Winemaking is not a field that has ever drawn a large number of African-American winemakers or winery owners, and it is not a field that has been particularly hospitable to them.
According to some estimates, no more than 1% of the country’s wineries are owned in whole or in part by Blacks or have a Black winemaker. African-American winemaker Phil Long of Longevity Wines in California’s Livermore Valley, president of the Association of African American Vintners, thinks even that estimate is too high, believing that the percentage is more like 0.1%. Whatever the reality, it’s undeniable that the industry is overwhelmingly white.
Blacks who do venture into the industry often describe having trouble getting financing for their projects or being taken seriously – or accepted at all – for their talents because they don’t “look like a winemaker.” (Upscale restaurant kitchens aren’t typically receptive to Black chefs, either, but these are 24 Black chefs you should know.)
One issue is that wine has not typically been an important part of the Black cultural experience. “There just isn’t enough education and exposure to winemaking for people of color,” Phil Long told USA Today. In addition, as the Washington Post noted in a recent story, “A major entry obstacle for people of color interested in the wine profession is money. It is expensive to learn about wine, from tasting rare, famous bottlings to taking classes for professional certifications.”
There’s also a geographical issue: Most of the cities with the largest Black populations in America are nowhere near major wine-growing regions, so opportunities for vineyard work – an entryway to winemaking for many – are rare. As Marcia Jones, whose Urban Connoisseurs supports Black-owned wineries (and who hosts an annual International Winemakers Summit focused on vintners of African descent around the world), observed to USA Today, “What distinguishes African American winemakers is that we didn’t have skin in the game early on.” (These are the states with the most and fewest wineries per capita.)
Wine is seductive, however, and many African-Americans have fallen in love with it so strongly that they’re willing to persevere in the face of adversity to learn the winemaker’s art, establish their own vineyards and wineries, and take their rightful place among the nation’s best wine producers.
To assemble a partial list of wineries owned by Blacks or multi-racial couples – there are others worth considering, too – 24/7 Tempo consulted the websites of the Association of African-American Vintners and Black Vines, as well as articles in Ebony, Black Enterprise, Wino Noire, VinePair, Wine Enthusiast, USA Today, and The Sophisticated Life.
Many of the wineries on our list are in major California or Oregon wine regions, but you’ll also find operations in Kansas, Arizona, New York City, and other places you might not expect.
Laws regarding the shipment of wines across state lines in America are complicated and often illogical, but many of these wineries can probably fulfill online orders and ship to your state. Check their individual websites for details.
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