Special Report

20 Black-Owned Wineries You Should Know

Source: Ian Gavan / Getty Images

Legend Vineyard Exclusive (LVE)
> Location: St. Helena, CA
> Owner: John Legend
> Sample wines: Sparkling Brut Blanc de Blancs, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Singer-songwriter and actor John Legend – the first African-American to win the coveted EGOT suite of awards – teamed up with wine industry heavyweight Jean-Claude Boisset in 2015 to release a line of LVE (Legend Vineyard Exclusive) wines from the Napa Valley – said to be the fruition of a long-held dream of Legend’s.

Boisset, the scion of a famed Burgundian wine family, owns a number of California wineries, one of which – Raymond Vineyards – is involved with the Legend project.

Source: Photo by Crystal H. via Yelp

Longevity Wines
> Location: Livermore, CA
> Owner: Phil Long
> Sample wines: Blanc de Noir sparkling wine, Philosophy (Bordeaux blend)

Phil Long and his wife, Debra, were enophiles who started making their own wine in their Livermore garage in 2003. Three years later, they’d grown confident enough in their abilities to try producing it on a (small) commercial scale, using facilities at a nearby established winery. In 2008, they opened a winery of their own.

Ten years later, it was named Livermore Winery of the Year – an accomplishment, considering that there are more than 50 wineries in the region. (Sadly, a few days after the honor was conferred, Debra died of pancreatic cancer.) In 2019, Long teamed up with the massive Bronco Wine Company, allowing him to produce his vintages on a much larger scale.

Source: Courtesy of Maison Noir Wines

Maison Noir Wines
> Location: McMinnville, OR
> Owner: André Hueston Mack
> Sample wines: Other People’s Pinot Gris, Horseshoes & Handgrenades (Oregon Syrah, Washington Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot)

Onetime French Laundry sommelier André Hueston Mack, who’d worked in finance before deciding that he preferred the restaurant business, founded the winery he originally called Mouton Noir (Black Sheep) in 2007. He told USA Today that he first got interested in wine by – of all things – the way the characters in the sitcom “Frazier” seemed to enjoy sipping it. He described himself to the publication as “a kid who grew up listening to hip hop, punk rock and skateboarded and fell in love with wine.” He is also a designer, whose dramatic black-and-white labels tend to bear imaginative names.

Source: Courtesy of McBride Sisters

McBride Sisters Collection
> Location: Oakland, CA
> Owner: Robin & Andréa McBride
> Sample wines: Hawke’s Bay New Zealand Sparkling Brut Rosé, Reserve Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

Talk about a great backstory: Half-sisters Robin and Andréa McBride grew up not knowing each other existed. They had the same father, but Robin was raised in Monterey, California, while Andréa, whose mother was from New Zealand, grew up there. The two reunited in 1999 – and realized that they’d both been living in agricultural areas known for their wines.

The wine business was attractive to them, but, as Andréa told Fodor’s Travel, they had two problems: “The first was that we didn’t know how to make wine and the second was we didn’t have money.” They started by going to New Zealand, convincing some small producers to let them import their wares into the US, and spending enough time there to learn the winemaker’s craft. They now offer a range of wines from both California and New Zealand – including a line of She CAN wines (in, yes, cans), with partial proceeds going to their She CAN Fund, providing professional development scholarships and grants to women in business.

Source: debyaho / Getty Images

Okapi Wines
> Location: Napa, CA
> Owner: Dan Johnson
> Sample wines: Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon, Alkimmy Proprietor’s Blend (Zinfandel/Petite Sirah/Merlot)

Dan Johnson was an attorney who handled a legal matter involving Château St. Jean in the Sonoma Valley in the early 1980s, and ended up tasting wine with its then-winemaker, Diсk Arrowood – which sealed his fate. He has remained a practicing lawyer in San Francisco, but in 2006, he and his wife, Kim, bought three acres of potential vineyard land, once a walnut orchard, in the Napa Valley’s Oak Knoll district and planted Cabernet. Seven years later, they released their first wine, from the 2010 vintage.

It hasn’t always been easy going. All winemakers have problems, Johnson told Mother Jones, “But the problem with racism?,” he continued. “Add another 30-pound bag, at least. Instead of carrying three, I have to carry four.”

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