Organizational Change
Jackson Family Wines Partners to Advance Industry Opportunities for Students of Color

JFW has become a key partner in the Urban Grape’s Wine Studies Award for Students of Color program — which uses a three-pronged approach of education, work experience and mentorship to increase DEI in the wine & spirits industry.

As the latest step in its commitment to cultivate a culture that supports diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) throughout the wine industry, Jackson Family Wines (JFW) is proud to partner with The Urban Grape to expand its Wine Studies Award for Students of Color.

Founded in 2020 to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Boston's The Urban Grape — a Black- and woman-owned wine store, and one of the country's most successful independent wine stores — the Wine Studies Award for Students of Color uses a three-pronged approach of education, work experience and mentorship to break down barriers to the beverage industry. The program’s goal is to create opportunities for career advancement and prepare students from underrepresented groups for long and prosperous careers in the wine industry that can grow generational wealth among its participants, while also increasing industry diversity.

As part of this partnership, JFW will host the three-month paid winery internship phase of the program to provide real-world, on-the-job training to the scholarship winners so that they gain experience working in a winery setting across disciplines of viticulture, winemaking, sales and marketing, and other aspects of operating a winery business. The California-based winemaker is also supporting the program financially by covering some participant expenses during the internship, including travel and housing.

Diversifying an industry is hard work. Many large wine-industry businesses promised big changes in 2020; but very few followed through with actionable programs. Jackson Family Wines is one of the few companies we’ve seen that has not walked away from this conversation, but has instead found ways to dig in even deeper and to commit for the long haul,” said Hadley Douglas, co-founder and President of The Urban Grape and Progressive Wine Company. “Jackson Family Wines’ desire to work with us to grow this program shows that change can happen when small and large businesses join their resources together,” she added.

As part of its 'Rooted for Good' Roadmap to 2030 climate-action and social-responsibility initiative, JFW committed to growing and supporting talent from BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and other groups currently underrepresented in the wine and spirits industry. Over the past two years, the company has spent significant time and resources to make an immediate impact towards more DEI within the company and the industry; including establishing the IDEA Alliance (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Awareness) — an employee-led taskforce that brings together employees of different genders, age groups, and ethnic and cultural backgrounds from across all levels of the organization to lead efforts around building an inclusive culture that gives employees a voice and sense of belonging, while also establishing key initiatives and partnerships to strengthen recruitment & talent acquisition through learning, recognition, training and career development.

“We’re proud to continue making progress on building opportunities for people of color within the wine industry through meaningful partnerships with leading changemakers, like TJ and Hadley Douglas,” says Katie Jackson, second-generation proprietor and SVP of Corporate Social Responsibility at Jackson Family Wines. “Building more diversity, equity and inclusion within the global wine industry remains a priority for Jackson Family Wines and we’re excited to make an impact through the Urban Grape Wine Studies Award for Students of Color program.”

“Too often over my 25 years in the wine industry I’ve been the only person of color in the room. My wife, Hadley, and I began this program to change that experience for future generations,” says Urban Grape founder and CEO TJ Douglas. “Originally, I thought that opening my own successful wine business would be my legacy; but now I know that helping to diversify the industry — both who works in it and who sees themselves represented by it — is my real life’s work.”

As the 10-year anniversary of The Urban Grape approached, the Douglases knew that they wanted to create a program that would increase opportunities for professionals of color to advance in the wine industry — which spawned the Award for Students of Color. The Douglas family began the fund with a $10,000 contribution on June 22, 2020; and active fundraising helped grow an endowment fund at Boston University to over $225,000.

The Urban Grape Wine Studies Award for Students of Color offers four key components to help students of color receive the education, experience and mentorship needed to build a successful career within the beverage and wine industry:

  • Education: Participants in the program complete four levels of education at the Boston University Certificate Program in Wine Studies. These full-semester classes include seminars and tasting sessions; and provide a working knowledge of wine varietals and regions, the history of wine, and the wine industry.

  • Paid internships: During the program, participants complete four paid industry internships with the program partners: The Urban Grape, wine and spirits producer MS Walker, and restaurant Row 34 in Boston; and Jackson Family Wines in Sonoma County. This allows the participants to learn four sides of the beverage industry — retail, restaurants, distribution and production — with a focus on areas including operations, marketing, customer experience and wine-making. From here, the students are able to clearly evaluate which segments of the industry interest them most for career opportunities.

  • Mentorship: Learning how to navigate the beverage industry, create opportunities for growth, and plan for long-term success in a new career are all key components to this program’s success. Mentorship meetings take place every two weeks throughout the program.

  • Job placement: Upon completion of the program, participants can use industry connections for informational and job interviews, and are supported throughout the job-placement process. JFW will also work with the participants at the conclusion of the program to identify job opportunities to support their career-advancement goals.

“The Urban Grape Wine Studies Award for Students of Color is unmatched in its ability to forge a pathway for BIPOC into the wine industry. The program has given me an educational foundation to understand that every bottle of wine tells a story and that foundation, coupled with the deep industry work experience gained from the internship component of the program, opened me up to the vast opportunities within wine,” says Suhayl Ramirez, Director of Consumer Engagement at Trois Noix Winery and graduate of The Urban Grape Wine Studies Award for Students of Color. “The program effectively changed the course of my entire professional life. This partnership with Jackson Family Wines is an exciting point of expansion for the program and I look forward to the impact it will have on future cohorts entering the wine industry.”

Applications for the 4th cohort of the program opened on January 23, 2023. Learn more and apply at https://theurbangrape.shop/pages/wine-studies-award.

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