Black Master Sommelier trying to diversify wine industry

For Vincent Morrow, wine is a lifestyle.

The funny thing is, the Michelin-recognized Master Sommelier didn’t like the first wine he tasted. "On the first taste, I spit it out and dumped it," he laughed.

Little did he know, years later, he would go on to graduate with a wine business degree from Sonoma State University, and work in tasting rooms, restaurants, and even in vineyards harvesting. 

"The best sommeliers understand how to do every job," he said.

Morrow was named 2022 Michelin Guide California’s Sommelier of the Year and 2022 VinePair’s Next Wave Sommelier of the Year. He currently works as the Beverage Director at Press, a Michelin-star restaurant in Saint Helena, and is doing what he can to make it an accessible career for people like him.

There are four tiers of sommelier certification. The highest is the Master Sommelier. There are less than 300 Master Sommeliers in the world and only four of them are Black.

"It’s a small number that, for me, I want to see grow in the future," Morrow said.

He said he is a part of the diversity committee for the Court of Master Sommeliers, the organization that facilitates certification.

"When you see someone that looks like you achieve something like that, I would hope that would be inspiring for others," Morrow said.

It takes a substantial amount of money and time to become a Master Sommelier. You have to prepare for the three-part test, which includes blind tasting, mock table service, and a rigorous oral exam. 

Morrow said the committee began partnering with different hospitality programs in colleges and universities, targeting young, underrepresented people who might not know a career in the wine industry exists. 

He believes early exposure is the key to changing the demographic of wine experts. "My goal is for this to become more common in an academic setting, where people feel like they can go for it."

But to get where you’re going, you can’t forget where you’ve come from. "Our industry was really built on the backs of immigrants," Morrow commented.

Rachel Candelaria, general manager of press, said, "It’s not just about the wine it’s about the stories of the people behind the wine and the legacy."

Telling the story of each bottle as he goes, Morrow is building a new legacy.