One of the first Black master sommeliers is on a mission
Updated 1831 GMT (0231 HKT) May 23, 2022
(CNN)Carlton McCoy isn't from a family of wine lovers.
After dropping out of high school several times, he took a culinary class and discovered his love of wine. At 28, he became only the second Black master sommelier (today, he is one of three). Master sommelier is the highest distinction in the wine profession, requiring years of studying what makes wine taste a specific way and how to pair it with certain dishes.
Today, he is the president and CEO of a Napa winery and serves on the Court of Master Sommeliers' Diversity Committee. He is also the host of the new series "Nomad with Carlton McCoy," which follows the chef, master sommelier and expert traveler on his quest to find the places where food, music, art and culture collide.
In an effort to improve the diversity in the wine community, he co-founded The Roots Fund, which provides resources and financial support to Black and Indigenous populations passionate about wine. They're connecting young wine enthusiasts with scholarships, mentorships and career opportunities.
We asked McCoy to write a letter to the next generation of Black master sommeliers coming up behind him. The views expressed here are his own.
To the next generation of Black master sommeliers
I'd like to begin by congratulating you on such an enormous accomplishment. If your experience is anything like mine, you are perhaps drowning in a pool of disbelief, struggling to assess how you truly feel about it.
Achieving something that you have committed your life to for many years understandably can be overwhelming. Don't put pressure on yourself to feel any particular way about it. Let it be what it is for you. This is your experience and allow yourself to digest it in your authentic way.
For me, it wasn't until a year after becoming a master sommelier, that the significance of the achievement really sank in for me. I was frankly torn between being completely in shock and being afraid to accept what I had just done. A bit of impostor syndrome, something I still deal with to this day. My journey to that point was not a straight and easy road.
While the Black experience in the US is not a monolith, it is likely there were at least small aspects of our journeys that are likely to be similar. No one in my family drank wine. I don't think I had a glass