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· wine,wine with kyla,wine educator,winemaker,black history month

In honor of Black History Month, I was asked to join the Instagram #BlackWineStoryMonth Tour. The online event allowed Black winemakers, educators, and influencers to discuss our journey in wine. On February 17th, I shared my story...

I still have the email inviting me to meet winemaker Jonathan Branch for the Georgia premier of Branch Cellars, small batch wines from Napa. At the event, we sampled his 2005 Branch Cellars “Animae” red blend. Predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon -with a little Petit Verdot- it was pure artistry in a glass!

The wine displayed a deep ruby red color with aromas and flavors of blueberry, cocoa and cedar. It was so well-balanced and textured with an impressively long finish. I remember him saying “Bordeaux long”. I overheard someone exclaim that the wine was a standout now, but would be beautiful in a few years. That was the first time I bought wine to hold.

Jonathan said he first heard the word “animae” at a small cafe in Italy. When he asked the waitress what it meant she said “wine with soul”. This touched him deeply because his family in Texas were farmers. They grew their own food in the backyard and prepared every meal with love and from the soul.

We chatted after the event discussing entrepreneurship, discrimination in the wine industry and pursuing your passion. That conversation was pivotal for me and I understood my purpose, and potential, with even greater clarity.

I had already put my corporate marketing background to good use with the founding of Grape Crush Productions in 2006. I went from coordinating events like the Lighting of Macy’s Great Tree at Lenox Square to creating the annual Buckhead Wine Festival and Organic Wine & Food Fair. Taste of Atlanta was a client for many years. My “Grape Girls”, a fleet of trained wine ambassadors, hosted corporate and social tastings. I went on to open Savor Wine Boutique (2013) because so many people loved the wines we presented at events, but couldn’t find at retail. We hosted winemakers from around the world and held weekly educational classes and wine workshops.

This year marks my 15th in the biz! My new venture, Cork Camp, is a culmination of everything I’ve done in the past with a full launch coming post-COVID.

Jonathan no longer makes wine and my last bottle of his is long gone, but to this day, I’m constantly searching for “animae” - wine with soul.

Keep following my wine journey on Instagram & Twitter @winewithkyla.


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