If you’re raising a toast to honor Black History Month, we’ve got some recommendations to fill your glass.
Black winegrowers and winemakers may still be in the minority in the industry (even in 2017!), but their wines attract major recognition. We’ve rounded up some of the most notable African American winemakers in the country, from scientists and sommeliers to long-lost sisters. You’re sure to find something to please your palate.
Theodora Lee, Theopolis Vineyards
Handcrafted wines from this small-lot vineyard in California’s Yorkville Highlands have earned ratings as high as 94-96 from Robert Parker. Lee originally planned only to grow grapes, but her passion for wine (especially Petite Sirah) led her to reinvent herself as Theo-patra, Queen of the Vineyards. She also participates in and leads events like the Black Women in Wine Celebration and a Wine Wisdom Seminar at the Oakland Wine Festival.
A true story of long-lost sisters, Andréa and Robin grew up in New Zealand and California, each unaware of the other’s existence. When they met, they realized that growing up in two major wine regions was a powerful connection between them. They currently offer New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Central Coast Chardonnay, and a complex red blend.
Bertony Faustin, Abbey Creek Vineyard
An “earth-to-glass” winemaker, Faustin took over care of the vineyard from his in-laws. He soon transitioned from a farm deferral model to keeping fruit on-site to create Abbey Creek’s own labels. Abbey Creek now produces 1,100 cases per year, currently featuring several Pinot varieties. Faustin is currently working on an independently produced documentary called “Red, White & Black,” which will highlight minority winemakers in Oregon.
Mac McDonald, Vision Cellars
McDonald’s expertise is informed by trips to Burgundy and France and lessons from his father, reportedly one of the best moonshine makers in Texas. As a cofounder of the Association of African American Vintners, McDonald is passionate about wine education, and he’s happy to pair a glass with a four-course dinner or a simple plate of fried catfish. Vision Cellars specializes in Pinot Noir.
Phil Long, Longevity Wines
Long and his wife, Debra, began by making wine in their garage. Now, Longevity Wines produces 2,000 cases of a wide variety of wines, including Tempranillo, Mourvedre, and Muscat Canelli. They’ve recently been nominated for Favorite Livermore Valley Winery for the 2017 Bay Area A-List (they placed fourth in the category for the past two years).
Iris Rideau, Rideau Vineyard
As a New Orleans native, Rideau was drawn to the way Rhône varieties paired with her beloved Creole cuisine. She hosts Creole dinners at the vineyard, complete with jambalaya and jazz, and offers a Bon Temps red blend.
André Hueston Mack, Mouton Noir Wines
Honored as Best Young Sommelier in America, Mack’s choice to leave his desk job to work with wine proved to be a smart move. Many of his wines bear playful titles, like Horseshoes & Handgrenades (a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend) and Knock on Wood Chardonnay.
Darjean Jones, Darjean Jones Wines
Jones first came to Napa Valley as a plant pathologist, helping treat diseases affecting wine grapes. Her interest in the science of wine fermentation had led to multiple silver and gold medals and a Best in Class award from the International Women’s Wine Competition.
Raymond Smith, Indiginé Cellars
This family-run winery has produced multiple award winners. Indiginé Cellars also works with other growers to create elegant blends.
Coral, David, and Deneen Brown, Brown Estate
The siblings’ parents bought and cultivated a far-flung Napa estate. When the children took over, they decided it was time for Brown Estate to produce its own wine. Wines include Zinfandel, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon.