It feels like one of those things where you wear it for an Instagram video, you maybe wear it a little bit that night. My question is have you worn it since?
Julia Coney: No.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay, yeah. But here’s the thing, though, it served its purpose, and it is worth what you paid for it in that regard.
Julia Coney: Its worth what I paid for it. I have not put it on since May 2019. I literally brought it home from Mexico, wrapped it in plastic, and put it in my attic.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Well, as with all of the resources we’ll share in the podcast today, we’ll be sure to link to that in the show notes, in case anybody wants to go back and watch that.
Bjork Ostrom: One of the things we love to do as we kick off these conversations, Julia, is just to hear a little bit about people’s story. I’d love to know your story with food, and especially with wine. I always have to give the disclaimer that, although this is a food podcast, this is Food Blogger Pro, I’m kind of food illiterate. Lindsay, my wife, is really the one that knows what’s going on. But I’m really, even more so, wine illiterate. I think I’m going to learn a lot from you today, some wine insights would probably be one of those things. But, take us back, I would love to hear your story, and how you got into wine.
Julia Coney: So here’s the funny thing, I’ve only been writing about wine since 2016. Before that, in my main career … I’m originally from Houston, Texas, and I was a legal assistant. So that was my background, is being a legal assistant. I also studied abroad in Paris, was not interested in wine. I just come from a family, my family doesn’t drink, just for no reason they really didn’t drink. I didn’t grow up with wine on the table. Even when I went to Paris, the only reason I had wine so much was because it was cheaper to order wine and a salad with an omelet, than to order a soda. That was the thing, and I’m a broke student.
Bjork Ostrom: You could have a Coke, or we could do a glass of wine?
Julia Coney: A wine. But, one of the gentleman I worked with was a big wine person, and this is the late ’90s. So in the late ’90s, it was really, big California wine, Napa cabernet you know, everybody knows, at Robert Parker. He was getting so much wine that one day it blocked my desk. I said, “Why do up keep blocking my desk with all this wine? I just don’t get it.” He said, “Hey, I’m going to have a barbecue in a couple of weeks at the house. I want you to come, and I’m pairing all this wine with barbecue.”
Julia Coney: I go to his house, do this crazy barbecue. It is Clos Du Val, it’s Caymus, it’s all these big Napa wines, and he’s pairing brisket sandwiches, ribs. Nothing so pretentious like streak from a grill.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, right.
Julia Coney: He just sat me down, and we just discussed tasting. Taste with this, eat this, and it was just fun.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Julia Coney: So that piqued my curiosity of just really learning about wine in a way, because he just introduced it in such a fun way that I was like, “I want to know this.” So this is the ’90s, started going to tastings. Then, I really started traveling to wineries to visit, because I was just that curious.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Lindsay and I did a trip to California, and this is immediately where my wine knowledge falls off because I don’t know where we went, or what wines we had, which isn’t helpful for a wine conversation. But, I remember experientially, it was so enjoyable, and so different than going to any other type of alcohol experience. There’s just a different feel to it, which was really enjoyable and also accessing a new area, which was really good.
Bjork Ostrom: So at some point, you make this decision, hey I want to take this passion, interest, hobby, and pursue it more professionally, like getting to writing about wine, and pursuing it as a career. At what point did you start to have that inkling of that being something that you wanted to do?
Julia Coney: Well, here’s the funny thing. I moved from Houston to DC in 2005, and in 2006, a lot of people don’t know, I started a very popular beauty blog. I was a beauty blogger before they were all the other thing. And that blog just showed me, because I have a degree in English literature, so it just showed me that I could write. But also, writing for enjoyment. Eventually, for 2006 until 2010, the blog became so popular I created a job.
Julia Coney: In 2010, I left the legal world to freelance. So I just freelanced as a beauty writer, doing beauty work, doing travel work. At the end of 2015, I just knew I wanted to move into food and wine. I knew I wanted to let the beauty go, even though I loved beauty products and I loved that stuff, I just didn’t want to write about it. I just woke up and was like, “I’m done.” That’s the only way I can describe it. It was more like, “I don’t want to write about beauty anymore,” and I took a 10 year beauty blog down, and decided I would be Julia Coney.
