Julia Coney, Social Visionary of the Year | Wine Enthusiast's 2020 Wine Star Awards
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‘My Work is to be a Blessing to Others,’ Says Julia Coney, Social Visionary of the Year | Wine Enthusiast’s 2020 Wine Star Awards

Founder, Black Wine Professionals; Wine Writer, Educator and Consultant

In a time where tensions are high and uncertainty looms, we crave relentless truth.

That’s what makes Julia Coney such a treasure: She is always going to serve up honesty, whether it’s in a wine review, blog post or sharing her personal experience.

Coney entered the wine industry in 2016. Since then, she has unapologetically blazed her trail as a thought leader, mentor, writer, educator and a powerful advocate determined to create space for other wine professionals who look like her. In January 2018, for example, she made her voice heard and priorities known in an open letter to famed wine writer Karen McNeil, expressing her disdain for the lack of Black women within the wine industry.

“I am able to do my work because of Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher,” she says. “Their work has inspired me for years.”

While the broader wine community seemed to suddenly recognize there was an issue of diversity and inclusion within the industry in June of this year, after #Blackout Tuesday, Coney had already been raising her voice about the problem.

That moment was a turning point for her.

“I created Black Wine Professionals (BWP) the morning after going live on Instagram [in June] and sharing my experiences with racism in the wine industry,” she says. “I was just frustrated, and all the frustrations of I can’t be the only black person on these media lists.”

Now a resource not only for Black men and women in wine, BWP is also for those industry professionals who often say that they have trouble finding Black wine lovers to participate in press trips, marketing campaigns and other wine-related activations.

Julia Coney headshot
Photo by Amy Mullarkey

When asked what it means to be a social visionary, Coney said she hadn’t even thought about it until she received the nomination for the award.

“When I look at the bigger picture, a social visionary sees the world in a bigger light,” she says. “I think about my legacy often, and that legacy is a legacy of service, to highlight, promote, encourage, engage, lift up, amplify and support marginalized people who look like me and marginalized people of color.”

The last few months for Coney have been a roller coaster of emotions, work and realizing it is her duty, honor and privilege to work for those who feel they don’t have a voice in the wine space.

“My mother often told me, ‘we are blessed to be a blessing,’ and my work is to be a blessing to others, to highlight others to make the wine space approachable, engaging, educational and fun,” she says.

Coney recognizes that she has allies in this fight.

“There are a number of organizations,” she says. “Not only Black Wine Professionals, but The Roots Fund, Wine Unify and even BAME [Wine Professionals], an organization in the United Kingdom, that are doing the work. It is a process, and we all need grace—those that are doing the emotional labor and work, and those who are working to provide a safe space for BIPOC people in this industry.”

For her voice, passion, determination to change this industry for the better and the inspiration she’s provided to up-and-coming Black wine professionals, Wine Enthusiast is proud to honor Julia Coney as our Social Visionary of the Year. —Chasity Cooper

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