Wine caves are built into hillsides and a unique way to store and age wine. While there are only a few Virginia wineries with wine caves, they offer wineries a unique way to store wine and a visually stunning spectacle for wine lovers and vineyard visitors.
Sounds like exactly where we need to be! Enter Black Women Who Wine’s Wine Cave. The Wine Cave is a members-only space for Black women wining and on this last day of Virginia Wine Month, we’re happy to say we’ve invited inagural members and can’t wait to have others join us.
What does this mean?
As interest in Black Women Who Wine and its mission grows, we have been thinking of a way to streamline our RSVP process for monthly events, while rewarding those who regularly support Black Women Who Wine. It is from this desire that we are establishing inaguaral Wine Cave membership. Invites have been sent!
Wine Cave members will enjoy the following:
Early access to monthly meet-ups
Members appreciation events
Early access to Black Women Who Wine’s first ever fall harvest wine dinner to be held in Fall 2023
There are two wine caves – one for Central/Southern Virginia and one for Northern Virginia.
Can I join or particpate if I’m not a Wine Cave member?
So what does this mean for non Wine Cave members? Not too much, actually. Most events will still be open to the public, including pop-ups and tours. Membership to the Wine Cave will open annually year, starting in January 2024. Let us know you’re interested by joining us throughout the year in 2023.
Let’s keep building
This has been a great year for Black Women Who Wine. Let’s keep up the momentum as we strive to build a deeper wine community of Black women and friends throughout the state. It’s not possible without you and we’re extremely grateful.
This past weekend it happened! Blenheim Vineyards’ OENOverse wine club teamed up with the Verasion Project and local wineries to hold the first ever Two Up, Wine Down Festival. The event built on OENOverse’s mission of amplifying BIPOC voices in the wine industry whether they be wine professionals, enthusiasts, writers, or allies of those who are trying to make it in the industry as anything other than white.
Held at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center (JSAAHC) in Charlottesville, VA, the event attracted wine lovers from all backgrounds from across the state. In some ways above all it reiterated what Black Women Who Wine already knows – that Black women have a thirst for more events that center them as serious wine lovers and part of Virginia wine and that they are consumers of this product (and would be even greater consumers of it if it was made more accessible).
In many ways this weekend was extremey gratifying for me. Black Women Who Wine participants and members showed up in full force, had a good time, and purchased wine. I, as the founder of the group, was there pouring. I hope I did my ladies justice.
There were so many important voices in the crowd that converged on the JSAAHC lawn, many of whom probably went unrecognized by local media and Virgina wine industry professionals because they are Black voices not often heard in this part of the state.
The other thing to point out, that I always point out, is the sheer buying power I experience at these events. From tickets to bottles, Virginia wine’s popularity is growing with this group of consumers as they venture beyond grocery store shelves and for others, as they see local wineries seeing and making space for them. It’s a great thing and the hope is that it continues with more wine makers and wineries coming along.
It was a special weekend for everyone who organized the event and those of us particpating, but I hope everyone who attended also felt how magical this moment was. Cheers to more moments like this.
This week I ventured back out to Merrie Mill Farm and Vineyards to try their wines. Until recently, Merrie Mill was serving True Heritage wines because what would have been its first harvest (2020) was lost to frost. Fast forward to 2022 and the winery has introduced four MMF (Merrie Mill Farm) wines – a Rose, Petit Manseng, Viognier, and White Blend.
The Rose has been available since early spring and I’d already tasted it, so I tried the Petit Manseng, Viognier, and White Blend. All three were excellent and I got a bottle of the Petit Manseng to bring home. Here are my thoughts on all of them.
Petit Manseng: Barrel-aged with 0.5% residual sugar, Merrie Mill’s Petit Manseng is what I think of when I think of the Virginia Petit Manseng I love. Pear, coconut, and the slightest floral finish makes this an easy wine to drink and love, even with its higher acidity. I can’t wait to pair this with shrimp, halibut, or even swordfish. Pairing this with Chinese or Vietnamese food will also be fun.
