I am thrilled to introduce my readers to Zuri Wine Tasting and its owner Tuanni Price. I was first made aware of Zuri Wine Tasting and Tuanni Price after the Napa Valley Wine Train incident in which book club members, who were predominately African-American, were escorted off the train for laughing. The incident caused an uproar in social media and produced the hashtag #laughingwhileblack. On Facebook I noticed several postings about Zuri Wine Tasting encouraging support of this black owned wine company. I am a strong supporter of small businesses, black owned businesses and female entrepeneurs so I reached out to Tuanni for this interview. I knew Zuri Wne Tasting would be a perfect addition to the wine section of my blog.
TSL: Tell us about yourself-where are you from, what is your background, where do you live?
Tuanni: My name is Tuanni price, I am the owner of Zuri Wine Tasting. I was born and raised in Los Angeles. I own a wine tasting and tour business. This is my 5th year in business and recently I purchased a small wine tour bus.
TSL: When did you start having an interest in wine? What steps did you take to pursue that passion?
Tuanni: I first started having an interest in wine years ago when I worked for a 5 star hotel, the St. Regis. I worked in the accounting department and as a thank you for a job well done my manager treated me to a complimentary dinner. I took my Mother and sister to this dining experience. It was my first time “hosting” which meant I was responsible for the wine selection. I remember the evening so clearly. The Sommelier who offered the wine list was basically no help. He was a snob (now that I think about it maybe he just didn’t know better). Anyway, the wine ordering ceremony: selecting, seeing, swirling… was a bit overwhelming. At the time I knew nothing about wine. After that night I decided to learn all that I could about wine and started a wine club with my girlfriends. We had a great time learning about wine. I fell in love with the lifestyle of wine!
TSL: How did the idea of Zuri Wine Tasting come to be a reality?
Tuanni: Our wine club lasted for a couple years. After it ended, I continued to force my friends and family to come to my home and eat while they listened to anything new that I learned about wine. I have a talent for helping people identify their palates and pairing foods with wines. I like to encourage folks to think outside of their norm. The feedback I received was positive and people recommended that I start a business. Of note, I grew up in South Central L.A. and I had just found out what a sommelier was a couple of years before working at that hotel. I had no idea what I could do or wanted to do. I did know that I made wine fun and easy for people so I built a business model based on that.
TSL: Tell us about “toast to diversity” and your motto of “wine is complicated, we make tasting simple”.
Tuanni: In reference to “wine is complicated, we make tasting simple”: A lot of people feel intimated by wine, its complicated with its hard to pronounce names like Viognier (grape varietal) and in America it seems like something a certain class of people drink. I like erasing all the myths that people have about wine. Wine as a beverage has its own culture and lifestyle. The only requirement is an open mind and ready taste buds. In my wine classes, I start with the basic way to approach wine, starting with the five steps and even going over pronunciations. On my business cards, and even on the back of my bus, are wine pronunciation guides. This helps! I have had customers stick with one type of wine because they are afraid to pronounce something wrong when ordering. I started hosting tours after my first experience at Rideau Vineyard in Santa Ynez. Its two hours north of Los Angeles. When I visited the beautiful wine tasting room I was amazed. I had not realized that this beautiful wine country was so close to my hometown. Before that, I thought like many others that you had to travel to Napa Valley to experience great wine in a beautiful setting. Little did I know that Santa Ynez Valley offers all that and even more. I wanted to make it simple for people to have the same experience as I did.
In reference to “toast to diversity”: There are a couple things that come to mind when I think about the word diversity. The first is inclusion and recognition of everyone involved in the wine making process. Most consumers buy wine off grocery store shelves and have no idea about the people and the passion that went into making the wine. I like to celebrate everyone involved from the grape pickers, wine makers, tasting room mangers, distributers and of course the consumers. The second thing that comes to mind is supporting family owned businesses, women and other minorities who historically do not have a lot of access to the capital it takes to make and distribute fine wine.
TSL: What services does Zuri Wine Tasting provide and in which areas?
Tuanni: We are based out of Los Angeles. We service the entire area from Orange County to Calabasas. Our services include Private In-Home Tastings, Corporate Wine Tasting Events, Private and Group tours for up to 50 people.
TSL: Have you found it difficult to forge your way in the wine industry as a black woman/minority?
Tuanni: Nope not at all! The wine business and the people in it are amazing. I have tasting room owners in both Santa Ynez and Napa Valley that welcome my groups and treats us like queens. Sometimes I get upset because they have so much fun with us that they just keep pouring and laughing and get us off schedule. The advice and feedback that I receive from my peers in the wine business is usually very positive and helpful. We host a booth each year at the LA Wine Fest. There are thousands of patrons and our booth, which is staffed by the beautiful Zivas (wine tasting Divas) in the picture, has the most foot traffic and fun. People in general love our energy and our service. After the last pour of wine that is really all that matters.
TSL: What is your relationship with black owned wineries and wine makers?
Tuanni: The best part of being in the wine business is that new friends are usually wine makers. I have a tour and a dinner series that focuses on black wine makers. I love it because I will send out a message and they support me as much as I support them. For example, I have a tour that visits Iris Rideau’s Rideau Vineyard each month. I am the only group that she takes time with to give a personal tour and she even lets us pour directly from the stainless steel tanks before the wine is even bottled. Having a good relationship with black people in the business helps provide personal and memorable experiences to my guests.
TSL: What was your reaction to the predominantly black book club members being escorted off the Napa Wine Train?
Tuanni: My only reaction is to make my brand more visible so that people, no matter your race, have more options. Options that encourage laughter, loudness and fun like on a Zuri Wine Tasting tour. I am grateful for the attention that I have received over the past couple days. It has definitely increased my brand awareness. However, I have been in business for 5 years building a great reputation and providing excellent customer service. My hope is that people will book based on my reputation, the quality of our tours and not just as an angry alternative.
TSL: How can people contact you to take your tours or book wine tasting classes?
Tuanni: Visit my website zuriwine.com or call 424.222.WINE(9463) for more information.
TSL: What advice do you have for female entrepreneurs and women interested in a career in the wine industry?
Tuanni: My advice to female entrepreneurs and women interested in the wine business is to be creative, find your niche and just go for it!
Thank you to Tuanni, the owner of Zuri Wine Tasting, for this informative interview! I thoroughly enjoyed learning about you and your brand. I look forward to my next trip to Los Angeles to do the Santa Ynez/Rideau Vineyard tour and the Malibu Wine Country tour! I am sure my readers will be in touch for one of your many wonderful wine tasting services! Have you done a Zuri Wine Tasting tour? If so share your thoughts with us below!