Iris Rideau, the first Black woman to own and operate a winery in the United States, was groundbreaking in many respects, as she found success in not one, but three white male-dominated industries.
After migrating with her family from Louisiana to Southern California, Rideau overcame the obstacles of her early life and founded both a successful insurance agency and financial securities firm. The success of both businesses gave her the capital needed to eventually purchase land in the Santa Ynez Valley to develop Rideau Vineyards. Until she sold it in 2016, Rideau’s operation was known for producing the top Rhône varietals of the Central Coast Region.
Rideau may have broken ground for many Black women vintners and label owners, but the industry still has a long way to go in terms of representing its Black patrons, especially Black women. Although 10% of American wine consumers are Black, fewer than 1% of U.S. wineries are Black-owned, and an even smaller percentage is owned by Black women. However, many of the Black women-owned wineries currently in the industry have made their presence known with outstanding wines and worthy missions.
Carrying the torch of Black women vintners like Iris Rideau, the women who own and operate the following four wineries have unique stories of overcoming immense industry barriers to bring their visions of sustainable and inclusive wine to fruition. Conscious wine lovers looking to support representation or sustainability in the industry can do their part by supporting these visionary, mission-driven wineries.
Wines with a Purpose: Eunice Chiweshe Goldstein Winery
Eunice Chiweshe Goldstein was unaware of the historically racist Oregonian property laws when scouting locations for her business. When she decided to launch her winery in Astoria in 2018, she officially became the first Black woman to own a winery in the state of Oregon. Before establishing her winery in Oregon, Chiweshe Goldstein was living and working in California. Although she has a degree in film (and is still active in the industry), Chiweshe Goldstein always knew she wanted to establish herself in wine as well, as she grew up visiting her grandparents on their farm in Zimbabwe, where she saw firsthand how wine could bring people together. For Chiweshe Goldstein, winemaking is a way to connect to her ancestors, who were “making wine, mead, beers long before modern-day breweries and wineries.”
Chiweshe Goldstein’s wines feature grapes from the Willamette Valley and the labels spotlight current issues in social justice, from voting rights and police brutality to child hunger and Parkinson’s. To give back to the community, the winery donates a portion of all sales proceeds each month to a new charity, with past recipients including Black Lives Matter and the Brian Grant Foundation. Chiweshe Goldstein’s #PurposeWine – a deep, earthy pinot noir – was named Cosmo’s “Best Charitable Wine” of 2021.
Celebrating Kenyan Culture through Wine: Wachira Wines
Oakland & Alameda, CA
Dr. Chris (Christine) Wachira immigrated to California from Kenya in the 1990s and fell in love with winemaking while completing her PhD in Nursing Practice and Healthcare Systems Leadership. Wachira Wines, the only Kenyan American Winery in the country, is the result of Dr. Wachira’s hard work, love for wine, and desire to create a place for women and people of color to enjoy wine, as well as feature wines by other winemakers of color.
Her Karibu Wine Lounge is the first Black woman-owned winery tasting room in Alameda County, CA. Karibu means “welcome” in Swahili, a fitting name for the winery’s mission of inclusivity. To foster more inclusivity in the industry, the company is planning to launch an incubator program to offer mentorship to individuals from underrepresented backgrounds looking to break into the wine industry.
In the meantime, Wachira Wines is adding Black representation where it is sorely needed. With her wines, Dr. Wachira celebrates Kenyan culture, crafting the wines specifically to pair with her Kenyan-American mother’s favorite dishes. For instance, her Rhino Cabernet Sauvignon was made with her mother’s lamb stew in mind.
Finding Sustainability in Ancient Traditions: Free Range Flower Winery
Oakland & Livermore, CA
Aaliyah Nitoto worked in biotech before starting Free Range Flower Winery in 2018, which is built on her expertise in herbalism and nutrition. Prior to starting the winery, Nitoto worked in biotech, but her passion for herbalism led her to discover ancient flower winemaking traditions from all over the world. Now, through Free Range Flower Winery, Nitoto makes flower wines through a process that updates ancient women’s garden winemaking techniques for the 21st century palate.
Sustainability is built into the winery’s mission and practices, as they use eco-conscious packaging, organic ingredients, and sustainable business practices. Additionally, they are committed to social responsibility, donating a portion of presale profits to nonprofits in the SF Bay Area, including Healthy Black Families, Inc. and the Alameda County Food Bank.
Current varieties to taste or purchase include Lavender, Marigold, Rose Petal, and RoseHybiscus. The “L” Lavender Sparkling Wine was awarded Cosmo’s “Best Sustainable White” of 2021.
Closing the Gender Gap, Empowering Women Leaders: McBride Sisters Collection
Sisters Robin and Andréa McBride were raised on opposite sides of the world and did not know of each other’s existence while growing up. However, it seems that they were always destined to work together in wine. They met in 1999, and in 2005 the two combined their wine knowledge from New Zealand and California to form the McBride Sisters Collection, shaking up the industry with a “blend of old-world elegance and new-world finesse.”
Since meeting one another and deciding to go into business, the sisters have made an impressive imprint in the industry. They are currently the largest Black-owned winery in the United States and they’ve put their power to good use – in 2019, they launched the SHE CAN Fund, which works to support the professional advancement of women leaders with scholarships and development grants. A portion of the profits from their eco-friendly line of SHE CAN wines is used to support the fund in its mission to close the gender and race gap in the wine industry and other male-dominated fields.
Keeping the Momentum Alive – Supporting Black Businesses in Wine
These trailblazing women are superhuman. They have emerged successful on the other side of journeys littered with sexist investors, a lack of mentorship, and racial biases about what a wine business owner or winemaker should look like. What’s more– they’ve put their success to good use, committing themselves to the cause of ensuring that the next generation of the wine industry can be more inclusive of women and minorities, especially Black women.
Travelers and consumers committed to racial justice must ensure that they are part of a sustainable, informed movement, not just a fleeting cultural moment. It is especially important to support the businesses of Black women, as they encounter some of the most intense discrimination in the U.S. – recently coined by Moya Bailey as “misogynoir.” Patroning businesses in wine and other industries that have historically lacked diverse representation is just one way to combat discrimination and keep movements for racial justice alive – all the while creating some unforgettable experiences.
ecomadic is a sustainable tourism brand that empowers travelers to make more conscious decisions. By curating a marketplace to easily find and identify responsible businesses to support, and providing educational publications through our online green travel magazine, ecomadic is committed to helping empower travelers make responsible choices throughout their journeys.
Want to learn more?
Guide to Black-Owned Wineries – Wine Enthusiast
Black Wine Professionals Demand to Be Seen – New York Times
1st Black women-owned winery tasting room in Alameda – ABC 7 News
Iris Rideau: The Making of a Memoir – The Vintner Project
An Interview with Eunice Chiweshe Goldstein – Wine Enthusiast