Viognier: Merrie Mill’s Viognier is making me believe in this grape again. One of my favorites, some other 2021 Viogniers throughout Virginia have been disappointing. This one hits every mark. More aromatic than some, this shows off Viognier’s signature florality. Slightly mineral, you get hints of stone fruits, orange, apricot, and peach. All of that and zero sugar. Pair this one with your favorite semi-soft cheese, paella, or chicken dish.
White Blend: This White Blend is 38% Chardonnay, 38%Viognier, and 24% Petit Manseng. There’s no star here, the grapes blend together to make a delicious blend sure to please a variety of palettes. Pair this with heartier fish dishes, autumn salads, or brussel sprouts.
Last week brought the opening of the much-anticipated The City Foxes wine bar and market in downtown Waynesboro, VA. If you’re familiar with Waynesboro, you’re probably aware that while more businesses are moving into the many empty spaces downtown, the stretch still remains largely abandoned and honestly, not always well-maintained. New businesses to the city hope to turn that around and are working with those already in the area to do so.
The City Foxes is anticipated because it is the only venue of its kind in the small city and because unlike some other wine bars in central Virignia and the Shenandoah Valley, it exclusivly carries Virginia wine. I honestly didn’t realize how unique this is until very recently an out of town visitor in search of a quick intro to Virginia wine pointed out most of the wine bars she could find in Charlottesville don’t carry any. I quickly thought about it and realized she was right.
At City Foxes, you can currently choose between three flights – a mixed flight, white flight, and a red flight. They also currently have 13 wines for sale by the bottle and glass and two ciders by the glass or bottle. There are also two beer options.
Four of us Black Women Who Wine went to check City Foxes out on its opening day. We went near opening at 4 p.m. and were glad to do so because a line quickly formed, though it didn’t get too crowded while there. We all go the mixed flight which includes Thibaut-Janisson Blanc de Chardonnay, Ox-Eye Riesling, Lightwell Survey Strange Collapse, and Barren Ridge Red Barren. I had the riesling and Barren Ridge Red Barren before, but the Lightwell Survey Strange Collapse and Thibaut-Janisson Blanc de Chardonnay were new to me. I loved both, but am so intrigued by Thibaut-Janisson. I’d heard of it before, but never tried any of their wines. Grapes are sourced from the Monticello AVA, but the wines are produced in Waynesboro. The Blanc de Chardonnay was divine, with notes of apples and peaches. It definitely ranks up there with the best Virginia sparkling wines I’ve tried and I’ll be going back to get bottles.
Aside from wine, the market portion of City Foxes also has local-made art, snacks, and small gifts for sale.
Overall, this is a great addition to Waynesboro’s offerings and I’m sure it will get plenty of visitors and attention from out of town.
Rumblings of a Black, woman-owned winery were already on tongues when I first started Black Women Who Wine. There were no signs of it in the works online, but there were some Black women in the Charlottesville area who said they’d had a sneak peak. That the owner was a former educator who owned acres and acres of land, ready to make her mark on the Virginia wine industry. That was 2019. Fast forward to August 2022. Fourteen Black Women Who Wine gathered to experience Sweet Vines Farm Winery for the first time. We’ve got the place to ourselves, the dj is playing, and at the heart of it all is Seidah Armstrong.
Armstrong is the owner and winemaker at Sweet Vines located in Unionville, VA. Unionville is a fitting location for her establishment. The rural community is part of a larger community rich in Black history-Orange County. To say she is pleasant is an understatement. She welcomed our group with literal open arms, weaving storytelling, music, and wine education throughout our tasting and visit. Ancestors seem to always be on her mind – as they are for all Black women, and she’s honored them with the Ancestor’s Garden on the property. Her affection for her business partner and husband flows throughout the establishment and gives visitors a welcome dose of Black love, even if it’s in passing as he goes about the business of continued improvements to the property.
She has plenty of sweet wines, but is adamant that wine is in the mouth of the beholder, that we should be open to trying new wines, that understanding pairing is essential, that we as Black women know our wine, how to taste, how to go into tasting rooms and taste with the best. However, her tasting room is like no other and she’s providing a tasting experience like no other in the state. She’s also making some damn good wine.
