The Perfect Vino Over a Tight Beat: How Sommelier Jermaine Stone Merges Cultures

Tastemade “Street Somm” host and Hip Hop enthusiast Jermaine Stone has never shied away from his roots. With a deep love for the art and culture that is Hip Hop as well as of over two decades moving and shaking in the wine world’s most elite rooms circles, it was only right that he somehow marry the two. And, out of that marriage, a daytime Emmy nomination has been born.

As a youngster growing up in the Bronx, he spent many days also hanging out with friends in the Queenbridge projects—so the musical genre is simply engrained in his DNA.

“I grew up submerged in Hip Hop. I started rapping as young as twelve years old,” Stone tells EBONY. “It was to the point that even my parents thought I would skip college to become a rapper. But after seeing close friends fall by the wayside, my parents encouraged me to pursue plan B.”

That Plan B led him to wine. As a means to pay for his college career, Stone landed a job in the warehouse at Zachy’s Wine Auction. Using his charm, charisma and overall knowledge of the logistics behind wine auctioning, he was able to work his way up in the company.

Image: Andre Stone.

“I started to see that the same lifestyle I was aspiring to as a rapper, was happening around me in the wine world—so I fell in love with it. Because I had that warehouse background, I was able to navigate the industry and make connections all around the world. I could get pretty much anything done—I was like the fixer from Pulp Fiction. It’s actually how I landed my nickname, The Wolf of Wine.”

Although the wine world is still playing catch-up when it comes to diversity, that has not swayed the “Street Somm” talent. According to a recent study, only 2% of professionals in the wine industry identify as Black. Now factor in an even smaller subset that makes up the wine auction world, and well, Stone would likely be the only Black face in the room.

“It’s such a small business. But me being a young, Black charismatic dude, I elevated to becoming auction director. I was actually the first Black commercial auctioneer and the first Black wine auction director,” Jermaine Stone explains. 

As fate and life would have it, the Bronx native made a pivot around 2016. His mother was battling stage IV cancer, and he had the tough decision to make—move to LA for his career or stay home in New York to care for her. Of course, family came first. 

Using that NYC hustle mentality, he shifted things and become a wine consultant. This new career took him all around the world. We’re talking regions of Champagne, France and even in rooms with the famous Rothschild family. Yet and still, he remained his authentic self.

He launched his podcast, “Wine and Hip Hop”, to officially merge his two worlds. Whether it was artists like Lil Cease and Dave East trying some of the world’s rarest vintages as he educated them on what they sipped, or bringing on wine industry greats as he broke down the lyrics of rap’s hottest 16s—it was a way to bring two misunderstood worlds together.

“I understood how the wine industry had been misjudged for years, as well as Hip Hop. I had this access to some of the world’s most exclusive bottles and labels. And, I had tons of connections in the Hip Hop world, too.”

Fast-forward to 2020 when the world experienced one of its most historic shifts yet. There was a sudden increase in brands wanting to diversify as they sought to right the wrongs that stemmed from the murder of George Floyd. It was then that the folks from Tastemade came across Stone’s work and wanted to create something with him. Thus, “Street Somm” came to be.

Officially airing on the streaming platform in early 2023, in just over a year the wine and Hip Hop connoisseur has effortlessly blendedworld cultures. To say he has a gift is an understatement. 

He’s touched down in places like Houston to kick with the legendary rapper Bun B over wine—and get in the booth. He’s also mastered the art of pairing some of the world’s most culturally relevant dishes with a bottle of vino.

wine and hip hop
Image: Head Make Book.

“My job was to create dynamic wine pairings with the foods people were introducing me to in their communities. When people typically pair wine with fried chicken, they typically go with a sparkling option,” he shares. “But, I’m Jamaican, so I go as far as pairing spicy fried chicken with a red wine varietal. I’m breaking conventional wine norms. I’m just doing what I’ve been prepared for my entire life. To be able to truly have respect in both worlds is amazing.”

Before we rapped our time with Stone, we had to pick his brain even further. We challenged him to pick one of his favorite Hip Hop songs and pair it with a wine. His answer—and entire breakdown—truly blew us away.

First taking us through the history of and actual process of making Champagne, he landed on pairing bubbly with California-style Hip Hop—specifically Kendrick Lamar’s “Mad City.”

“As far as California vernacular as a whole, it’s trendsetting. And Cali has always had its own rap culture that is very classic. That can be compared, to me, to the terroir that is used to ultimately grow the grapes that make up Champagne. Kendrick Lamar is someone that I think does a great job encapsulating all of that. And, “Mad City” is a quintessential California song with that distinct vernacular. If I had to pick a specific champagne with similar qualities, I would go with the Piper-Heidsieck Rose Sauvage. It’s a classic that encompasses all the best elements of a great champagne.”

Stone will soon embark on a tour to promote his new EP—“Terroir Tapes Listening Session”—which he’s transformed into a book. Breaking down the lyrics of his rhymes in written form while also educating readers on various wine pairings—he’s excited to hit the road again in the name of his two loves. It’s literally the art of finding the perfect vino over a tight beat. 

Updated: May 6, 2024 — 12:02 pm