EducateBlack-Owned Wineries & Companies You Should Get to Know

Black-Owned Wineries & Companies You Should Get to Know

In recognition of Black History Month, we are spotlighting some of the remarkable contributions of Black individuals in the wine industry. Historically, the world of winemaking has been predominantly white, but a growing number of Black entrepreneurs and vintners are reshaping the landscape. Black-Owned Businesses are pouring new flavors, stories, and legacies into every glass. First, let’s jump into some significant history and cultural events that shape diversity in the wine industry today. 

Diving Deeper: History of African Americans in the Wine Space

The story of African Americans in the wine industry is complex and marked by resilience, innovation, and skill. Despite their contributions dating back centuries, the acknowledgment of Black individuals in this field has often been overlooked. From the labor-intensive vineyards of South Africa, where the toils of enslaved people laid the foundation of a flourishing wine industry, to the pioneering Black winemakers in the United States, there’s a deep history and an evolving story of progress and challenge.

Starting in the South

The history of Black winemaking can be significantly traced back to Virginia. Although records from the 1850s indicate the presence of Black people in Napa and Sonoma, it wasn’t until 1888 that Black engagement with winemaking surfaced more. The book Southern Sketches from Virginia by Orra Henderson Moore Gray Langhorne noted the experience of tasting amazing wine made by Robert Scott, a grandson of a slave, from his vineyard. This acknowledgment presents a snapshot of Black involvement in early American winemaking.

Adding to this quick snapshot, Dr. Monique Bell’s research in Terroir Noir: 2020 Study of Black Wine Entrepreneurs brings to light that wine has always been woven through Black culture. This study aims to bring attention to traditions in Africa to instances of wine production in the southern United States focusing on native grapes like Muscadine. Dr. Bell underscores a crucial point—these endeavors were part of the fabric of Black communities, yet seldom documented in history books.

One of the First Black Owned Wineries

A landmark moment came with John June Lewis, Sr., who, in 1940, established Woburn Winery in Virginia, marking one of the first instances of a Black individual owning and operating a commercial winery in America. Producing up to 19,000 liters of wine before its closure in 1970, Lewis’s Virginia-Carolina brand crafted a revered dry red wine and a unique dessert wine from dried grapes, signifying a breakthrough in Black winemaking.

Wineries to Note: California in the 90s

The winemaking journey took a prominent turn in California during the 1990s, with the establishment of African-American-owned wineries. Brown Estate emerged as a forerunner, founded by siblings Deneen, David, and Coral Brown, who leveraged their family’s land in the Chiles Valley AVA. They produced a Zinfandel that captured critical acclaim. At this time,  Vision Cellars and Rideau Vineyard were also founded, marking significant strides in the industry by Black individuals. This includes the noteworthy success of Iris Rideau, the first Black female winery owner in America. The story of African American winemakers in the 90s extends to Esterlina Vineyards, established by the Sterling family. Their wines achieved distinction and many of them were served at the White House. 

Current Day

Today, there are over 130 Black-owned wineries across the United States; a tenfold increase since the 90s. This growth, while significant, underscores that Black-owned and operated enterprises represent a small fraction of the industry. Efforts by individuals like Phil Long, president of the Association of African American Vintners (AAAV), emphasize the importance of mentorship, support, and visibility in fostering the next generation of Black wine professionals, aiming to amplify their voices and contributions within the broader wine community.

The journey of African Americans in the wine space reflects a broader story of persistence, creativity, and excellence. Despite historical barriers, the enduring spirit and contributions of Black individuals have enriched the wine industry. Their stories reflect a deep interconnectedness with the cultural heritage and innovations in winemaking. The path forward calls for continued acknowledgment, support, and celebration of the diversity that African American professionals bring to the wine world.

More Black-Owned Wineries to Note:

Bodkin Wines

Photo Courtesy of SFGATE

Founded by Chris Christensen in 2011, Bodkin Wines made headlines as the first American winery to produce a sparkling Sauvignon Blanc. They are located in Healdsburg, California.  And commit to crafting high-quality, approachable wines. Christensen’s venture into the predominantly white wine industry is both an inspiration and a challenge to the status quo, encouraging more diverse voices to be heard.

J. Moss Winery

Photo Courtesy of J. Moss Winery

James Moss, the visionary behind J. Moss Winery, has dedicated his craft to producing small-lot, premium Napa Valley wines. This family-run winery is deeply rooted in passion and tradition. It reflects the Moss family’s commitment to excellence and their desire to share their legacy with every bottle. James Moss and his winery exemplify the richness that diversity brings to the vineyard and the wider industry.

Brown Estate

Photo Courtesy of Napa Valley-Wine Folly 

The Brown Estate burst onto the scene in 1996 as Napa Valley’s first Black-owned estate winery. The Brown family has deep ties to the land dating back to 1980 and they transitioned from growers to vintners. Their inaugural vintage has been critically acclaimed. Today, Brown Estate is synonymous with exceptional Zinfandel, a reflection of their dedication not only to winemaking but to community and culture. 