The tasting room
The actual tasting room is not huge at Sweet Vines, but it doesn’t matter. There’s space for inside seating, a huge deck, and plenty of lawn space. The property boasts lawn games, smaller spaces to enjoy and take pictures in, and yes, a pool. Each month Sweet Vines hosts events that exceed normal expectations for wineries. Crab fests, all-white dinners, reggae and go-go. Our kinds of entertainment, food, and joy. Things other wineries are afraid to explore. Things that frighten them becasue they will draw large crowds of Black customers. Things that aren’t refined enough for your typical Virginia winery. But believe me, it’s all refined, orderly, and doable here.
We had a private popcorn tasting with charcuterie at Sweet Vines. We got to taste nine wines, eight of which are for sale. While Sweet Vines does have more sweet wine offerings than other Virignia wineries, most were semi-sweet with little residual sugar.
Favorites among ther group were the Pearlicious, a dry, fruit-forward pear wine with notes of citrus as well; a strawberry lavendar wine; PYT, a red blend; a pretty good Chardonnay; and Big Poppa, a blueberry wine without an overwhelming blueberry or jam taste.
Sweet Vines sources grapes from the former Oak Crest winery and has also planted its own vines.
Why Sweet Vines (and Black Women Who Wine) matter
Do a quick search, and you’ll find a few local news stories and wine blog posts on Sweet Vines, but no references to it from state- or region-wide media. Not only is it the only Black, woman-owned winery in Virginia, it’s one of the few on the entire East Coast. So why isn’t it getting more attention from the Virginia wine world? Like most most “worlds” in Virginia (and other states) Virginia wine has a systemic race problem. It also has a systemic male power problem. As the industry, and maybe a handful of wineries, in the state see solutions to both, it’s easy for both to fix one problem, and not the other, by adopting a handful of Black men to fill the gap. I can name them all. But women, it’s not so easy. Black women fit less neatly in the Virginia wine box.
During our visit, Kindra Dionne, owner of the Fify-Leven wine brand based in Loudoun County, stopped by to visit her friend Seidah. It was a pleasure to meet Kindra, but it wasn’t lost on me that three women in Virginia wine were all gathered at Sweet Vines on this day and not at Family Reunion, the ultimate summer celebration of food, wine, and the upper echelon of Black people. Virginia wine didn’t go un-represented at the event’s second year, it was just represented by Black, male ambassadors. The juxtapositoin of the weekend made our visit to Sweet Vines all the sweeter. Cheers to Black women everywhere who are fine not being on the hamster wheel. To those who live to give experiences to other Black women. To those who refuse to settle to be part of the ordinary, what always was. This one’s for you. And so is Sweet Vines and Black Women Who Wine.
We held our July meet-up at Fifty-Third Winery and Vineyard in Louisa, VA, and it did not disappoint. Formerly Cooper Vineyards, Fifty-Third is well known for its rosé and other award-winning wines. In the 2022 Governor’s Cup, it took home silver awards for its 2019 Chambourcin, 2019 Merlot, 2019 Petit Verdot, 2019 Romulus, and 2019 Two Springs.
This was everyone’s first visit to the winery and we all agreed the wine was fantastic, as was the service. While the space is pretty small, our group of seven didn’t feel like crowded at all on a Saturday when business was pretty steady. There is limited indoor seating, patio seating, and seating at picnic tables or in the field where you can set up your own blankets and chairs.
Fifty-Third had a great variety of choices for all wine lovers and we tried reds, whites and sweet options. We were excited to try the rosé because we’d heard so much about them. Two are currently available – 2021 Barrel Aged Rosé and 2021 Gentle Press Rosé. Both medium-bodied with low acidity and beautiful coloring, the Genltle Press was the group’s favorite of the two (though we enjoyed both). With aromas of watermelon, strawberry, and cherry, it was a perfect rosé for summer sipping. Other standouts were the 2019 Norton, 2021 Chardonel, Rhapsody, and Sweet Louisa. The Rhapsody is a semi-sweet white wine with notes of honeysuckle and peach. Sweet Louisa is a sweet read (a rarity in Virginia wine) with notes of cranberry and dark cherries and flowers.
We carried our own snacks, but the winery does have meat, cheese, and other treats for sale.
