Meet the Napa Valley Sommelier Pushing for Inclusivity in the Wine World
DLynn Proctor, producer of Netflix’s ‘Uncorked,’ co-founded Wine Unify to foster wine education and to amplify voices of people of color within the industry.
DLynn Proctor has been an integral player in the wine industry for more than two decades as a sommelier, wine educator, and now the director of Fantesca Estate & Winery (where he hosts private tastings). The Napa Valley wine pro co-founded Wine Unify last year to foster wine education for underrepresented minority groups, and to amplify the voices of people of color within the industry, through awards, mentorship, and more. We spoke with DLynn about producing and starring in the Netflix film Uncorked, and how his work with Wine Unify is changing the wine game for the better.
Why wine? Why become a sommelier?
I only had three choices—from my vantage point. It was either food, wine, or winemaking. I’m a bit too outgoing to be in the kitchen, and need a bit more interaction with people to be a full-time winemaker, so I chose a position that constantly kept me in front of people and engaged in conversations which included history, travel, family stories, and anecdotes.
How did Wine Unify come about?
It was time for a change in the industry. People of color and women have been screaming for equity and access for years. There was no better time than 2020. We will give access to education, access to wines, access to glassware, access to wine devices such as the Coravin, access to purchasing wine and books. We will continue to give access to mentors, some of which are the best and brightest in the industry and have been successful for two or three decades. There is no ceiling for Wine Unify.
What part did you play in Uncorked, which follows a man on his journey to become a master sommelier?
I was fortunate to have [director] Prentice Penny and [producer] Datari Turner help bring a little bit of my story to life in the film. I was given the script by Prentice to add in some details about my journey. I was delighted to be on set to help guide these brilliant actors and show them some behind the scenes into my world as well.
How do you feel this film helped inspire others to pursue their dreams?
Besides being seen by so many people, many people of color were now introduced and exposed to a world they didn’t otherwise know existed. Now they can look to this as a path to working/operating/owning in the space of restaurants, wine bars, hotels, distribution, supply, and wineries.
Do you feel that you were often one of few people of color in your industry?
I have been one of the few since the late ’90s and professionally since the early 2000s. Let’s not forget Alicia Towns Franken, Andre Mack, Gary Obligacion, Tonya Pitts, Annette Alvarez-Peters, and Nadine Brown, and how they were all doing this in the ’90s as well.
You’ve received many awards, including Best Sommelier in America. What advice do you have for others?
This is always a tough question. I never have a perfect answer, and struggle to find the right words. Simply, do it your own way. Stand out from the crowd, be better than anyone around you in whatever you are doing. Out-study, out-work, out-prepare, out-present, out-shine; just demand attention and presence, but be prepared.
What still excites you about wine?
Mother Nature excites me every year because she finds a way to keep vintners and winemakers on their toes, and in tune to what she gives per vintage. Traveling to regions and places—and hearing the stories of the families—and tasting their cuisine is also paramount for me.
What are you focusing on next?
I don’t know. I just hope it’s great. Opening paths. Always more wine, definitely more TV, movies, and media. More mentoring—I’ll never stop being there for people.