Raised in Chicago. Then off to college in North Carolina. Next was a move to the nation's capital for 12 years. And now Paris for the past 5 years. That's wine expert Tanisha Townsend's ex-pat story in a nutshell. But then there's the wine....
Uncorked on Netflix
On Friday, March 27, 2020, Netflix premiered Uncorked, a well done fictionalized story about a young African-American man named Elijah who wants to become a Master Sommelier and his bumpy journey from Memphis to Paris and back again.
If you've seen it, you know Elijah gets a chance to venture to Paris, and for all of my fellow Francophiles out there, it might have even sparked a bit of longing to see our beloved Paris on screen, particularly since it is currently out of reach.
Life Imitates Art
The first person I thought of when I saw that Uncorked was making its Netflix debut was my friend, wine expert (and Tracey Friley Travel Trip Leader) Tanisha Townsend, CSW, CSS, FWS of Girl Meets Glass. Tanisha's interview below uncorks her very own wine story which led her from Chicago to Paris.
Q: First things first. What did you think of the movie?
Tanisha: "I really enjoyed it! It SO reminded me of my life and telling people I was moving to Paris. I also loved seeing the Black family dynamic play out; seeing Black people in the streets of Paris; Elijah at the museum; and of course all of the emotions that go along with a journey like this."
Q: How specifically does Elijah's life parallel yours?
Tanisha: "My parents didn't really understand what I was doing, but there wasn't really any pushback. They were confused but supportive. Once I got to Paris, I initially felt a little overwhelmed and didn't see a lot of people who looked like me in the wine industry. The feelings that come with stepping out of the box and doing something completely different was something else I could relate to."
Q: Before we go any further, what's your background in wine? How did you get started?
Tanisha: "I got my Bachelors degree in Computer Science from NCAT and worked as an IT Security Consultant in D.C. after college. I worked on the side for a wine marketing company called Adventure Wine. That was my start; doing wine tastings and wine demos in wine shops and grocery stores around D.C. on the side. Mainly weekends."
Q: Where and how did you get those letters behind your name?
Tanisha: I got them in D.C. I'm a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW), a Certified Specialist of Spirits (CSS) and a French Wine Scholar (FWS). Those flash cards in the movie brought back memories of the wine exams I took and passed. [Laughter.] I am WSET Level 3. People either go the WSET route or the Sommelier route, like in the movie. I never wanted to work in restaurant service, so I took WSET. I also did CSW because I'm Black and knew I needed all of the letters behind my name for people to take me seriously.
Q: Were you taken seriously?
Tanisha: "Yes and no. Yes because I taught Wine 101 at Prince George's Community College in Maryland and yes, because I submitted a proposal to speak at the International Wine & Tourism Conference in Croatia in 2013 and it was accepted. No, because the owner of the conference later referred to me as "the colored lady" so I never did anything else with them after that. I did meet a woman who attended the conference in Croatia that changed my life though."
Q: How so?
Tanisha: "I got an offer from a woman in Croatia who was at my presentation. She invited me to be a guest lecturer for some wine courses at a business school in Paris."