Positively New Jersey: Long Branch man breaks ground with The Black Wine Guy Experience

Long Branch native MJ Towler came up with his brand The Black Wine Guy Experience, which includes a podcast by the same name.

News 12 Staff

Apr 7, 2023, 3:52 AM

Updated 475 days ago


A Monmouth County man has broken ground in the wine world by first selling wine and now with a podcast that is really about much more than just wine.
"It was just so simple, right? I'm a wine guy. I'm Black. That's it," says Long Branch native MJ Towler describing how he came up with his brand, The Black Wine Guy Experience, which includes a podcast by the same name.
"I would go to a wine tasting and they'd be like, 'There was this guy, he's from New York, I think he went to law school, he wears glasses, he's 5 foot 9,' and they'd be like, 'Oh, why don't you just say he was the Black dude,'" Towler recalls.
The podcast combines Towler's deep and groundbreaking experience in the wine industry with down-to-earth conversation.
Launched in 2020, The Black Wine Guy experience reached number 17 in Apple podcasts' food category rankings. It features Towler sampling wine and interviewing figures who make wine, sell wine, or just love wine across the fields of food, wine and sports and entertainment.
Towler grew up in Long Branch and in the mid-1990s, got a degree from Rutgers Law School but realized law was not for him. He started working at the storied retailer Acker Wines in New York City. He says retail is where to start for those who want to learn the business and fall in love with wine like he did. For him it beats writing legal briefs.
"Wine has all this history of decades and centuries, so you're tracing it all of this back. So I was like, 'This is cool. This is cool research," Towler says.
A few years later, he headed out West as a retail store manager and sommelier where he had the common experience many New Jersey residents have when they move to the West Coast.
"They use to tell me, 'say tranquilo,' which is 'calm down' [in Spanish]... and I didn't even see myself, I'm not type A. But I was too fast for them at first," Towler recalls.
The Jersey hustle paid off in 2000 when Towler became the first ever African American fine and rare wine auctioneer. But it is his podcast that sums up what the real point of wine is for him, often focusing less on the actual wine and more on just letting the conversation flow.
"It's about who I wanted to have a bottle of wine with and pick their brain," Towler says. "You're here with the Black Wine Guy, so you're having the Black wine guy experience and think they're pretty cool. They're just about enjoying food, wine, music and good conversation."

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