ESSENCE Festival of Culture is almost here, and we’re getting ready for all the fun that will be had in New Orleans from June 30th through July 3rd. There will be plenty of events to partake in, from Beauty Carnival and Wellness House, to E-Suite, the ESSENCE Film Festival and all the great concerts happening Friday through Sunday with Nicki Minaj, Janet Jackson and New Edition as headliners. But that’s just a taste of what’s planned.
One of the newest expanded events is the ESSENCE Eats Food & Wine Festival, which will showcase a bevy of talented Black vendors whose drinks are shaking things up in wine and spirits. Some of the following vendors are talking on panels, supporting the event and their products are being made available to drink and buy. Others are just names and tastes you should acquaint yourself with ASAP. Get to know them and feel free to show love to the following brands, whether you’ll experience them in person in NOLA or want to try them out at home.
Created by husband and wife team Don and Nayana Ferguson, Anteel’s tequilas, including the Blanco, Coconut Lime Blanco and the Reposado, have become award-winning offerings in the spirits lane. Nayana will be a panelist at ESSENCE Eats.
With the brand’s principles including authenticity, freedom, and self-determination, Exclave Spirits’ aged whiskeys (a rye and bourbon) are rich in flavor while the brand is rich in purpose. Founder Andrew Albert will be another panelist at ESSENCE Eats.
Lobos 1707 Tequila
Though not technically Black-owned, Lobos 1707 operates with help from Black talent. That includes CEO Dia Simms and LeBron James, an early investor and shareholder in the tequila brand, which launched in 2021.
McBride Sisters Wine Company
With their uber-popular Black Girl Magic Wines, which they introduced at Festival years ago, the McBride Sisters, Robin & Andréa, have expanded their wine empire in a big way with a number of offerings. The sisters will be speaking as panelists at ESSENCE Eats.
With CEO Fawn Weaver and master blender Victoria Eady Butler at the helm, Uncle Nearest won 185 awards in 2021 and is said to be the best-selling African American founded spirit brand of all time. Tracie Franklin, part of the Nearest and Jack Leadership Acceleration Program created by Uncle Nearest and Jack Daniels to diversify the whiskey lane, will be at ESSENCE Eats as a panelist.
Olé Orleans Wines
The creation of New Orleans native Kim Lewis and based on her love of the city and family history, Olé Orleans Wines has been producing and selling top-tier NOLA-based wines since 2018. Catch Lewis as a panelist at ESSENCE Eats.
Created by husband and wife team Stevens Charles and Myriam Jean-Baptiste, LS is an award-winning cream liqueur inspired by the beloved Haitian cremas recipe. Jean-Baptiste will be on hand as a panelist at ESSENCE Eats.
Co-owned by ESSENCE Fest headliner Nicki Minaj, this wine brand is known for its tasty moscatos, sangrias, red wine blends and more.
Sun Goddess Wines
ESSENCE Festival regular Mary J. Blige is not hitting the stage this year, but you should get your hands on her popular, delish wine line, Sun Goddess.
B. Stuyvesant Champagne
From Rose to Grand Reserve Brut and more, B. Stuyvesant Champagne offerings are one of a kind in taste and it makes sense why. Marvina Robinson is one of the few Black women in the champagne lane, innovating while being inspired by her Brooklyn roots.
loft & bear
The LA-based brand’s artisanal vodka is 10 years strong. It was founded by Paul Ryan Elliot and Harry Martin, and is known for its smooth taste and a very rich, vibrant aroma.
Kevin Hart, an ESSENCE Fest headliner who will be doing his “Reality Check” tour on Thursday night, is also a panelist for ESSENCE Eats. He has stepped into wine and spirits with his new tequila brand. The Gran Coramino Reposado Cristalino is a clear reposado said to have delicious oak and butterscotch flavors.
Cajun Fire Brewery
Founded in 2011, the New Orleans beer brand is said to be the first Black-owned brewing company in the state of Louisiana and in the South. You will be able to find it at the bar at ESSENCE Eats.
Crowns & Hops Brewing Co.
Black-owned craft beer brand Crowns & Hops was founded by Beny Ashburn and Teo Hunter. Their mission? In addition to creating world class beer, is to “create family friendly spaces that are community centric with underserved communities of color in mind, driving diversity, economic growth and influencing inclusion.”