Mack Roach III, an African American wine enthusiast, said he’s concerned about the recent Napa Wine Train incident.
The radiation oncologist at UCSF in San Francisco was just in Wine Country on Saturday. He joined 100 other African Americans at Vision Cellars’ Greens Cook Off.
“I don’t think the incident will keep African Americans from Wine Country, but it might keep them from the wine train,” Roach said.
The incident in question happened over the weekend when the staff of the train kicked off a book club of 10 black women and one white woman, saying they were disruptive.
A posting on the Wine Train’s Facebook page later incensed the book club members. The post, which has been taken down, said “Following verbal and physical abuse toward other guests and staff, it was necessary to get our police involved.”
The book club members say this is completely untrue; they say they were booted off the train because of the color of their skin.
While police met the women at the St. Helena station, when they exited the train, no police action was taken.
The CEO of the Napa Wine Train has since said the company was 100 percent wrong in its handling of the situation.
In a Press Democrat story, CEO Anthony “Tony” Giaccio was quoted: “We accept full responsibility for our failures and for the chain of events that led to this regrettable treatment of our guests.”
Roach said the reason he’s concerned about the incident is because it’s so uncommon.
“Typically the age group and demographic is well educated and sophisticated so they would not be overly disruptive,” Roach said. “I’m concerned when people (book club members) make accusations such as this, and it leads me to believe they may be true.”
While Roach said he doesn’t want to pass judgment before he knows all the facts, he definitely wants to learn more about the incident.
African American vintner Mac McDonald of Vision Cellars said this seems like “a slap in the face” to Wine Country.
McDonald and wife Lil hosted the 15th annual Greens Cook Off in Sonoma County, and he said the goal of the event was to encourage African Americans to embrace wine and Wine Country.
The vintner also created the Association of African American Vintners 12 years ago to further these efforts. Today the association has five vintners, and McDonald was using the Greens Cook Off to re-energize it.
“I don’t have all the facts about the incident yet but on the face of it, it looks like they (the train staff) handled it 195 percent wrong,” McDonald said. “We’re living in a time when everything is very sensitive.”
McDonald said people make a grave mistake when they put certain cultures in a box and even before people open their mouths, expect certain behaviors.
I agree with McDonald — America has a short fuse. This is a sensitive time when every action is being scrutinized and rightly so.
We may never know if America’s hero – Atticus Finch — was a champion of blacks or a bigot … but we can find our way out of the box.