Julia Coney: I knew a lot about wine, and I knew somms, and I knew people in the business. I didn’t know that many Black wine writers. I knew Dorothy Gaiter was a wine writer, because I read Tastings in the Wall Street Journal. But, I didn’t see anybody younger than that, so I said, “Well, I’m going to write a blog.” So of course, Google found so many great wine bloggers to read, and that’s when I decided, in 2016, to enter the wine world.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great. 2006, you were blogging before it was cool.
Julia Coney: Yeah. I was blogging before Twitter came out, I want you to think about that.
Bjork Ostrom: Crazy. What platform was it that you were using at that point?
Julia Coney: Here’s the funny thing.
Bjork Ostrom: This is where we divert from wine into technology, and I’m like okay, tell me what …
Julia Coney: Well, I started on Blogger.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, okay.
Julia Coney: Then, I went to Typepad.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, that’s when you know that you are in the elite class of bloggers, when you used Typepad at some point.
Julia Coney: And then, I went from Typepad to WordPress.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Julia Coney: And I was on WordPress when I took the beauty blog down.
Bjork Ostrom: Nice. So one of the things that you talk about on your website is … I pulled this, and I heard you hint at it a little bit … pulled this from your about section of your site is “focus on wine, winemakers, personal essays in the intersection of race and wine.” What does that last part, intersection of race and wine, look like? And, did you know going into it, when you first started writing, that that was something that you wanted to focus on? Or, was it that you know that it was something that you needed to focus on? Maybe those things coincide, maybe it’s both of those things.
Julia Coney: No. I just planned to write about the wines I was drinking, these amazing winemakers, amazing stories I’m getting because I was traveling to these regions. These issues with the racism came when I realized how many people aren’t used to seeing Black wine professionals.
Julia Coney: The way wine works, I don’t know how it is in the food, but you have these huge consortiums will come and visit, these huge industries, these winemakers come and they pull in the media in all aspects, to do these tastings. Some are lunches, some are stand and walk around. And in the end of 2017, I was at a tasting in DC, and a guy who was also at the tasting came around the table and asked me where the restroom was. I said, “Well, how would I know?” And he said, “You look like the help.”
Bjork Ostrom: It feels like something that you’d see in the …
Julia Coney: 2017. So, then I started noticing so many things like that kept happening, in 2017, that I was like okay. Or, I’d go to wineries, and the winemaker, like I said, looked at me when he opened, he was like, “Oh I didn’t expect you to be Black.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Julia Coney: I mean, I don’t know what else you want me to say to that because I’m here, you made the appointment. With all that, I kept going okay, the industry has a race problem.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Julia Coney: Because I was hearing from so many other people, their experiences.
Bjork Ostrom: It feels so explicit. I think that’s what’s helpful to hear these stories is there’s no question about it. It’s a direct reflection of somebody saying that back to you, it’s not this, “I think it might be.” No, somebody explicitly said that, and it draws such a clear story.
Julia Coney: Because that’s also the same year of the Napa Valley Train, the wine train. If you think about what happened to those women that were in the book club that got kicked off the train, they were all Black.
Bjork Ostrom: Can you tell that story, for those who aren’t familiar?
Julia Coney: So a group of women from, I want to say they were Oakland, California, went to Napa, which is close by, to have their book club, and have fun on the Napa Valley wine train. It’s a train that runs through Napa Valley to different stops. They get kicked out for being rowdy, it makes social, at this time, going crazy. Clearly, it was a racial issue, everything that came out about that was about that because other people were loud. I’ve been on that train. If you’re drinking wine and it’s in the middle of the day, everybody’s loud, that’s just a fact. Everybody’s like that.
Bjork Ostrom: That was one of the things on one of these tours, I remember seeing these people get … We didn’t have a bus, so we would drink the little bit and then drive. But, I remember people, seeing them get off this bus and I was like, “Oh my gosh, they’re just going around to these and drinking, and drinking a lot, and you can tell.”
Julia Coney: And drinking a lot. So with that happened, and then in the business, and that’s when I was like the wine industry … We also have to look at the wine industry in America is rooted in California. There are other places, but it’s rooted in California. So that’s why I said that they have a race problem.
Julia Coney: And then in January 2018, there was an article with Karen MacNeil for Somm Journal, and it was talking about the glass ceiling. For me, when I saw the photos and there wasn’t one Black wine professional, one Black person in wine, that I knew. So if you’ve been in this for 20 years, and I am only in this two years, how do I know people and you don’t?
Bjork Ostrom: Yes.
Julia Coney: That’s why I wrote that open letter, because that’s how I felt.
