Vinica Education Society’s 2021 training program for aspiring BIPOC wine professionals launched new leaders into the BC wine industry.

The 12 week comprehensive leadership program provided wine industry free training for 21 BIPOC British Columbians in January-April 2021 with funding provided by the Government of B.C. Program participants had the opportunity to complete the globally recognized Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) levels 2 and 3, as well as the BC Wine Ambassador program levels 1 and 2 from Wine Growers BC. Cultural empowerment classes and job coaching were provided by Vinica. Additionally, the participants were paired with top BIPOC wine mentors from across the globe, and gained experience through internships at BC wineries, retailers, distributors, writers and restaurants. Vinica’s program graduates have since been making their mark on the BC wine industry as managers, winemakers and other diverse leadership-level wine careers.

Vinica alumna Karen Chapman at Black Market Winery

Karen Chapman is program graduate and an Indigenous wine professional working in the vineyard and tasting room at a boutique Similkameen Valley winery. “The Vinica program really fuelled my passion for the wine industry. I was able to achieve my WSET3 certification with merit, which built my wine knowledge and my confidence.” Working as an airline attendant before the pandemic, Chapman had considered expanding her career into wine, but didn’t think she would be taken seriously in the industry. Her new credentials and internship experience helped her land her 2020 position at Black Market Winery. “I just love being amongst the vines.” Now Chapman divides her time between flying and the vineyard.

Vinica alumna Claudia Fandino at Barbara Restaurant

Other program participants were already in the wine and hospitality industries but faced barriers to advancement. Claudia Fandino, a Latina wine professional originally from Colombia, commented “not seeing other BIPOC people in the industry made it intimidating. But now there is a community of us in leadership positions, and my perspective has changed. I belong here.” Fandino is the general manager of Barbara Restaurant in Vancouver, creating the restaurant’s avant-garde wine list and managing the front of house. “Vinca has made all the difference to my career. I gained new skills, now hold the WSET3 credential with merit, and possibilities are endless.”

Vinica alumna Sonal Singh working from her home office.

Sonal Singh’s had put her career in culinary arts on to start a family. The Indian wine professional’s participation in the Vinica program exposed her to industry careers she didn’t even know existed before. “My internship was with Michaela Morris, a global wine writer for Decanter magazine. Thanks to her guidance, I was able to write articles for Quench magazine, and I still join Michaela to assist with blind wine tastings for her articles. It’s such an amazing ongoing learning opportunity.” Singh now works as a social media contractor for Terroir Consulting, managing projects for multiple BC wineries. “I was interested in wine but didn’t know where to start or how to get into the industry. The Vinica program opened so many doors for me, right into a professional consulting career. The BC wine industry is small, but it is incredibly welcoming.”

Vinica’s Equity in Wine Leadership will be offered again in early 2022, with funding provided by the Government of B.C., and the Government of Canada through the Canada-British Columbia Workforce Development Agreement, and additional support from Wine Growers BC and the Wine and Spirit Education Trust. Aspiring BIPOC wine professionals interested in careers the BC wine industry should visit vinica.ca to learn more and apply.

with additional support from: