The Unstoppable Woman

The CRU9 She-Army is made up of some of the strongest, kindest, more empowering women (and men!) that we have the pleasure of not only knowing, but working beside. This month, for our Strong Woman Feature, we’d like to shine the spotlight on one of our own, the powerhouse we call Southern Swirl, the one and only, Shundria Reed.

Shundria is nothing short of a force of nature, juggling a family of five (including two sons with special needs,) a full-time consulting job, multiple positions in the wine industry, and her own Wine Lifestyle Magazine. It’s an understatement to say that she has a full plate. Born and raised in Mississippi, she holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from Alcorn State University, and a Masters in Education from Jackson State University. She was selected as a fellow for The Symposium for Professional Wine Writers at Meadowood Napa Valley in 2018, and is currently studying for her WSET Level 3 and American Wine Expert certifications.

With a love of wine that literally runs in her veins, it’s no surprise she is so present in the industry. Shundria’s grandfather, who she lovingly refers to as “The Godfather of Agriculture” was a connoisseur of many things. He would often make port wines from Muscadine grapes, which are indigenous to the Southeast and were grown in rural parts of Mississippi. This was her first introduction to wine. That being said, it wasn’t until much later when she moved to California, that her love really began to grow:

“My sister-in-law planned a girls trip to Napa to welcome me to California,” she says. “Although I enjoyed visiting the wineries, my palate was totally unprepared for the influx of unfamiliar wines. I had never tasted a Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, or Cabernet in my life. Only the port wines from my grandfather, which were quite sweet… So, needless to say, everything I tasted on that wonderful journey through Napa tasted like gasoline!

“It wasn’t until a wine educator at V. Sattui Winery opened my eyes to what I was experiencing. It was my palate that was the issue, not the wines themselves. He shared with me  a few wines that he thought I would like, and I did! After that he told me to train my palate by having wines with food all of the time. Focus on a varietal, try different AVAs and eat! The best way to explore a new wine is with some good food. I took his advice and the rest is history!”

After that fateful trip, Shundria spent a few years exploring different wines and found herself being drawn into the people, their stories, and the wine lifestyle. She knew then that she wanted to work in the wine industry for the rest of her life, and she sought out to combine her two greatest passions: wine and writing. She began writing her blog, Southern Girl in a Wine World in 2012 and from there began meeting new people and gaining exposure, cementing her place in the industry. 

During her time in the industry, she noticed something that needed to be addressed and decided to start her own magazine, Seventeen Thirty-Four Mag, to tackle it head-on:  

“As an African-American in this industry, all too often I have found myself being the only or one of very few people of color in the room. People of color are often overlooked for opportunities to network, connect, and work in this industry. We are often pre-judged in the scope of our capabilities, knowledge and skill. But the truth of the matter is, there are a lot of African-Americans who are making their mark and really transforming the scope of this industry. There are winemakers, educators, sommeliers, writers, people in media. The list goes on and on. There has also been evidence of the lack of focus on the African-American consumer in regards to wine. Misconceptions have kept our demographic excluded for a very long time. I have, in the past couple of years, seen organizations begin to re-shift their focus, create opportunities to have open dialogue and make strides in changing misconceptions. Lately, there has been a greater focus on diversity, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

“I wanted to create a platform to not only show other people of color, but to show the world that we are just as educated, just as skilled, and just as passionate about the work to be done in this industry. So, Seventeen Thirty-Four is a lot of things.  It is not only a wine lifestyle magazine, but it is also a way to honor and acknowledge the work being done by African-Americans in the wine and spirits community. Most importantly, it is a passion project that is dedicated to my wonderful grandparents. Seventeen Thirty-Four is the street address of my grandparents house in Mississippi.  That house was full of family, love, and great examples of how to navigate in this world. They taught me the value of following my dreams and trusting myself enough to achieve them.   

“The magazine is everything wine lifestyle.  Where to go, what to do, what to taste. There are wine recommendations and event listings.  Right now, we are doing a feature that spotlights wineries in the South. What I am really excited about is the part of the magazine that contains the directory of Blacks in Wine & Spirits.  Its revolving work, as there are lots more people to add to the list. Plus we offer CA wine country travel planning! I am a one-woman show right now, but I am ready for the work! It’s what I love.”

All the while Shundria’s been kicking butt and taking names in her professional life, she’s had a beautiful family of five to take care of as well. She and her husband Tyrone (her college sweetheart!) have 4 boys between them: 22 year old Emmanuel, in his fifth year of college (and may be entering the wine industry himself one day,); 11 year old Jaiden, a connoisseur of music and theatre; Tysen, 9 years old loves letters and the alphabet, and struggles with a genetic disorder called Joubert syndrome; and her youngest, Trystan, who is only 6 years old, Autistic and loves to draw and be outdoors. Shundria’s social media pages is full of photos of her happy sons, smiling and playing. “On one side, it is very hard to balance working full time, being a mom, having children with special needs and juggling the work to fulfill your own dreams,” she says. “Some days you are riddled with the guilt of trying to balance working to take care of your family, versus giving much more needed time to your kids.  Add your own medical challenges to this recipe, and you really have a challenge on your hands. On the other side, parenthood is so very rewarding. It is absolutely the most wonderful and important job I have ever had. I love being a mom.”

In 2018, Shundria entered our lives here at CRU9 when she met founder/winemaker Faythe at the Oakland Wine Festival, where she was serving as the Director of Media Relations. After speaking for a while about CRU9, our mission to support survivors of domestic abuse and human trafficking, and she She-Army, Shundria’s interest was piqued. “But it wasn’t until something personal happened in my life that I knew for sure that I was destined to connect with an organization like CRU9,” she says. “I lost a very dear friend to domestic violence shortly after meeting Faythe.  After some soul searching and re-evaluation of life, I was anxious to find a way to not only honor my friend’s memory, but also be able to support those who are living with, or who have faced similar situations.” A few months later, the proverbial phone rang, and Shundria was on the other end. 

Since that day she’s been a strong member of the She-Army, spreading the word about CRU9 and our mission to fight for those who need a voice. Shundria one of the strongest, powerful women we’ve ever met. From juggling her impressive professional and personal lives, to helping promote equality within the wine industry itself, she has shown herself to be a very special brand of woman, and we hope that every struggling woman she helps along the way can grow to be as strong as she is. Thank you Shundria, for being a your unstoppable self. We’re lucky and proud to have you as part of our team.