Updated: Nov 12, 2020
Indulge with a glass of wine while supporting positive social change! Supporting Black-owned businesses helps the Black community amid two crises: the pandemic and the unrest of the country due to racial injustice. One of the reasons the Black Lives movement is so powerful is due to our White allies. There are so many ways to show allyship and solidarity in your everyday lives. One of the easiest ways is to support Black-owned businesses.
Stoney has always had a passion for wine therefore it was her dream to open her own wine business. She always loved the science of winemaking, the intimate culture around it, and of course the taste. Their most popular wines are the Rose’ and Bayani Reserve but Stoney admires the taste of every blend they sell. The company plans on adding sparkling wines and a few new red and white varieties to their label. Customers can sign up for wine tasting events, the wine club, and their newsletter online. There has been fanfare around Stoney’s business until the pandemic hit.
Stoney Wines was on the rise until COVID 19 crept over the horizon taking the country by storm. All her pre planned wine tasting events were cancelled. Her sales are all online since the Coronavirus mayhem began in February. But recently things have started to turn around for Stoney. She had her first wine tasting since February in September. Coincidently one year to the day from her big debut event.
Stoney Wines made its debut in September of 2019 with a wave of positive responses from the wine community. “The support of the community was humbling and electrifying at the same time,” said Stoney. Stoney and her team expected 100 to 150 people to attend the debut event. 350 people ended up gathering together to support them including Portland Police Chief, Daniel Outlaw. At the event, Stoney was presented with a bracelet engraved with the words ‘Embrace Ambition!’. Whenever doubt creeps into her mind, she remembers those words of strength and her hope never wavers. She never takes it off, as a content reminder of why she is doing this and where she is going.
Her excitement for wine stems as far back as the 90s, when she originally wanted to purchase a vineyard but lacked the funds she needed. This didn’t deter her from pursuing her dreams. She worked at Multnomah County as a Case Manager while still educating herself on wine tasting and viticulture. Once she retired as a case manager, she decided it was finally time to fully pursue her sommelier courses.
Stoney struggled with simply getting her foot in the door in the industry; so, when a friend told her about a Black-owned winery in Oregon, she couldn’t believe it. This gave her a glimmer of hope. She decided to see it with her own eyes with anticipation that she could gain advice and wisdom that she could potentially apply to her own future company. That’s when Stoney met Bertony Faustin of Abbey Creek.
She feels blessed that her road to success was made slightly easier because it was paved by other Black winemakers, especially Bertony Faustin. “One of the biggest lessons I took away from Abbey Creek was staying authentic in who I am and what my brand represents. Everyone’s story is unique in our experiences, but you never know who you may inspire just by telling your story,” said Stoney. She has a great appreciation for the opportunity to share her story and her journey on numerous platforms in hopes of inspiring others.
Stoney wants to set an example for all minorities. She wants to send a message that no matter your gender, race, or religion dreams are attainable. “I hope to break down barriers for people of color and women entering this industry. It is so important to support, mentor, and pave the way for inclusivity. I want to empower and support people who are interested in the industry to jump into it.
It is all about us all supporting one another and unifying to create a change in the numbers,” said Stoney. She prays the current political climate will shift to a more inclusive atmosphere allowing all minorities to feel safe and empowered to follow their hearts and dreams.
Now more than ever Stoney believes it is crucial to shed a light on diverse creators and their journeys. “I am humbled to be a Women of Color entering the wine industry in the next chapter of my life,” said Stoney. She wants to encourage others to reach for the star despite the obstacles they face. She looks forward to being a part of a leading movement in Oregon winemaking.
Owner, Nicky Coachman, established the business on 7 May 2020. Coachman first made moves towards his dream when he took a flight in May 2018 from Miami to Mendocino, CA. He visited Frey Wines in hopes that the family would consider helping with his vision to produce his own wine label. Coachman was inspired to create his organic wines because he loves talking to people about drinking & eating healthy, therefore he thought ‘why not put clean wines in the mix.’ He believes that clean wines should be consumed with healthy foods.
He takes pride in seeing the joy on a consumer's face when he or she hears that the wines are vegan and made with no added sulfites. The ‘WOW’ expression they display gives him a sense of accomplishment and purpose. Coachman enjoys his ‘clean conversations’ with vendors about how to get the information over to consumers that they are providing clean wines. He felt no greater joy when Whole Foods agreed to bring Kwaya wines into their new store in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. That’s when he knew he finally made it.