Bjork Ostrom: When you say that …
Julia Coney: I still feel that.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. When you say the open letter, can you explain what that was about? And maybe, contextualize it for people, what that was like, and how you felt, and give a little bit of explanation for that?
Julia Coney: So the original article was called Wine’s Glass Ceiling, so my title was Your Wine Glass Ceiling Is My Wine Glass Box: An Open Letter to the Wine Industry on Race. And I explained, and I really bullet pointed things that were being said. Things that were like, “How could you write this article? I don’t see these people represented.” It was basically calling out the industry. When we say you say that it’s a glass ceiling, imagine what happens to Black people, and people of color, if you’re saying this as a white woman.
Julia Coney: So it just went nuts, it went viral because people were like, “Oh, who is this person that we’ve never heard of, just all of a sudden like I’m done? I’m just going to call it out, call it what it is.” For me, I wanted to … How do we really make change? How do we not have a winemaker say things to me? How do we not have even the patrons in a tasting not stare at me like I’m an animal at the zoo, because they can’t believe a Black person is sitting in the tasting room?
Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah. It’s interesting, there’s a bunch of different articles that I was reading, a lot of which that you have shared, and you have your Black Wine Professionals that you’re launching. As of recording, in a week, right? Is that right?
Julia Coney: In a week. Oh yes.
Bjork Ostrom: So I’m interested to hear a little bit about that. We will publicly state it, as a motivator to launch that, and a celebration of that coming up. But, one of the quotes that I pulled from an article here, Alicia Towns Franken … do you know Alicia, or are familiar with her work?
Julia Coney: We’ve talked, I just don’t know her personally.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay, great. Anyway, she talks about her involvement in the wine industry, building Grill 23 & Bar to be the bestselling wine business in Boston, I’m pulling from here. Anyways, there’s this quote where she says “she felt like race relations should have been added to my job description.”
Julia Coney: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: I would guess, in these past few weeks, that has especially been true. Do you feel that, for the work that you’re doing, Julia? Or, do you feel like it’s always been part of your job description, and now in this season, it’s really been highlighted?
Julia Coney: Exactly. I’ve known, entering the business. I’m being honest, when I entered I was like, “Okay, I’m really excited about this.” I did not realize it was that bad until I jumped in it.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Julia Coney: So yes, race relations are just … I think being Black, for me, is part of the job description. It’s I have race relations because when you think those things, and microaggressions, people don’t really get it until you have to call it out to them.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I feel like the article that you write, these articles that have been published … I was reading some of Dorothy Gaiter’s writings and she said “more people are finally getting off the fence on issues of race and justice.” They said, “They are examining their workplace cultures, looking more closely for bias. Outpouring of support from wine community right now, but some believe it’s more hollow promises, empty words of solidarity.”
Bjork Ostrom: Where do you fall on that line? You see this response, in some ways you’d hope … I look at wine enthusiasts and their Instagram account, and it’s obvious that this is something that they’re thinking about, and intentionally pursuing. Would you fall on the line of hey, these maybe are hollow promises? Or, do you see things starting to shift and change, in a positive way?
Julia Coney: I’m come from the glass is half full, so I am having hope that what they’re saying, they’re going to do. Because I am of the mindset, also, if you don’t, I am holding you accountable for what you said, because you said it. There are people who still won’t say anything, there are people who feel they don’t need to say anything, and that’s fine. I don’t have to drink your wine, I don’t ever have to write about it, and that’s perfectly fine if you want to do that.
Julia Coney: But, I do believe that they know it, now it’s been brought to their attention, and they’re going to change. Do I think it’s going to be overnight? Absolutely not. But, how is it going to look when you reopen your tasting room? Not just because of the pandemic and people are apart, how are you going to have your staff when people come to visit? The tasting room culture is really a problem in the wine industry.
Bjork Ostrom: Why do you think that is?
Julia Coney: Well, it’s because I always say, wine is viewed as a luxury product. If you compare it to other alcohol products, wine is viewed as a luxury, and the only time you equate Black people and luxury is when we’re entertaining you. Not when we’re at the wine glass, not when we’re talking about wine. Not when people ask me, “Oh, you’ve been to Bordeaux? You know where it is, right?”