Theopolis Vineyards

Photo Courtesy of The North Bay Business Journal

Theodora R. Lee, a Texas native and San Francisco trial lawyer, transformed her passion for winemaking from a spirited ambition into a tangible reality. Located in the Yorkville Highlands of the Anderson Valley, her boutique vineyard specializes in petite Sirah. Her wines have garnered admiration for their bold characteristics and distinctive flavors. Lee’s transition from the courtroom to the soil of California embodies the pioneering spirit of Black entrepreneurs in the wine industry.

Sip & Share Wines

Photo Courtesy of Pattern

One of our favorite black-owned wine businesses. With a mission to cultivate community and celebrate diversity, Sip & Share Wines, led by Nicole Kearney, stands out for its unique approach to winemaking and its emphasis on inclusivity. This artisanal winery offers a variety of vegan, small-batch wines. They believe that wine is not just a drink but a story in every bottle; it should be cherished among friends and family. Kearney’s venture represents a broader movement towards inclusivity and representation in the wine industry, inviting everyone to the table.

Illuminating Voices: Podcasts

The Color of Wine:

This podcast provides a unique platform for stories and insights from people of color in the wine industry, blending personal narratives with the intricacies of wine-making and marketing.

WineRabble:

Hosted by Marcia Jones, WineRabble offers an engaging way to learn about wine, focusing on making wine knowledge accessible and exciting to a broader audience, including highlighting the contributions of Black professionals in the field.

Swirl Suite:

This Black-owned business is a collaborative podcast featuring a group of women wine experts and enthusiasts of color. Swirl Suite discusses wine, spirits, and the joy of sharing a good bottle, promoting diversity within the wine community.

Master Storytellers: Authors

Dorothy J. Gaiter

Photo Courtesy of The San Francisco Chronicle 

Co-author of “Love by the Glass: Tasting Notes from a Marriage” and a former wine columnist for The Wall Street Journal. Gaiter’s writings deeply reflect her journey through the world of wine alongside her husband, John Brecher.

André Hueston Mack

Photo Courtesy of Wine Enthusiast 

Notably one of the most influential African-American vintners, Mack has authored “Small Thyme Cooks.” It’s the world’s first coloring and activity book featuring wine-tasting notes! A sommelier turned winemaker, his creative approach extends beyond vineyards into impactful storytelling.

Julia Coney

Photo Courtesy of Vinter’s Daughter

A Washington, D.C.-based wine writer, educator, and consultant. Coney’s work focuses on the intersectionality of race, gender, and wine, striving to make the wine world more accessible and inclusive.

Tanisha Townsend

Photo Courtesy of Black & Abroad

As the force behind the blog “Girl Meets Glass,” Townsend also podcasts and writes extensively. She shares her adventures in the Parisian wine scene and beyond, highlighting her journey and insights into wine and spirits.

Pioneers of Taste: Sommeliers

Carlton McCoy Jr.

Photo Courtesy of Wine Enthusiast 

McCoy is one of the few African-American Master Sommeliers in the world. His journey through the ranks of wine connoisseurship is both inspiring and groundbreaking. He showcases the heights of achievement possible in the field.

André Hueston Mack

Photo Courtesy of Wine Enthusiast 

Besides being an accomplished author and winemaker, Mack is also renowned for his sommelier skills. He worked at prestigious restaurants before launching his wine label. He also is an acclaimed author and runs an amazing youtube channel focusing on wine education.

Tahiirah Habibi

Photo Courtesy of Wine Spectator 

Habibi is the founder of The Hue Society. As a sommelier she has made it her mission to create spaces for Black communities in the wine world, challenging longstanding barriers and fostering a culture of inclusion.

DLynn Proctor

Photo Courtesy of Benchmark Wine Blog 

Known for his feature in the documentary film series “Somm.” Proctor is a wine educator, mentor, and advocate for diversity and inclusion within the wine industry.

The Legacy Continues

The stories of these Black-owned wine producers are more than just chapters in the history of viticulture; they are a bold redefinition of it. Their contributions reflect a growing diversity and richness in the wine industry, offering new perspectives, flavors, and experiences. As we celebrate Black History Month, let’s raise a glass to these and many other trailblazers in the wine space, whose resilience, innovation, and passion continue to inspire and shape a more inclusive and diverse wine world. Cheers to a future where everyone is invited to savor the legacy and the bouquet of possibilities that diversity brings to the vine.

Author

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Must Read

Featured Posts

More Articles

Molveno, Italy – The Perfect Small-Town Getaway

0
Some of the best experiences are the ones that come to you by quick decision-making. In early 2023, I took a two-month break from...

How to Read a Wine Label: France 

0
Let’s be honest, we’ve all gone into Total Wine looking for a new, engaging find outside of the typical wine drinking we do. The...

Orange Wine: The Zesty Surprise of the Wine World

0
Orange wine, despite its name, has nothing to do with citrus fruits. Instead, it's a wine category that's been taking the wine world by...

Marechal Foch: A Grape of Distinct Character

0
Marechal Foch is a grape of remarkable history and tenacity. This varietal made up of small, clustered dark berries has intrigued winemakers, and plays...
Photo Courtesy of Copper Builders

From Sips to Sophistication: Charlotte’s Best Wine Bars

0
Charlotte, North Carolina, isn't just a bustling city; it's a hub for wine enthusiasts. Whether you prefer something elegant and sophisticated or enjoy the...

Related Articles