Alumnae Wine Tasting with a Twist

On Wednesday, February 3, Hadley Douglas ‘92 joined Winsor alumnae for a unique and inspired virtual wine tasting event. Hadley and husband TJ, who founded Urban Grape in Boston back in 2011, have hosted a tasting for Winsor alums at their store for the past several years, and the event quickly became a Winsor favorite. This year’s virtual event was a first, and proved a huge success, enabling over 130 alumnae from all over the country to participate.  

In honor of Black History Month, and a mission close to the Douglas family’s heart, the event featured 3 wines from Black-owned wineries, and as TJ educated the group on each carefully chosen selection, and guided them through the tastings, he and Hadley also shared more about their journey in the wine industry and the Urban Grape story.

When they opened their first location 10 years ago, “It was TJ’s dream, and he really dragged me into it,” said Hadley with a laugh. “But I’m in it for good now. I’m in deep,” adding that all the skills she uses day-to-day to manage the marketing and communications, she learned at Winsor.  With a history in the restaurant business, TJ was often the only person of color in the room, and had always wanted to see more hospitality in the wine industry, and to see wine more accessible to everyone, particularly in a retail setting. So they set out to create a store in Boston that would be a welcoming hub, where they could demystify wine and help each customer find something they love, understand why the love it, and purchase with confidence. Their proprietary Progressive Scale, the basis for their best-selling book, Drink Progressively, has transformed how people understand and drink wine, and is just one way they continue to push the envelope.

In the store, Hadley and TJ have long raised awareness about and promoted Black-owned and Black-produced wines, which make up less than 1% of all wines, but 10% of Urban Grape sales. The tasting event was a wonderful way to celebrate those winemakers with alums, and to educate about the wine, the wine makers, their story, and the industry as a whole. 

Assistant Director of Young Alumnae Engagement and Leadership Giving Samantha Lovewell and Director of Alumnae Engagement Beth Peterson ‘80, P’11 worked closely with Hadley and TJ to organize the unique event, and to ensure the wines and pairing snacks arrived in time for the alumnae across the country to enjoy together.  Following the tasting, alums joined break out rooms to catch up with old friends and make new connections. And by the close of the evening, all were in agreement that a new Winsor tradition had just begun!

Learn more about the selections our alumnae enjoyed: 

McBride Sisters Sparkling Rosé (New Zealand)
Kumusha Sauvignon Blanc (South Africa)
Maison Noir "Horseshoes and Hand Grenades" Red (Oregon)

This June, Hadley and TJ launched an Award with Boston University’s Elizabeth Bishop Wine Studies Program to provide wine-industry education, mentoring, and work experience for students of color. The launch came in the wake of vandalism to the Urban Grape store during escalating protests on May 31--events which further underscored the need for positive change, both in the community, and the industry. Read the full story in the Winsor Winter Bulletin, mailing to the Winsor Community the third week of February.