Julia Coney: There’s no need to say that to me, but it’s always those constant, “Let me ask you a second question, because how can you,” when that question wouldn’t come to another person of another race.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s interesting to see some of those quotes, some examples. I’m trying to think of the other article that I was reading. One of them was called To White Wine, we’ll link to all of the different articles. But, I feel like the stories are so helpful, and the context that it gives into the reality of those interactions. And also, what it feels like to receive those, and the spirit of those.
Bjork Ostrom: I don’t think I said this on the podcast yet, but we had been talking about it before. But, you pulled an example of … I don’t think I brought this up again yet, I know we talked about it before. But talked about attending a Napa Valley tasting event last year, “I didn’t know you people drank wine?”
Julia Coney: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: Somebody said that to you.
Julia Coney: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s like oh my gosh, and other countless examples of stories that people share within that. So for those who are in the wine industry, two question related to that. Who are some of the people, or the brands, or the businesses who are publishing content related to anti-racism, in a way where you shake your head up and down, like yes, this resonates? Maybe you can think of specific examples, or specific brands, or maybe it’s just the general spirit of what people are saying.
Julia Coney: Well, you have people like Gary Farrell Winery, they literally say, “We take a stand, we’re not standing for this. Black Lives Matter, we’re in support. How can we help?” Okay, do you need somebody to talk to your staff? When people come in, when they’re picking the wines, when people explain it, those little things, when there are other customers. You have a lot of people do that.
Julia Coney: One of the things that a lot of people don’t know, Gallo, for as big as they are, still the largest family owned winery, they’ve had a Gallo African-American diversity committee before it was cool. They’ve been doing the work, they’ve been highlighting … it isn’t new for them. Because they know we have these people in all aspects of the business, right? How do we keep those people engaged, how do we let them know we support them? This was before the past two weeks, this has been years on their behalf. Because they value if you stay with us, then we’re building a better company. Whether or not you drink their wines or not, you have to appreciate their initiative in doing that.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s almost like you nod your head yes to the people who aren’t scrambling in a one month situation, thinking what do we do, but they’ve been doing the work. Those are the people who are like, “Yeah, get it.” They’re doing it. Maybe there’s more intentional conversations around it for this period of time, but there have been for an extended period of time, which I think makes so much sense.
Bjork Ostrom: One of the interesting things that I think is so cool, is the movie Uncorked.
Julia Coney: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: It feels like they were like, “What is a movie that we can make that would hit all of the topics that Julia would love to talk about, and has written about?” Do you feel that way, when you watch this movie? I’m curious to know what that was like for you, it must have been so exciting.
Julia Coney: So watching the movie, and hearing about it, and being a part of the preview of it … I remember just watching it, and it was so emotional for me. My mom died in the middle of my wine career going crazy, so that part was emotional. Watching a movie where the intro was hiphop …
Bjork Ostrom: Yes! Almost the entire soundtrack.
Julia Coney: Almost the entire soundtrack…
Bjork Ostrom: Like French hiphop. It was so cool. I literally, last night, thought I envisioned myself this morning getting up, and searching Uncorked on Spotify. It was such a good soundtrack.
Julia Coney: Yeah, the playlist is there, the playlist is there.
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome.
Julia Coney: But also, too, to see wine described with rappers.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that was specifically one of the … Totally. Yeah, it was one of the things I was going to bring up because it feels … That scene specifically, Elijah, and I think Tonya was her name, comes in. I was going to use the analogy of me being at the same level for Tonya, in terms of … She comes in, and she’s like … To set the scene, I’m going to do a terrible job describing it.
Bjork Ostrom: She comes in, she’s looking for wine and Elijah, who’s this wine connoisseur is like, “What kind?” She’s like, “A good one?” I feel like that would be me. He’s like, “Let me take you along the journey of describing what wines could be,” and he uses hiphop artists to do it, which was just such a great scene.
Bjork Ostrom: As you watched Uncorked, were there things that, if somebody hasn’t seen it, or if they did see it and maybe they go back and watch it again, would there be elements that you’d say, “Hey, be present to or be aware of this,” as it relates to wine and race, and the nuance of what it might look like for somebody who is Black to be passionate wine, and navigating that? Are there things where you would call out to pay attention to parts of that story? Or for you, things that really resonated with that movie?
Julia Coney: Well, one of the scenes that I will tell people to look out for is eventually when he goes to Paris, and even before when he goes and takes the test. Just look at the rooms, and the color of people that are taking the tests.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, yes.
Julia Coney: The initial one, when you look and say, “Yes, there’s him.” Or, what I loved is when he walked into the tasting in the beginning. Remember, he walked into the tasting?
