From a server to a wine owner and consultant, meet Alicia Towns Franken

Abu Mubarik September 15, 2023
Alicia Towns Franken. Photo: Linkedin/Alicia Towns Franken

Alicia Towns Franken is the owner of Towns Wine Co., one of the only 100 Black-owned U.S. wineries, according to the Association of African American Vintners. Franken also became the executive director of Wine Unify, a nonprofit that works to bring more minorities into the industry through education and career opportunities.

“I wanted to help bring more people [of color] in, because that diversity of thought improves everything,” she told CNN. “What we’re trying to do is change what leadership looks like and bring more people into the wine industry. So many people have thought that [this] has not been for them.”

Franken never had wine experience before going to college. However, her interest in wine peaked when she got married to a German man. Since then, wine has become a normal ingredient on their table, she added in an interview with CNN.

Her career in the wine industry began when she worked as a server at Boston’s Grill 23 & Bar in the 90s. She rose through the ranks to become the bars’ wine director and sommelier. She quit her job in the hospitality industry to pursue other interests but returned after the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police. She became the executive director of Wine Unify and also a wine educator and consultant.

Franken currently runs her own consulting and events business, Towns Franken Consulting, where she hosts private and corporate wine events. The business has also given her the opportunity to spend time with her family and watch her children grow up. According to her, her inability to spend time with her family was one of the reasons she pulled out of the restaurant industry.

“I wanted to be home for dinner. Sunday through Thursday, we have a family dinner. And I want my children to see wine the way that I do – a component of an experience. But I’ll tell you this,” she said, “It was so much easier being a wine director than a parent. When a bottle of wine misbehaves, you can send it back,” she told Unitywine.

Touching on her frustration in the wine industry, she noted that she has been frustrated by the preciousness of wine because many sommeliers are seeking to buck tradition and select wines that are unique.

“That is fine,” she noted. “But a wine should not be painful! A wine should not assault my palate.”

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: September 15, 2023


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