8 Black-Owned Wineries and Wine Labels to Support Across California
The Golden State is proving fertile ground for Black winemakers.
The entire state of California has become a destination for wine lovers, with regions like Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, Paso Robles, and Temecula Valley enjoying a boom in wine-related tourism. Once thought of as a pastime reserved for the elite, wine culture has endeared itself to new drinkers in recent decades, especially as more wine-growing regions sprout up and natural wines gain in popularity. Despite this growth, Black-owned wineries still make up less than 1% of the industry, according to Association of African American Vintners (AAA Vintners) president Phil Long.
Thankfully, a new guard of Black winemakers in California are stepping forward, with the intention of changing the industry and inviting all to participate. Many are hopeful that this recent emergence of Black-led wine brands is an indicator that more opportunities for BIPOC across the sector are on the horizon.
Theodora Lee, owner and winemaker for Theopolis Vineyards, has witnessed this change and says that, “When I joined the AAA Vintners as a Charter Member in 2006, we only had a handful of members.Now, AAAV boasts more than 100 members, representing growers, vineyards, sommeliers, and vineyard managers.”
Some of this growth can be attributed to Black celebrities, who are bringing new attention to the industry and setting up shop in California. Notably, Pro Football Hall of Famer Charles Woodson who has been in the public eye since 1997, after becoming the only defensive player to win the Heisman trophy. Now the co-owner of Intercept Wines, Woodson’s love for vino started in the Napa Valley while playing for the Oakland Raiders early in his career.
“Once I got acclimated to the region and what it was all about—wine and food are everything out there—I just absolutely fell in love with Napa,” Woodson says. He reflects that, “As my career went along, more of us players started getting into wine. On road trips, we would bring bottles to share, break bread together, an experience that bonded us. In 2019, I started Intercept Wines as a thank you to my fans. I wanted to give them dynamic, high-quality wines at an affordable price."
The significance of Charles Woodson, musician John Legend (LVE), former NBA player Dwayne Wade (Wade Cellars), and other prominent figures using their wealth and fame to create brands and drive attention to the industry can’t be denied. Whether it’s the recent presence of these Black public figures in the region or part of a broader push for equity across industries, local organizations are also stepping up to bridge gaps of inclusivity in the industry.
Napa Valley Vintners has pledged $1 million in new scholarships over the next few years for BIPOC to pursue college degrees in wine industry subjects ranging from grape growing to winemaking, marketing, business, and more. The AAAV partnered with Sonoma State University to provide a Wine Business Scholarship in order to build diversity in the wine industry, bring awareness to present-day Black winemakers, and provide financial assistance to students from underrepresented populations pursuing a career in the wine industry. In addition, mentorship programs such as The Roots Fund, Bâtonnage, Wine Unify, and The Hue Society are providing guidance, access, and community for underrepresented minorities in the wine industry.
For those who are interested in exploring Black-owned wine brands across California, here are a few labels and wineries to take note of:
Famed Bay Area rapper E-40 aka Earl Stevens, started his wine label in 2013, offering a selection of wines, including moscato, a red Blend, and a sweet red. Stevens also sells rum, bourbon, and Cognac through his brand Tycoon Spirits. Try the Earl Stevens Prosecco Extra Dry Cuvee for something different.
How to buy: His selections are available at retailers across the US and online at Uptown Spirits.
Known for creating America’s first Sauvignon Blanc with bubbles, Chris Christensen founded Bodkin Wines 2011. Even though Bodkin is growing every year in popularity, Christensen is committed to keeping his production small and unique. We have our eye on the new 2020 Samewerking Red Blend.
How to buy:Order online.
Dwyane Wade partnered with his good friend Jayson Pahlmeyer, a legend in the Napa Valley wine scene with over 30 years of experience, after visiting Napa during harvest season in 2014. Wade Cellars strives to share Dwyane’s love of the great wines of California and beyond. Central to each of their wines is a focus on ideal ripeness, freshness, and aromatics. This month Wade Cellars is releasing a 2020 California Cabernet for less than $30.
How to buy:Order online or in these local stores.
Celebrating 25 years, Brown is Napa’s first and only Black-owned estate winery. Zinfandel is what the family first planted and remains their flagship varietal.Try the new 2020 Betelgeuse Rosé, and for Cabernet Sauvignon lovers their 2017 Big Damn Cab.
How to buy/book:Order online and book online to visit their downtown Napa Tasting room.
J. Moss is a boutique, family-owned and operated winery established in 2001 by James and Janet Moss. They produce elegant, award-winning wines with an emphasis on single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Check out their 2017 Merlot, Moss Vineyard, which is produced Bordeaux-style with 100% Merlot.
How to order/book: Order online here. Book tastings Friday–Sunday at 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm through Tock.
Located in Mendocino County near the border of Sonoma County, Theodora Lee aka
“Theo-Patra, Queen of the Vineyards” is known for her award-winning Pinot Noir and Petite Syrah. Check out the 2018 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir.
How to buy:Order online.
Paso Robles, CA
Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL player Charles Woodson launched his label in 2019 to stay connected and to give back to fans. The majority of his wines are under $20 but to commemorate his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame get your hands on the Limited Edition Cabernet Sauvignon for $150.
How to buy: Order online.
St Helena, CA
John Legend teamed up with Raymond Vineyards to create the LVE (Legend Vineyard Exclusive) Collection, boasting a perfect harmony of passion, eloquence, and Napa Valley tradition. The unique series features wines with rich, soulful, and complex notes, inspired by true love. Try the new LVE French Sparkling Rosé.
How to buy:Order online or through vivino.com
@mrnoelburgess and at noelburgess.com.