If you love vino, just imagine creating your own successful wine company. It’s not easy, but these purveyors, all Black women, have done it. Here’s why that’s a big deal. According to the Association of African American Vintners president Phil Long (of Longevity Wines), there are more than 11,000 wineries in the US and less than 100 are Black owned. That’s 1/10th of one percent! It’s time to support and endorse our winemakers. From all around the country, these ladies have managed to make fine wines that have attracted a major following and brought some much-needed color to the industry. Get to know more about them and how you can sip in support.
Founder, Negociant and Owner
Hip-hop artist and actor Common is a big fan of Chrishon Lampley’s Love Cork Screw wines—and he isn’t alone. Bottles of her bestselling Good Times Good Friends pinot grigio are cherished by many. Lampley says of her fan favorite, “It’s light, crisp and perfect for pairing with grilled shrimp or pasta primavera.” If that sounds delicious, but you want something more daring, Lampley recommends the “Hard Knock Life concord red wine and Touch the Sky Niagara white wine. Both are made from American table grapes, slightly sweet and easy to drink.”
Lampley worked hard to get her Midwest sourced product into wide distribution. This tenacious Chicago negociant (wine merchant) toughed it out. “Biggest challenge when getting started was diving headfirst into an industry that didn’t look like me,” she says. Lampley has learned from her experience and now imparts her wisdom on others: “Network with other wine owners and vintners – of all ethnicities,” she says. “Immerse yourself in the industry and work harder than your peers.” Her reward? Bottles of Love Cork Screw wines sit like trophies on store shelves at Target, Total Wine & More and Whole Foods.
Robin and Andréa McBride
Cofounders, CEOs, Sisters
The McBride sisters’ progressive thinking broke the industry mold back in 2005 and helped their company climb to the top. Seventeen years later their success has been transformative. “We produce wines in California and New Zealand and are the largest Black–owned and women-owned wine company in the US,” they say. And they’ve shared their success with a team made up of 90% women and 50% people of color.
The sisters’ advice for novice vintners? To take risks and seek mentors who foster your growth and leadership style. As for their recommended pairings, Robin says, “Pick up a bottle of Black Girl Magic California Red Blend and pair it with steak and veggies on the grill.” Andréa offers an unconventional option. “Grab a bottle of the Sparkling Brut rosé and pair it with a brunch classic like a savory French toast.” Or go rogue. The ladies say “Our Cocky ‘Motherf*cker, inspired by our father, is unlike any other California pinot noir we’ve tasted, and you’ll never see a name like that on any other bottle of wine!”
Founder, CEO, Wine Educator
Jennifer McDonald doesn’t meet a lot of famous people in Kansas, but her business receives plenty of love from those who reside there.
“We have a lot of local celebrities who are huge fans. We’re grateful for the thriving entrepreneurship ecosystem that supports our brand,” she says. Her distribution is regional, and her followers are faithful. “We distribute to 70-80 local retailers and our wines can be purchased at our winery and tasting room in downtown Wichita,” she says. That’s a major achievement when you consider her beginnings. According to McDonald, she was one of the first to own an urban winery in her area, which came with a lot of pushback.
Like any determined CEO though, McDonald weathered those issues, as well as supply chain (corks and glass bottles) and employee shortages. She’s persevered and is grateful. “We uniquely produce and sell fruit wine: watermelon, apple, and blackberry. Also, wine from French hybrid grapes grown in Kansas as well as traditional varietals like pinot noir and chardonnay from California,” she says. “The biggest reward of starting my business is interacting with my guests at my winery.” McDonald’s favorite offering from her collection is the rosé wine. “It’s made from watermelons that have grown in northeast Kansas and has flavors and aromas of watermelon, honeydew melon and white flowers.” A wilder choice? “The Apple Moments wine. Tastes like a Moscato, has a hint of green apple and makes great white sangria.”
The biggest difference between sparkling wine (prosecco) and champagne is that the latter is reserved strictly for grapes grown, harvested and fermented in France’s famed Champagne region. That was Marvina Robinson’s goal—making OG bubbly. She jets from her home in Bed-Stuy to her vineyards in France, never forgetting her humbling intro to winemaking. “Venturing to France to find a vineyard to bring my vision to life, it was a lengthy, partially discriminating process,” she says. But it was a process with a payoff. She now produces her tasty champagnes with her French partners.
The word is out about her offerings. “I was recently on the subway, and two ladies were chatting about wine,” she says. “One woman said, ‘You have to try B. Stuyvesant. I love the rosé.’ I smiled and said, ‘I created it.’” Tamron Hall and Tracee Ellis Ross love her fizzy stuff, too. For special occasions or just “me time,” Robinson enjoys the Grand Reserve. “The floral bouquet releases scents of fresh flowers. It pairs well with white meat and Asian food,” she says. For the more adventurous palate, she recommends the brand’s limited edition Heritage. “It’s an absolute game changer,” she says. “It’s 70% pinot meunier, 15% pinot noir and 15% chardonnay.” Expect wine buffs to stampede to Robinson’s new tasting room at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.