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AAAV Names Recipients of Inaugural Wine Entrepreneur Grant Program

The Association of African American Vintners (AAAV) announced the five recipients of its 2023 Wine Entrepreneur Grant. Each winner will receive $5,000 to positively impact their operations, marketing or innovation efforts and help grow their wine business. The awardees are:

  • Jon’ll & Matthew Boyd, Boyd Cru Wines (Maryland): A family-owned wine brand that believes wine is a common language but speaks to each person differently
  • Kindra Dionne, Fifty Leven Collection (Virginia): Wine options for people who want to enjoy wine that is luxurious and fun at the same time
  • Cheramie Aho, Cheramie Wine (Texas): A former US Marine on a mission to share Texas wine with the world
  • Aaliyah Nitoto, Free Range Flower Winery (California): Organic, sustainable and local wine made from flowers—not grapesTM
  • Dr. LaToya Thompson, Opulence Wines (Michigan): Innovative wines for the modern consumer with a focus on luxury

    “Many of our vintner members are balancing full-time jobs while self-funding their wine businesses. It is imperative that, as AAAV grows, we help members to accelerate their business growth and impact on the wine industry,” said AAAV Executive Director Angela McCrae. “We are grateful for the generous support of our donors who are helping AAAV make wine inclusive: consumers, small business owners, universities and wine retailers of all sizes.”

    Grant applications received by AAAV cited many barriers to winery growth, including state alcohol licensing fees, lack of marketing dollars and difficulty securing distribution. Black- owned wine brands are actively seeking funding to compete in the wine industry’s ecosystem that relies on access to quality agricultural resources, mass production and brand awareness.

    The first Wine Entrepreneur Grant recipients are all current AAAV members at the vintner or negociant level. They were selected by a panel of industry leaders in wine retail or distribution who individually reviewed and rated every application. The evaluators were:

  • Gina Cook, Portfolio Manager, CA Wine, Republic National Distributing Company
  • James Harris, CDP, Sr. Director, Diversity & Inclusion and Supplier Diversity, H-E-B
  • Lisa Lyon, Wine Buyer, Meijer
  • Dwight Phyall, Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Total Wine & More

    AAAV’s 2023 Wine Entrepreneur Grant Program was made possible by individual donations and the support of industry partners, including H-E-B, Meijer, Total Wine & More, Vino Volo, Scott Laboratories, 13 Celsius Wine Bar in Houston and Pasadena Wine Shop. To learn more about the fundraising campaign and donate, visit https://givebutter.com/aaavgrant.

    About the Association of African American Vintners

    The mission of the Association of African American Vintners (AAAV) is to increase diversity in the wine industry, build awareness of Black winemakers and provide guidance and financial assistance to students from underrepresented minorities pursuing careers in the wine industry. Visit aaavintners.org for more information, to donate and to purchase many AAAV member wines. Follow AAAV on Instagram and Facebook.

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