The tasting room associates were helpful with providing us information on the wines and pleasant throughout setting up our visit and the day of. This was a ten of ten experience and we’ll definitely return.
Meriwether Springs Vineyard & Brewery is one Virginia vineyard that was a mystery to me until recently. While I’ve seen people post about it on social media before and knew about its Vineyard Workers’ Collective, that was the extent of my knowledge. After visiting, I can now say it’s a wonderful venue that deserves all the love it gets and more.
I first decided to inquire about having our Summer Kickoff at Meriwether due to its outside areas and the ability to accomodate a large group. The staff was great from the start of reserving space to the end of our event. Ed Pierce, owner of the establisment, met us as we we were coming in and offered to help carry items to our reserved area. If you look on Google and Facebook, you’ll see reviews noting how nice and hospitable the family that owns Meriwether is and these review proved true for my experience. He seemed genuienly grateful to have us there and we were grateful to have such a great space. We had our own personal wine in the woods in an area that boasted plenty of shade and seating.
I think we were all surprised how good the wine was here. Currently, Meriwether has a 2019 Vidal Blanc, 2018 Chardonnay, 2021 Pinot Grigio, 2018 Petite Verdot, 2019 Rose, and 2020 Chambourcin. We tried all of the wines except the Chardonnay and Petite Verdot.
Our favorites were the Vidal Blanc and Chambourcin. The Vidal Blanc was crisp, light and citrusy, with the usual Vidal Blanc acidity. Notes of lemon combined with floral notes to make this a great summer option, which I’m sure is why it proved to be a favorite on a hot day. The Chambourcin was a real treat. Notes of black cherry, red fruit, and black pepper were identified and it had the most beautiful color and aroma. Definitetly try both of these if you give Meriwether a try, though nothing we tried would be a bad option. You can buy wine by the glass or bottle, no flights here.
Meriwether allows you to bring your own food and we did. You can also purchase wood-fired pizza on site and enjoy the brewery if you prefer beer. I also saw that they have some snack and drink options for kids.
If you’re looking for a more laid-back winery experience in the Charlottesville area, I highly recommend giving Meriwhether a try. It also has a bed and breakfast component.
I recently visited Sonoma for the first time. Sonoma is a much larger county than Napa and is also home to a number of award-winning tasting rooms, vineyards, and wineries. I also visited Napa on this trip, but that’s for a different blog post.
First, the accomodations and planning. I put out the call late last year to see if anyone I knew was interested in a trip to California wine country and got two takers. A third friend that lives in San Jose met us in Sonoma. We stayed at the Inn at Sonoma. While not the most affordable option in Sonoma, I’d completely stay at this place again. The inn has nice touches like free breakfast and a wine and cheese hour daily. The rooms were spacious with high ceilings and modern decor, as well as a tv, mini fridge and fireplace. It was within walking distance of Sonoma Plaza.
So where did I go to eat and drink?
Our first stop right off the plane was Fulcrum Wines. Fulcrum’s small tasting room is located right off Sonoma Plaza. On a Thursday afternoon we were the only guests and the tasting room associate was nice and chatty. We tried one of the many Pinot Noir’s offered as well as the Brut Rose. California is known for its Pinots and this was a good one to start with. The tannins were not overwhelming and the notes of cherry and raspberry dominated, with hints of mineral notes as well.
After visiting Fulcrum, we had lunch at Maya Restaurant. This casual, Latin American restaurant was home to one of my favorite meals. The mixed grill here was great as were the uniquie margaritas being served.
Our experience at Sunflower was a highlight. This is a great spot for breakfast or brunch and lives up to all of the great reviews it has. The outdoor patio dining area is surrounding by fruit trees and the Sunflower theme is everywhere. Boozy drinks and great breakfast are always a win.
On our last day in Sonoma, we visited three tasting rooms/wineries, with Anaba being the first. For overall experience, this ranked number 1 during this visit. The outside seating is beautiful and there is a fun, casual atmosphere here. There’s also a bocce ball court, which I loved. Tastings start at $40. Our tasting included the 2021 Turbine White, Rhône Blend; 2021 Grenache Blanc; and two Pinots. They also let us try one of the Chardonnays. The Grenace Blanc here was a grood break from all of the Pinots and Syrahs we’d had. Anaba also had food options and wood-fired pizzas, but we came here straight from brunch so didn’t try the food.
