Olé Orleans Wine & Spirits
> Location: New Orleans, LA
> Owner: Kim Lewis
> Sample wines: Gumbeaux Texas High Plains Merlot, Olé Carrollton Semi-Sweet Blanc du Bois
New Orleans might be better-known for Sazeracs and Hurricanes than wine when it comes to alcohol, but that didn’t matter to Kim Lewis. The NOLA native, who had worked in fields including behavioral health and high school special ed, was running a trucking company when she discovered wine on a trip around the U.S. in 2016.
It became a passionate hobby of hers, and she decided to try her hand in the wine business. At first, she bought finished wine to sell under her private label, but then started making her own, using grapes sourced from California, Texas, and Louisiana’s portion of the Mississippi Delta wine region. There may be very few Black women in the wine business in America, but Lewis told USA Today “I don’t ignore my skin color but it’s not a huge selling point. The product has to sell itself.”
> Location: Gresham, OR
> Owner: Donna Stoney
> Sample wines: SisterFriends Chardonnay, Baytani Reserve Pinot Noir
Donna Stoney first discovered wine at home in Texas – drinking Merlot, she remembers, while her friends were drinking shots and longnecks – but never intended to make her own. She moved to Oregon after getting a B.A. in social work and for the next 30 years helped people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, working first for Multnomah County and then for her own agency.
After leaving the county position, though, she began studying wine seriously, eventually meeting Bertony Faustin of Abbey Creek Vineyard, Oregon’s first Black winemaker. She made her first two wines at Faustin’s winery, then went out on her own in 2019.
> Location: Yorkville, CA
> Owner: Theodora (Theo-Patra) Lee
> Sample wines: Petite Sirah, Theo-Patra’s Cuvée Cérise (Cabernet Sauvignon/Petite Sirah)
Texas-born Theodora Lee, a partner and trial lawyer for Littler Mendelson P.C. in San Francisco, was first exposed to wine through colleagues in the legal profession, some of whom owned vineyards. She liked it well enough to take viticulture classes at the University of California, Davis, famed for its winemaking school.
In 2001, she bought land in Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley, planting vineyards two years later and selling grapes to other winemakers at first. In 2014, she began bottling her own wines, going on to win numerous awards. “I don’t want to be the best Black winemaker [or the] best woman winemaker,” she told the San Francisco Bay Times. “I want to be the best winemaker.”
> Location: Windsor, CA
> Owner: Mac and Lil McDonald
> Sample wines: White Wine (Sauvignon Blanc/Pinot Gris), Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
“I was born the son of an East Texas moonshiner,” says Edward Lee “Mac” McDonald on his winery website. At the age of 12, he somehow encountered a bottle of Burgundy and his fate was sealed. “All through school I talked about being a winemaker,” he adds. He moved to California when he was 20, and started hanging around the wine scene.
He found little encouragement until he met Charlie Wagner, the legendary founder of Caymus Vineyards in the Napa Valley. He ended up working for Wagner for 15 years, and when he was ready to go out on his Wagner and his son helped him and his wife, Lili, find a vineyard. He released his first wine – a Pinot Noir – in 1997, and in 2003 co-founded the Association of African-American Vintners in an effort to help encourage diversity in the wine business.
> Location: Napa, CA
> Owner: Dwyane Wade
> Sample wines: Three by Wade Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon
Thirteen-time NBA All-Star Dwyane Wade, who spent most of his career with the Miami Heat, credits teammate Alonzo Mourning with introducing him to his first glass of good wine. A subsequent meeting with esteemed Napa Valley winemaker Jayson Pahlmeyer led to a friendship between the two and eventually a professional collaboration.
Their first wine was a 2012 Napa Valley Cabernet, which was originally sold only in China – a big wine market and one that’s mad for professional hoops – but now they sell in the U.S., too.
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