Yannick Benjamin’s Wine on Wheels event raises money and awareness for people with disabilities, while also shining a light on what the industry has to offer.
By Erin Ortiz
Wine on Wheels has become one of the most anticipated wine community events since its inception in 2012 at Le Du’s’ Wines. The event was created by serial entrepreneur Yannick Benjamin as a way to raise money for Wheeling Forward, a non-profit dedicated to helping people with disabilities achieve their social, professional and health goals. It also provides a platform for sommeliers, restaurateurs and retailers to showcase their wine selections.
In 2003, Benjamin was involved in a car accident that paralyzed him so he needed to use a wheelchair. That did not stop him from pursuing his dream of graduating from Monroe College and becoming a sommelier. Benjamin would go on to work at famed restaurants like Atelier and Le Cirque before opening his own space, Contento. He established Wine on Wheels in February of 2012.
The Wine on Wheels Event
After pivoting their 2020 event due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wine on Wheels hosted “Resetting the Table”, over Zoom and Facebook Live to help the wine community reflect on how to build a longer table for all who are marginalized. The event would return to an in-person celebration in September of 2023 and included an amazing and diverse group of wine professionals.
Fermented Grapes owner, Kilolo Strobert, worked with Yannick at Le Du and has been part of Wine on Wheels since the inaugural event presented us with a table of delightful goodies that showed us just how far BIPOC representation has come in wine since 2020.
The Fermented Grapes table featured a magnum of B. Stuyvesant Champagne from Montigny sous Châtillon, France. It’s the first Brooklyn-owned black champagne, by Marvina Robinson. Marvina worked on Wall Street for twenty years before launching B. Stuyvesant in February of 2020. After various shipping and real estate challenges she landed a space for a tasting room for her project in Brooklyn. B. Stuyvesant boasts 7 different cuvées that you can purchase along with snacks on their website.
Also featured on the table was Camins 2 Dreams, a natural California Grenache from Santa Barbara County. The brand comes from Tara Gomez and her wife and winemaker Mireia Taribó, who met in 2006. Their current offerings focus on Rhone and Italian varietals.
Monica Townsend, sommelier at The Modern, chose the occasion to feature the Mawu 2022, by Ashanta, a natural, so sulfites added blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Chardonnay, from a vineyard west of Sonoma, produced by Chenoa Ashton-Lewis, a third generation Sonoma winemaker from Oakland, and her partner Will Basanta.
How to Support Wine on Wheels
The exciting resumption of Wine on Wheels highlighted the mission Benjamin started with: to bring together the best of the hospitality industry for a good cause. These professionals leveraged their talents to help Wine on Wheels support Benjamin’s community in a way that is inspiring. To date, the organization raised more than $600,000. It also includes more than 125 New York sommeliers and 60 restaurants and retailers. It is clearly a movement worth following.