Bjork Ostrom: Yes. That was the …
Julia Coney: You could see everybody was nice, but you could see he was almost … him and another Black lady were, I think, one of the 40 people. They were two of the 40.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes. I remember that scene specifically, and I think what I appreciate about it is it’s not overt. It’s not like they’re making this obvious statement, but it’s a nuanced scene where he’s there, but still feels a little bit of alone. And seeing him navigate that, and without them ever having this explicit exchange where it feels like somebody makes a strong racist statement, you can feel like oh, what is that like for him, and you wonder and ponder a little bit.
Bjork Ostrom: Is there anything with the movie that you felt like oh, I wish they would have included this? Or, that they would have highlighted this in a different way? Because it wasn’t just about race, it was also about family dynamics, it was about generational business, it was all of these different elements tied in together. But I’m curious to know, with your expertise around wine and race, and the relationship of those, was there anything that you felt like was missing in the movie?
Julia Coney: Well, when I first saw it, I thought that I probably … that’s why I’m not a movie director, is would have been to expand the scene when he was just telling his cousin, “Wine is just so white.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yes.
Julia Coney: In that way, just a little more dialogue on that part, or just really … I’m not saying about hardship, but just explaining how does he feel besides that, because so many of his feelings he kept to himself a lot. But, I would have loved for them to expand on when he said, “Wine is just so white.” How does he feel about that? That would have been the only thing I would add.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes. It’s interesting, even there’s the character there, as this contrast, Harvard, it’s his nickname but it feels like such a counter to Elijah’s story. Where it’s Harvard, that’s his nickname because he went to Harvard, and his dad is this Citibank executive. And then there’s Elijah, whose dad owns a barbecue restaurant in Memphis, and their stories intertwine. It’s interesting, as they walk along their journeys, sometimes experiencing similar things, like both of their parents not necessarily approving, or their dads not approving of their pursuit of wine, but how different that plays out was another really interesting storyline with that.
Bjork Ostrom: Uncorked, it’s been fun to see you having some conversations on Twitter with DLynn, who the story’s loosely based on. Can you talk about your connection with him and his high level story, if people are interested in checking that out?
Julia Coney: So DLynn Proctor, he was one of the candidates in the original SOMM film from 2013, SOMM Documentary. So when I first really was writing about racism and wine, he just emailed and was like, “Hey, I saw your stories, they’re good. Let me know how I can help.” That’s literally what was this email out of the blue, and since then we’ve become friends.
Julia Coney: So when the movie was coming out he’s like, “Hey, do you want to see the movie in advance? Can you write a story about it?” And the same time he’s asking me, I am pitching. Can I pitch this stories to places, because I have to write about him, and what this movie actually means for a lot of Black … not all Black people, but a lot of Black people in wine. That’s one of the reasons he came on my watch party. I did a watch party for it, him and Prentice Penny came and answered questions for people at the end of the movie, to talk about it because it meant a lot. Not just his story, but to show a new perspective of what wine could look like.
Julia Coney: I think for a lot of younger people who watch Netflix, they probably never thought that much about wine, right?
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Julia Coney: It’s red, white, or pink.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, right.
Julia Coney: Now, it piques a lot of people’s curiosity. Because I get the emails, “I watched it, it was so good. Thank you for telling me about it.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yes. When you reflect on what it meant to you, would you be able to pull out some of those elements where you said, “Hey, after watching this, I felt this.” Or, “Here’s what it meant to me, as a Black wine professional.”
Julia Coney: As a Black, I felt proud because I have watched all the wine movies.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Julia Coney: Over and over again, and now I have a wine movie that, actually, I love the soundtrack, it is equally funny, and joyful, and sad, like a good movie should be. That’s how I look at it, at the end of the day, it’s still a good movie. And also, when you watch a lot of other … I don’t think there was a wine movie that I watched that was like, “Oh my God, this is the best ever,” or anything like that, but it also piqued my interest. It keeps me curious. That’s the one thing I want to stay is curious, right? So the movie still made me love that curiosity that wine brings, so put it up there. I love Bottle Shock, I love Sideways still because, once again, it keeps me curious. Wine is always so interesting and fascinating.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great. So Uncorked, if you haven’t watched it, a note for listeners to make sure to check that out. Also, you can queue up the Uncorked playlist, because that’ll be at the top of my list this week.
