In the oldest wine-producing region of Virginia, wineries are pushing for a more inclusive and diverse industry.
The vibe toward experiencing wine is shifting in Virginia. People are realizing that what was once pretentious doesn’t have to be. Tasha Durrett created Black Women Who Wine, a group for Black women and their friends of all palates to enjoy wine and learn about the history of winemaking with good company in Central Virginia.
“There’s so much opportunity in the Virginia wine industry if people are willing to let others in, and now they are,” explains Durrett. “It’s an exciting time to be in the space, and I’m excited to see that some of the ‘bougieness’ has dissipated. I’m excited to see what’s to come for everyone who wants to be a part of this industry.”
Charlottesville has been recently gaining acclaim for its wineries and is home to the Monticello Wine Trail, which includes over 40 wineries spanning a radius of 25 miles with breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This area is the oldest wine-producing region in Virginia, dating back to the 1770s when Thomas Jefferson had a dream of bringing high-quality wine to the state.
Since its origination in the United States, the wine industry has been predominately a white and male-dominated industry. “Although there are more than 8,000 wineries in the United States, about one-tenth of 1% of the winemakers and brand owners are Black,” according to Phil Long, the President of the Association of African-American Vintners. A major barrier to entry for people of color interested in the wine profession is money. It’s expensive to learn about wine, from obtaining professional certifications, taking classes, paying for tastings, and traveling to learn and work in harvests.
In addition to the unique blends and flavors of award-winning wine, what is notable about this region is the energy driven by communities and winemakers seeking to grow, innovate, and create inclusive spaces that welcome wine entrepreneurs and wine lovers from different backgrounds and perspectives. Among the highly respected vineyards in the area, these wineries are taking action to diversify the wine industry through mentorship opportunities, sharing lessons learned, and creating thoughtful entrepreneurial collaborations and community partnerships.