The local community has welcomed Kwaya Cellars with open arms. “Once the community heard that we are a Black-owned wine business, the support came in through word of mouth,” said Coachman. He greatly appreciates the community support because he admits it’s hard for a Black-owned business to receive funding to expand and market their business. More often than not the only help businesses can get are from consumer purchases.
Ms. Theodora Lee, or ‘Theo-partra, Queen of the Vineyards’ as she’s known in the wine world, is the proud owner of Theopolis Vineyards in Mendocino. She started as a grape farmer in 2003. She tended to her vineyard with the hopes of selling her grapes to award-winning wineries. Her passion for wine began once she first set foot on San Francisco soil in 1987. She spent several summers in Healdsburg, basking in the sun and falling in love with the wine culture. This influenced her to take several classes at UC Davis before ultimately starting a vineyard of her own.
As the granddaughter of Texas sharecroppers, and the daughter of a cattle farmer, Lee grew accustomed to the farmer lifestyle. Lee learned how to drive a tractor at the age of eight. She continued her farming roots in her new home in California. In 2001, she bought sheep land in the Yorkville Highlands of Anderson Valley in Mendocino, and began developing her very own vineyard. This was not an easy task as she had to clear the land, complete soil tests, obtain permits to remove several trees, drill an agricultural well and terrace the property. In 2003, she officially planted her five-acre vineyard, adopted her Greek name from her sorority Delta Sigma Theta at Spelman College, and became a charter member of the Association of African American vintners, and Theopolis Vineyards was born.
Lee bottled her first commercial wine in 2014. “In addition to bottling the richly intense and flavorful Petite Sirah, Theopolis Vineyards strikes a lighter note by bottling a Symphony, a white wine grape, which is a crossing of Muscat and Grenache Gris. Theopolis Vineyards also offers: a Rosé of Petite Sirah, an Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, a Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir, and a Yorkville Highlands Pinot Noir,” said Lee.
The current unrest in the U.S. has surprisingly had a positive effect on business according to Lee. She recreated a SIP (Shelter in Place) Sale, offering free shipping to combat the government-mandated quarantine. This allowed her direct-to-consumer sales to double. She also began virtual wine tastings two to three times a week which increased business as well.
After the tragic death of George Floyd and the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement, the country began to shed a light on Black-owned businesses. Lee saw an immediate spark in her wine sales as more allies of all races and ethnic groups supported her business. Lee sees the potential the BLM movement has to create real systemic change. “By supporting Black-owned businesses, every person has an opportunity to catalyze to promote justice and equality. With continued exposure and financial support of black businesses, consumers can create long-term and sustainable change for diversity, inclusion, and equity. The BLM movement isn’t just about the Black community, it’s about everyone” said Lee.
Her favorite part about owning her own business is when she is promoting Theopolis Vineyards. When representing her vineyards at wine trade shows, she gets such a satisfactory feeling when she sees the expression on people's faces when folks learn that this award-winning wine brand is owned by a black woman. She is most proud of the numerous awards her wines have earned. Theopolis Vineyards is best known for its Best in Class, Double Gold, 96 Points Estate Grown Petite Sirah and its Double Gold Rosé of Petite Sirah. “Wine Enthusiast Magazine has consistently given wines from Theopolis Vineyards 90 plus Points and selected its wines for Cellar Selection and Editors’ Choice designations. Our wines have likewise received Gold Medals from The Sunset Magazine International Wine Competition, the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and the
San Francisco International Wine Competition” commented Lee.
Later advising that the best aspect of her daily work routine is the joy she feels when bringing pleasure to wine drinkers with every bottle. She takes great pride when seeing consumers love her wines, post about her wines, and generally promote her brand. It warms her heart that the community has embraced Theopolis Vineyards by not only purchasing her wines and joining her wine club but by also taking to social media to show to the brand.
Rather than simply using a hashtag or merely saying you support BLM, supporting Black-owned businesses is a way for people to show that they genuinely support and are an ally to the Black community. Black-owned wine brands are extremely underrepresented with over 8,000 wineries in the United States less than 5 percent of them are Black-owned. The Coronavirus has disproportionately affected minorities and minority-owned businesses. Supporting Black-owned businesses directly supports Black families financially as well as encourages Black representation in the business world.
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