Bjork Ostrom: Speaking of Black Wine Professionals, we talked about that before. Tell me a little bit about launching this new initiative, the reasoning behind it. Jasmine, who we work with on our team, has Black Food Bloggers, I remember talking with her a little bit and something that really stuck out to me was she said … This was when Hands and Pans videos were getting really popular, and she said, “You just don’t see Black hands in those Hands and Pans videos.”
Julia Coney: You don’t.
Bjork Ostrom: I thought about that so much, and I think about that in the tech. I love tech, and you think of these tech videos and it’s been … Marques Brownlee who’s this tech, MKBHD, and it’s like oh it’s so nice to see Black hands, but you don’t see that as much, and he reflects on that and talks about that.
Bjork Ostrom: Talk to me about Black Wine Professionals, where does that come from? Is it a similar spirit, in regards to the need to create this community, and this place to highlight, and to surface those creators or professionals?
Julia Coney: Well, here’s what it … Did you watch my Instagram Live?
Bjork Ostrom: I watched some of it. Yeah, the most recent one?
Julia Coney: Well, the one called Your Silence is Betrayal?
Bjork Ostrom: I haven’t seen that one, no.
Julia Coney: So I went on Instagram when it was Blackout Tuesday. Looking at the silence of the wine industry, not wanting to take a stand on Black Lives Matter. You can see it now, it’s three weeks later, people are still like, “No, what should we do?” You’re watching people not taking a stand, not saying anything. I’d rather take people imperfect than perfect on what you stand, that’s how I look at that.
Julia Coney: So after the Live, I was just emotionally drained and I kept going, “What do I do?” Because I know PR people have reached out, “I just don’t know that many Black wine professionals. Do you know any, can you help?” Over the years they’ve asked, “Can you invite Black wine professionals to things?” Then when I realized, okay, if I want to create something and be a change, I have to make it. How do I do this?
Julia Coney: It’s only three weeks old, literally tomorrow, that I decided to create a database in a list service. So if someone wants a person to come to their event, and their event happens to be in Santa Cruz, California, just throw that out, here’s a list of people over there. But, if your event happens to be in Philly, here’s a list of Black wine professionals. When I say professionals, I don’t necessarily means somms.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure.
Julia Coney: Or, people on the floor. I mean if you’re in media, if you’re in marketing, if your job is in the wine industry, you can be an importer, a distributor. Here’s a list, so people can’t say they don’t know these people, they don’t know these people actually exist. Because now there’s this platform where I’m highlighting everything that these people are doing, also where they are. I plan to have a resource for jobs, because that’s one of the things about the wine industry, a lot of the jobs are word of mouth.
Julia Coney: Somebody who knows somebody, how do I …
Bjork Ostrom: Friends of friends, and if your only friends are white then that’s the only people you’re going to hire. Yeah.
Julia Coney: I’ve been encouraging people to email me so I can post job listed.
Bjork Ostrom: Cool.
Julia Coney: So these people who would never know, or never even think that … Some people don’t even know those kind of different jobs exist in the wine industry. Because I think when we think of wine industry, we really just think of the service part and we don’t see the sales, distribution, and things like that. So it is highlighting these people, so when the world opens back up whenever that may be, and we have these tastings again, here’s a list of people you can invite.
Julia Coney: Also, if people are looking for quotes from people, it’s kind of like a stagnant version of Help A Reporter Out.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure, yeah. For those who aren’t familiar with what that is, just so they understand that?
Julia Coney: Help a Reporter Out, I want to say it’s an email that comes out, you pick the categories and you literally help a reporter out with quotes if you’re an expert, or knowledgeable in that field, you help the reporter get a quote that they can put in a story. This is that version, that way if somebody’s writing about wine, and winemakers, or wine shops, and they need a person who lives in the area, they can go and say, “Okay, here’s five people, I can send the question to all five. That’s how I find them.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yes. It’s solving the problem of people coming to you and, essentially, asking you to be a recruiter?
Julia Coney: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: And building a solution around that, which is so smart, and so cool. I think that’s great.
Bjork Ostrom: It was interesting when you were talking about the silence piece and not taking a stand, this is going back to a quote that I’d read before from The Conscious Kid, we’ll link to this. It’s a Patreon thing, so some of it’s free, some of its available. But this was an article that Lindsay, my wife, sent me about talking about race to kids. I feel like it’s worth pointing out, because it’s been helpful for me to understand the role that silence plays. It divides it into three categories.
