We are motivated by our mission to help Black wine lovers build knowledge, confidence, and community with accessible and relatable wine education. Our unique approach of emphasizing Black culture in wine education sets us apart from other services that aim to make wine culture more inclusive. We believe that everyone’s instinct and unique life experiences can inspire learning and exploration in wine, which we refer to as your Vinstinct.
Vinstinct arose from two like-minded women who were wine enthusiasts, scientists, and aspiring entrepreneurs. Chelsea and Taylor met in graduate school at Cornell University in 2018 and instantly gravitated towards each other. They were both biomedical engineers who had a palate for wine and a curiosity for entrepreneurship. In fact, their favorite after-school activity was to work on class assignments and learn about business over a glass of wine at the local bars and restaurants in downtown Ithaca. They referred to this as their “wine and work” sessions.
Although they came from very different backgrounds, Chelsea and Taylor shared 3 simple pleasures in life – science, wine, and entrepreneurship. These recurrent meet-ups allowed them to forge a true bond and eventually a sisterhood over “wine and work”. However, when Chelsea and Taylor tried to recreate these experiences with other friends, it was not the same. While many of their friends enjoyed drinking wine, they often felt intimidated and othered in wine spaces because of the disconnect between traditional wine culture and Black culture.
Many of their friends believed that in order to truly understand wine and feel included in wine culture, one had to come from a particular background that neither aligned with their social and cultural interests nor represented their lived experiences. These sociocultural disparities in wine made it inaccessible and unrelatable, preventing their friends from learning and exploring new wines, expanding their palate, and enjoying wine experiences. Ultimately, this insight uncovered a clear need to make wine more accessible and relatable to Black wine lovers, which inspired Chelsea and Taylor to form Vinstinct.
Chelsea J. Stephens, M.S.
Chief Executive Officer & Cofounder
Cornell University, PhD Candidate in Biomedical Engineering, 2023
Syracuse University, B.S. in Bioengineering, 2015
From Los Angeles, California
Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Barbera d’Asti, Beaujolais
Her passion for wine grew in the Summer of 2018, when she started trying different varietals all while learning how to paint and binge-watching The Office. This pastime was so cathartic for her and wine slowly became her drink of choice for every occasion. So, as a true scientist and engineer, she wanted to delve more into the wine world and explore it, trying to find the most suitable wine for her palate and helping others do the same.
Taylor D. Walker, M.Eng.
CHIEF STRATEGY OFFICER & COFOUNDER
Cornell University, M.Eng. in Biomedical Engineering, 2019
University of Illinois, B.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology, 2018
From Chicago, Illinois
Merlot, Gewürztraminer and Grüner Veltliner
Her journey into wine began when she moved to Ithaca, NY at the age of 21. As she toured the Finger Lakes wine country, she fell in love with the relaxing sensory experience that is tasting. Merlot is her current standout favorite grape varietal, which she enjoys over a round of video games and cheese snacking, but she is always exploring new wines.