A trio of Silicon Valley restaurants found a creative way to support the Asian American and Pacific Islander community this month: a Flight for Allyship, made up of three wines by Bay Area-based Asian American winemakers.
Vine Dining Enterprises, which owns Left Bank Brasserie, Meso and LB Steak, will serve the $18 flight through April and 15% of the proceeds will go toward scholarships and grants to create a more diverse and inclusive wine and restaurant industry. The company worked with Diversity in Wine and Spirits to curate the drinks and program. The wines will be added to the restaurants’ main wine lists after the end of the month.
The company’s Wine Director and Sommelier, Serena Harkey, said she was inspired to offer more diversity and showcase under-represented winemakers after last summer’s nationwide Black Lives Matter protests.
“For us as a business, this is an opportunity to reflect and see how we can have an impact through the products we purchase,” Harkey said.
While the original goal was to showcase Black-owned wineries and winemakers, Harkey has since expanded the effort by researching and purchasing products from Black winemakers, women winemakers, LGBTQIA winemakers—and now AAPI winemakers.
“We really wanted to emphasize these under-represented winemakers,” she said. “We want to showcase really quality wines from producers that aren’t getting the recognition they deserve.”
One of those winemakers is Kale Anderson, who started Kale Wines in 2008 with his wife Ranko and features his McGah Vineyard rosé in the flight. Anderson hopes the exposure will drive drinkers’ curiosity about the rich Asian American history in California’s wine and agriculture industries—after all, his family is part of it.
Anderson’s great grandparents immigrated from the Philippines to the United States before the Great Depression, worked in agriculture and became one of the first Asian landowners in California, buying property in Los Banos.
With more than 20 years in the industry, Anderson is among the youngest winemakers to receive 100 points from Robert Parker, one of the most influential wine critics in the world.
“Most of the industry is white, a lot of the industry is male, and there’s not nearly as much diversity in the wine industry as there is in other industries,” Anderson said. “But I never believed that [my race or representation] discouraged me, maybe that was just a lesson from my parents — I’ve tried to use it as an advantage.”
Kenny Likitprakong is featuring his Ghostwriter Pinot Noir and Hobo Wine Co. Cabernet Sauvignon in the new flight. He grew up around an Asian-owned winery where his father still works. He later launched his own label, Banyan, in 2002 to pair with food at Thai restaurants. “I could probably name less than five Asian winemakers—it’s a small group,” Likitprakong says.
He hopes the Flight for Allyship sets an example in the industry.
“Any business that is willing to change what they’re already doing to bring more awareness on a few different levels is great,” he said. “It’s good to remind customers that they’re always making decisions, like with what they buy to drink.”
Anderson hopes the Flight for Allyship will inspire more conversation about Asian American representation in the wine industry.
“Now, there aren’t a lot of us anymore—we are some of the few, and we are now business owners in an industry and a state that complicated our lives back in the day,” he said. “It’s a sad part of our history and culture, but it’s a story that needs to be shared.”