Dining

Black Lives Matter In Winemaking, Too

August 13, 2020

Wine as an industry has a reputation for being very slow to catch up to speed on issues of race and gender; in fact, wine is disproportionately controlled by white men, whether it’s those who own wineries, make the wine or simply drive the narrative of what wine is and how it should be enjoyed (just scroll the Instagram feed of any commercial winery and you will see a sea of white).

The Black Lives Matter movement has brought to light a growing list of Black-owned wineries and makers, which has really given us a hefty mouthful to chew on: why didn’t we know about these before June 2020 and why aren’t they in the B.C. market? Is there even a Black-owned winery in Canada and, since the answer is yes, can you name it?

In short, systematic racism is why Black-owned businesses in the world of wine face barriers that make it intrinsically harder to operate with success—this can look like fewer mentors for young Black people interested in wine (paired with little to no representation of Black wine pros in wine media), fewer restaurants willing to hire Black sommeliers or wine directors (or train them up) or banks denying loans to Black people trying to start up a business. The list goes on, and it goes deep; it is a historic problem that white people will never truly be able to understand, since it is not their lived experience.

It is no longer acceptable to stare at the liquor-store shelf and take at face value the representation presented to us as consumers. Question this wall of wine! Why were these bottles chosen, and where are the Black-owned (or other BIPOC) wines? Because they do exist, and they are worth supporting and enjoying.

Though only one of these Black-owned wineries’ products is available in B.C., all are worth supporting in other ways until they start to show on our shelves. Follow them on social media, inquire about them when you are in stores and restaurants and add them to your list of wineries to visit once this world safely allows us to cross borders again. —Laura Starr

abbey creek vineyard. Bertony Faustin is recognized as the first Black winemaker in Oregon. Though the wine industry did not welcome him with open arms, he pushed for systemic growth and change and paved a path for other Black winemakers. If you want to learn how difficult this experience was, watch his documentary, Red, White & Black: An Oregon Wine Story.

maison noir wines. A Willamette Valley, Oregon-focused garagiste winery founded by sommelier André Hueston Mack—the first African American to win America’s Best Young Sommelier.

the mcbride sisters collection. Sisters Robin and Andréa McBride were separated at birth and raised on different continents—hence the California and New Zealand wines they produce. They’re known for their Black Girl Magic line of wines, as well as She-Can! canned wines that raise funds to support women in the industry.

nyarai cellars. A Canadian winery based in Niagara, Ontario, co-founded in 2008 by Steve Byfield (winemaker), who has earned some serious stripes in the wine industry. Canadians! You can buy this wine winery direct!

seaside pearl farmgate winery. This darling winery, tucked into Mt. Lehman right at the opening of the Fraser Valley, B.C., wine region, boasts a tasting room situated inside a chapel. That’s where you’ll find co-owner Allison Zimmerman flexing her hospitality skills with guests and brimming with excitement over Seaside’s wines (which you can buy winery direct).

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