Gundlach Bundschu Winery
Our next stop was Gundlach Bundschu Winery. This was a fun option with outdoor seating, a wine cave, and a pretty good Charcuterie board. We did bottles instead of flights or tasting here and enjoyed the DJ, charcuterie, and truffle chips and truffle popcorn. Established in 1858, Gundlach Bundschu’s estate vineyards are located 35 miles north of San Francisco on the southwesterly slopes of the Mayacamas Mountain Range. It’s located at the southernmost point in Sonoma Valley and has a unique combination of steep hillsides and cool valley floor sites that allow it to grow a broad variety of grapes.
Sigh Champagne Bar
Located centrally in Sonoma, Sigh is a champagne bar where you can enjoy sips and frozen drinks. When we visited two of my friends had flights, one had frose, and I had a frozen Moscow Mule, which was really good. This is just a fun space to visit and enjoy some casual sips.
Wit and Wisdom
For our final meal in Sonoma, we went to Wit and Wisdom. It did not disappoint. The wine list did not disappoint and the food was some of the best we had during our visit. I had duck wings and the rolls as an to start and halibut as my entree. Everything was cooked perfectly. The halibut was delicate and seasoned well and was served with ratatouille. The atmosphere is one that could work for a girls night birthday which is what we went for; a date night spot; or a family dinner. The open air dining experience was a good one, with most of the area being enclosed.
I’ve been to Mount Ida multiple times, but have never put it on the blog, so here we are. Located in Scottsville, Mount Ida is comprised of multiple event venues and two neighborhoods of homes. It reminds you of just how much money is being poured into this area, and it’s beautiful. The Tasting Room and Taphouse consists of multiple seating options, bars inside and outside, and views that can compete with those of any other Virginia winery.
I love taking people here, because the reaction of first-time visitors is always one of complete awe that this space exists so close to the place they call home, the other reason is the staff is always attentive and the pours are generous. They also have a full kitchen which serves up quality food options.
The wine at Mount Ida is good. On my latest visit with Black Women Who Wine, I got the red flight they offer which included the 2019 Moonlight Red, Cabernet Franc, and the High Ridge Reserve Red. The Cabernet Franc Comprised of Merlot, Tannat, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, this choice is surprisingly easy to drink and well-balanced, with the tobacco aromas not overpowering notes of berries and cherry.
As far as whites, the Moonlight White (a white blend) and the Petite Manseng were favorites among our group. The winery also has two sparking options for those who are looking for sparking or want to celebrate a special occasion.
I’ve been here for pretty much everything – a day date, a work celebration, just stopping by after visiting other wineries, and now with the amazing ladies who joined Black Women Who Wine for our May meet-up. The venue served each occasion well, which is part of what makes it so great. This weekend was also a special case because the general manager accommodated us at the last minute due to a venue change, we had to make due to Blenheim being closed.
Mount Ida will always be one of my go-tos for out-of-town guests and event considerations.
It’s 2022 and we’re all in this together, right? So why is Black Women Who Wine still going to great lengths to work with Black photographers and vendors and support Black businesses? One, it’s our party and we’ll support who we want to. And 2, this attention to Black-owned business is still needed. Unless there is an intentionality to work with Black vendors, many white-led organizations still intentionally (or unintentionally) choose vendors who look like them.
For me, I enjoy the soul and flavor that Black businesses add when working with them. From added touches to an understanding of expectations when it comes to event planning and curation, working with Black – and other partners of color – is always an experience set apart from others. There is a mutual affection and understanding that we’re working toward a goal and glad to help each other meet those goals. Many Black-led businesses and organizations get a great percentage of their business via word-of-mouth praise and community outreach. They give back so that whole communities benefit. Yet when white-led organizations are looking for services and products, their names are often looked over or not considered unless there is a person of color in the room.
Black Women Who Wine recently had a great photo shoot with Kori Price of Kori Price Photography, a fellow Black woman wining and winning. We look forward to partnering with other Black-led businesses as well this year and beyond.
We are currently looking to partner with local businesses on the following: