The Urban Grape Wine Studies Award for Students of Color will equip students to pursue wine careers in agriculture, hospitality, retail, distribution, and more. 

By Oset Babür
July 14, 2020
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Greta Rybus

After a decade of running The Urban Grape wine shop in Boston’s South End neighborhood, owners TJ and Hadley Douglas are taking a good, hard look at their legacy in the wine business. “I’m now in my twentieth year of being in hospitality and wine in Boston this year, and I’m still one of the only people of color here,” says TJ. 

Through a three-pronged program inspired by TJ’s education through Boston University’s Certificate Program in Wine Studies, students of color will have the opportunity to train alongside winemakers, distributors, sommeliers, and chefs. The Urban Grape Wine Studies Award for Students of Color, which began with a $10,000 contribution from the Douglases themselves, will accept applications through August 15.

The first selected student, whom they hope will serve as an ambassador for future classes, will rotate through three stages of work experience: internships with chef Tiffani Faison of Big Heart Hospitality, wine distributor MS Walker, and, of course, The Urban Grape.

“Hopefully when we turn into a 501c3 foundation, we’ll have a fourth prong of education to add onto this program” says TJ. “We’d really like to bring a winery into this.”

There’s no one set professional goal in mind for students who complete the program. “You’ll learn every single aspect of the wine industry, and you’ll have this ridiculous network of people, plus the education both on paper and in terms of your work experience to do whatever you want," says TJ. "If you want to work at a winery in France, open up your wine store, or if you wanna start a wine studies program at a historically black college or university, you’ll have the experience."

While the WSET prepares students to write or educate about wine, and the Court of Master Sommeliers is aimed towards the hospitality industry, TJ says he is especially excited to create a program that equips students with the tools to choose how they want to apply their knowledge and training. “It really is about creating generational change in the industry,” Hadley adds.

“Even over the years, I have had to go through my resume and explain why I’m selling you a bottle of wine, so you believe me that I have the credentials,” TJ says. “Hopefully, this award will help change that.”

You can make a contribution to fund the Urban Grape Wine Studies Award for Students of Color here.