Alex Schrecengost knows a thing or two about doing it for the culture. The wine and spirits enthusiast worked at wine importer Wilson Daniels as their head of communications across the national and wholesale fine wine brands, overseeing traditional comms, executive visibility, advertising, corporate events, digital content, and social media. But she noticed one thing was missing in the industry: more of “us.”
So she decided to do something about it. Schrecengost launched her luxury gifting e-commerce platform, Culture With Us, with the goal of increasing diversity among wine producers, because, like many industries, the wine industry in the United States is primarily White and male-dominated. Schrecengost is one of several dark-skinned women entrepreneurs building their own spaces in the wine world.
With the launch of the wine as part of Culture With Us, Schrecengost will be launching her product brand—but more importantly, her wine brand, Altrosero. As a dark-skinned woman staking her claim in the wine industry, she wanted to pay homage to her family—a clever mash-up of their four names: Alex, Troy, Sean, and Rome. Altrosero is delicious, fruity zinfandel; strong and robust, like the ties we all nurtured while we were apart during the pandemic, and launches just in time for the holidays.
For ESSENCE, Schrecengost discusses how she and her team are in a particularly advantageous position as the greater wine industry works hard to push for more diverse voices and what she’s doing to change the narrative.
ESSENCE: What exactly is Culture With Us?
Alex Schrecengost: Professional teams whether in-person, hybrid, or remote can still build their own company culture through thoughtful gifting. One of the perks of going to offices used to be great food, corporate gifts, happy hours, and other incentives. Culture With Us gift boxes shines a spotlight on high-quality curated items that employees can enjoy at home with their families, friends and roommates as lasting tokens of their organization’s appreciation. And sometimes not-so-lasting—we really do ship a lot of outstanding wine and snacks.
Culture With Us also cultivates workplace relationships through tailored hybrid workplace events like corporate retreats. With more firms adopting remote or hybrid work practices, company-wide retreats are coming back to help culture and team bonding.
How exactly does the luxury gifting e-commerce platform work?
It’s a concierge-based service that allows corporate clients to order fun, unique items for their global teams and features a huge range of diverse brands. This is especially useful for organizations building up their D&I presence and looking to customize boxes with gifts made by BlPOC or women-owned businesses. Consumers can purchase select items on their own as well. It’s important to us that the brands we sell have an empowering narrative to share so we can provide our customers with a portfolio that promotes inclusivity and helps enrich those company culture-building moments.
You’ve worked with some of the most renowned and prestigious wine brands. What was one of the most important things that you learned when it comes to the spirits industry?
One of the most important things I learned was that many of the relationships you cultivate over the course of your career will endure not just because of how well you did your job, but because of who you are. When I started my own business, I was amazed at how many top producers from different points in my career were interested in partnering with us, and it was very encouraging. Going the extra mile and uplifting your industry peers really allows for innovation and inclusivity as a collective.
Why is there a lack of diversity among wine producers? What can be done to change this narrative?
Those from diverse backgrounds have faced a prohibitive amount of discrimination in the wine industry, especially when it comes to luxury brands. So many times you’re one of few or the only one in the room. Additionally, the need for costly certifications, constant tastings, travel to and from production regions and a limited number of professional jobs in the industry have all contributed to a lack of diversity in the industry as a whole. Thankfully, BIPOC wine producers, especially dark-skinned- and women-owned operations, have made massive strides in the last 10 years—both in volume production and brand-building. Accusations of racial and gender-based discrimination are now taken very seriously, and inclusive policies that provide equity in opportunity are becoming commonplace among large and small companies. Continuing to direct attention to the achievements of diverse industry tastemakers, winemakers, chefs, etc. will allow them to represent and impact their communities in ways that make a lasting difference.
Tell us about the new wine that is launching in September.
I’m proud to offer our clients access to a diverse range of luxury wines that I am excited about and/or am exploring because of not only their delicious juice but also their incredible story. With that, these past 18 months have made me realize I wanted to create something special for the table. I am so proud of the brand we’ve built, Altrosero—both wine and olive oil for gathering around the table. It truly embodies all we seek to do at Culture With Us: create special moments that bring people together.
This delicious, fruity zinfandel is strong and robust, like the ties we all nurtured while we were apart, and launches in time for the holidays (when we’re all looking forward to being together and opening special bottles). It’s lovingly named for my husband and twin boys, who have cheered me on from day one.