When the Michigan Wine Collaborative’s Inclusion and Expansion Committee first developed its scholarship fund a couple of years ago, donations were only trickling in, says committee Chair Chuck Jackson.
The purpose of the fund is to help cover the educational expenses of students of color in the state of Michigan who are seeking to gain wine service certifications or wine production training and education.
“When Brian Lillie from Chateau Chantal proposed the idea of [making] a [wine] blend that would directly benefit the fund, it was like a godsend,” says Jackson, who is also the owner of Domaine Detroit Brands. “We realized this was an opportunity to include underrepresented people in the industry in creating this wine. It gave them a chance to work with a leader in Michigan wine on creating a blend.”
In the “Dream Team” behind the blend’s creation were Jackson; Lillie, vice president of the Collaborative and director of hospitality operations and distribution at Chateau Chantal; Brian Hosmer, head winemaker at Chateau Chantal; Peter King and Merrick Steele, owners and winemakers at Drew Ryan Wines; and Shatawn Brigham, co-owner and sommelier at GRNoir Wine and Jazz.
Together, they created The Dream, a semisweet white blend that includes Pinot Blanc, Gewürztraminer, and Auxerrois. The wine is hitting the shelves of major retailers, including Meijer and Total Wine & More, this month. A dollar from every bottle sale goes toward the scholarship fund.
“This project is a personification of the collaborative work in the community,” Jackson says. “We went through so many processes and included so many diverse individuals to create this.”
Two months earlier, the in-progress wine was already making an impression at House of Pure Vin in Detroit. There, several tasting panelists were helping the Dream Team finalize the blend.
“The blend is potentially one of Michigan’s finest,” says Regina Gaines, owner of House of Pure Vin and one of the panelists. “It was produced for a great purpose with an amazing team behind it. I think it is a game changer, and I’m excited to witness this project.”
Lillie believes that consumers will feel the same way: “My mantra has always been ‘Wine unites us all,’ and this wine provides people with a way to contribute to something incredible and receive a great bottle of wine in the process to share with their friends and families.”
With 500 cases of wine produced, both Jackson and Lillie are confident The Dream will have a major impact on the scholarship fund and will consequently improve inclusion and diversity in the Michigan wine industry.
Misha Byrd, a wine student and one of the tasting panelists, agrees.
“I was very excited to be a part of this initiative because it gives back to the community and provides opportunity for people of color to continue wine studies and gain experience within the industry, which is not always readily accessible,” she says. “As a student of wine that has received scholarships to continue my studies, I know firsthand how expensive it can be to afford some of the classes and certification tests for wine education.”
The Collaborative’s Inclusion and Expansion Committee plans to continue producing The Dream on a yearly basis. Per a press release from the Collaborative, the 2022 blend will be available for $20 a bottle at Total Wine & More, House of Pure Vin, GRNoir, and Meijer. Additional donations to the Collaborative’s Inclusion and Expansion scholarship fund can be made at michiganwinecollaborative.com/the-dream-wine-collaboration.