Bjork Ostrom: “Racial talk leads to greater racial understanding, and helps undermine the power of racist laws, structures, and traditions,” so that’s one. “Racist talk, on the other hand, helps to perpetuate the status quo, and to further entrench racial myths and stereotypes.” And then, this last piece which I think ties into the silence, it says, “Avoiding race talk makes race itself unspeakable, which in turn gives it a negative connotation.”
Bjork Ostrom: I think the question then becomes, what do you do to make sure that you are having these conversations, and actually talking about it? I’d be curious for you, Julia, to speak to those people who would maybe fall into the category of avoiding race talk right now. How do they walk across that bridge, to start having those conversations? It’s a really big, really difficult question with a lot of it depends, but if you were to hold their hand and be like, “We’re going to do this. I’m not going to hold your hand the whole time, but maybe for a little bit. Here’s how we can get across this bridge, and start to have some of these conversations.”
Julia Coney: Well I think, first, I will say this. I am very comfortable having the uncomfortable conversation about race. All Black people are not like that, so I think it could be reaching out. I’ve had more people reach out to me, and reach out to my friends who are talking about this, and just ask a simple, “What can I do?”
Julia Coney: I think also, right now, we live in a time of great resources. There are so many lists in Google telling people … I mean, if you go on the Amazon home page, my God, it’s a lot of books, right?
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Julia Coney: Which is great, so I think also learning, and I think books are a great way to start because you can do that on your own. I think that is a first step, is let me read something that will make me uncomfortable. Then, going from there, if your kids are in school, or you’re in school, you work with people, look at your surroundings. If you know you have coworkers that you probably never talked with about this, just reach out. If you’re already on a Zoom call, or later, just ask was there anything I said that I could have not said to you?
Julia Coney: It’s already there, it’s just you have to be okay with reaching out and saying that. I’m sure if a lot of people reached out to their coworkers and colleagues, they would find they would have the conversation.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Another quote from that article that I feel like ties into this, and I think it also ties into a little bit of what I hear you saying is this idea … We talk about, on the podcast a lot, this idea of 1% infinity, which essentially means getting all bit better, every day. I’ve been thinking about that personally, as it relates to deconstructing my own prejudices and biases, and knowing that it’s a forever pursuit, and work that I will always be doing.
Bjork Ostrom: The quote from this same article, this is the one talking about students and kids. It says, “Students should be encouraged to realize that no one is free of racist beliefs, therefore the aim is not to not have them, but rather to recognize them and access the content knowledge,” which I think is what you’re talking about with education, conversations, talking to people, “needed to refute them.” Then, this last piece I think is really important, and ties into the education piece again. “Self-awareness about race is a lifelong practice that asks us to notice race and racial biases consistently and critically.”
Bjork Ostrom: You can’t do that, but to continually introduce new angles, and views, and stories. And I know, even from this podcast, that will exist for people, that you have introduced stories, and ways for people to understand the world. And just a tiny, tiny little sliver of some of those stories will add to self-awareness that people have, which is such a gift that we so deeply appreciate.
Julia Coney: Well, I always say this …
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, please.
Julia Coney: Oh, I’ve got to say this, about wine. Also, when we talk about food, because I think food right now is also having the same moment. Is food political, is wine political? If we talk about it in that way, wine is considered a communal product, and the most important thing we’re missing is community. If we’re trying to bring everybody in, because we’re missing a big component that people want to support the business, people want to buy, it’s a multi-billion dollar industry. To think that you live in a world where only that money comes from a certain sect is a problem.
Julia Coney: So one of the things, and you’ll know this, too, if you go to restaurants or anything, I always say this. People want Black people’s swagger, but they don’t want the struggle. Because how many restaurants, or how many places I’ve gone, they’re playing hiphop music, right?
Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Julia Coney: They’re playing this music, and they’re not thinking maybe I shouldn’t play the one with the N word in the room, because hey … Notice if a Black person walked in, I don’t want to hear that. I mean, I just don’t. It’s little things like that to be conscious of.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it really feels like the self-awareness piece, which doesn’t exist unless you’re doing the work, and that was one of the things that I’ve heard you mention a couple different times is doing the work. I think what does that look like? It looks like listening to podcasts like this, it looks like reading articles, books.
