Gwen Hurt & Terricinia St. Clair
Owner, Gwen Hurt
Shoe Crazy Wine
Owner, Terricinia St. Clair
The Tipsy Sommelier
Daughters of Dionysus
By Jacklyn E. Bruce
For a handful of pioneering women of color in Richmond, the goals they set for themselves as young girls may not have included working in the wine industry, but by raising their glasses to viticulture, they are representing different sides of a dynamic prism. Wine enjoys almost universal acceptance, served throughout religious, secular, celebratory, and culinary realms. Two women in wine, Gwen Hurt and Terricinia St. Clair, joined us for a roundtable discussion at a time when Virginia is seeing unprecedented growth in the industry. Known historically for its conservative “blue laws,” it remains one of only a handful of states with heavily regulated production and distribution of alcoholic beverages. With nearly one billion dollars in sales and a robust wine tourism backdrop of well over 250 vineyards, Virginia is now the country’s twelfth largest wine producer. The wine gods are smiling down upon us.
How did you initially get involved with the wine industry, and what role do you play in it today?
GH: I became engaged with the industry through my private label wine company. I currently own the Shoe Crazy Wine brand, which I started in 2013, and I am also a wholesale distributor. I represent one black-owned vineyard and will be adding two more this year.
TSC: I entered the wine industry shortly after completing a sommelier certificate program with the United States Sommelier Association. In one casual conversation after the next, I was hearing the same thing, which was, "I love wine, but I don't know much about it...and wine is so intimidating..." I opened The Tipsy Sommelier and created classes that share wine knowledge in a fun, interactive manner. I've since expanded my offerings to include sommelier services, such as pairing wines for dinner clubs and restaurants. I also host wine-related events and winery tours for corporate teams, bridal parties, clubs, and communities.
What are the major trends you are noticing in the wine industry today that will stick around for the foreseeable future?
GH: I’m noticing more nontraditional packaging for wines, including kegs and cans for example. Millenials are looking for portable packaging, and restaurants are looking for kegs for by-the-glass wine sales, which are more cost-effective than bottles. The average wine buyer is going to a softer palate wine, like semi-sweet and off-dry wines. There has been a decline in sales of the big oak and bold wines.
TSC: Urban wineries are popping up everywhere (the last place I visited was in Chester), which is really fantastic! I'm seeing the use of indigenous grapes and wine from regions not known for winemaking, like Turkey for example. Red blends are still hot, and organic and biodynamic wines are on the rise.
Read More in Volume 2
Jacklyn E. Bruce
Illustration by Emily Herr