Bjork Ostrom: Would there be other things that you would add to that list of what it looks like for people to do the work? I’ll say this. To do the work in a sustainable, long, forever pursuit. I think there’s one thing about doing the work in a time when a lot of people are doing the work, but what does it look like? And, what encouragement would you give to people to do that, sustainably, for a long period of time?
Julia Coney: So think about how we believe in working out, right? We’re not trying to work out for tomorrow, we’re trying to feel better in life. Look at it like maybe I should look around, and support a small, BIPOC, Black, Indigenous, people of color, I don’t know, condiment company. Just think about something, like if we go there. If we’re talking about wine, okay I know I normally order X amount of bottles a year. How many can I get of those that are actually made by Black people, made by a Mexican guy? How can I change the way … I’m not saying take all your stuff and throw it out, or anything like that. I’m just saying being conscious, as we do our health. Make it a priority to seek those things out.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s interesting, to tie it back to the tech industry, one of the conversations and articles that I read was about venture capital and businesses, and how the people you know in your circle are the people you end up working with, and the people that they know. If that circle, like for me growing up in small town Minnesota, is majority white, and if I don’t do the work to get outside of that, to think where are the Black owned businesses that I can shop at, or business owners, or order online, or people to follow, or podcasts to listen to, movies to watch, if I’m not intentional about that it’s going to be really easy for me to just sit inside of that circle. So that’s been a challenge that I know that I’ve had, that Lindsay’s been talking about, and I think that we’re bringing to podcast listeners now, which is such a valuable and worthwhile forever pursuit.
Bjork Ostrom: I know that it’s something that you have been talking about, been writing about for a really long time. I’m guessing we’ll continue to do that. Julia, if people are interested in following along with what you’re doing, if they’re interested in checking out your writing, or maybe working with you to do freelance, is that something that you’re doing? Can you do a quick little promo for what you’re up to, where people can find you? And we’ll link to those in the show notes, as well.
Julia Coney: Okay. I am Julia Coney, literally all my social is Julia Coney. You can find me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, all Julia Coney. I am freelancing, so I’m doing that. I’m also, right now, consulting on this topic so I’m doing virtual Zoom meetings with teams, to actually have this discussion as a team member, especially in the wine industry. To talk with the staff, while they’re slowly … especially places that are reopening, having this consciousness of understanding everything right now. I am working with that for people. But, Black Wine Professionals is launching next week, so I’m doing that. I’m still doing chats, and talks, and all that kind of stuff with people, about this.
Julia Coney: Because I will say, this is a movement that, as a Black person, feels very different than a lot of others things that have happened. It feels like a consciousness, literally we’re changing an entire culture. Everyone’s changing, not just us. We’re all changing, we’re all not standing for it, we’re all taking a stance on that. This is what we wanted, this is democracy for the people’s voices to be heard. That is where I am doing all that work. People can find me online, I try to answer all the DMs, there are a lot coming in. So if it takes a minute, or emails, just know I see them, it’s just a lot at the moment.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally. It’s not like quick, easy response, it’s an investment to have those conversations even if it’s an Instagram DM.
Julia Coney: Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Great. Julia, thanks so much for coming on.
Julia Coney: Thank you so much.
Bjork Ostrom: It was really great to talk to you, and to connect, and just really appreciate the work you’re doing, and the insights that you shared with our audience.
Julia Coney: Oh, thank you so much. I can’t wait to promote this, so I’m excited. And, read the other articles you were quoting from as well.
Bjork Ostrom: Great. Yeah, awesome. Well thanks Julia, appreciate it.
Julia Coney: Thank you.
Bjork Ostrom: One more big thank you to Julia for coming on and sharing her insights, her experience, her stories, something that is so extremely valuable for me, and my guess is that it is valuable for you as well.
Bjork Ostrom: I just want to share, one more time, the show notes, foodbloggerpro.com/258. My guess is that if you have listened to this podcast, there will be at least one, maybe two, handful of different articles that we reference that you might want to check out, and we will link to those in the show notes area so be sure to go there to check out those articles, and to follow along with Julia, and everything that she’s up to at Julia Coney in all social handles, as she mentioned. As well as her website, juliaconey.com.
Bjork Ostrom: Thanks so much for following along, for listening to this podcast. It’s one of the great joys that we have, is to be able to have these conversations and to share them with you. We appreciate you, and we’re excited to continue to do this next week, as we continue conversations with creators, influencers, and people who are working to build strong businesses, and to make an impact. Thanks, make it a great week.