By Hamzat Sani, Special to the AFRO
Soul of Sonoma wants to raise the profile of the few Black-owned vineyards, wineries and establishments producing quality wine. Boasting “unparalleled tasting experiences at premium wineries and featured venues,” SoS has a focused approach to premium wine that serves both the taster and makers alike.
While African Americans are strong consumers of wine it is hard to find Blacks represented amply in the production of premium wine. Very few Black owned vineyards exist and many that do face steep challenges, limited resources and little attention.
‘’SoS differentiates itself from the crowded field of wine tour services by offering coordinated access to premium African American wineries and tasting rooms for tastings, networking, and private events.’’
Founder Patrice Davenport started her entrepreneurial journey shortly after finishing graduate school with her first business, 1865 Company, which focused on high end items and gifts associated with African American heritage and culture. The idea for Soul of Sonoma started as a part of 1865 Co.
“One of our brands that we had was the Legacy Cellars Club, we were the first wine club to feature exclusively black owned premium wine brands,” she told the AFRO.
Originally from the San Francisco area, Davenport used her experience and knowledge of the local wine country to build a fledgling business. The company provided tours of Black-owned vineyards in nearby Napa and Sonoma County, hence the name. Despite their success a combination of interstate laws around shipping wine and an immature internet resulted in the business being sunsetted until the timing was right.
“Fast forward to 2017 with the proliferation of African American wineries it just seemed like a really great time to bring parts of that business back under the Soul of Sonoma brand. So we are doing tours in Napa and Sonoma …we are doing tours, premium tours of kind of high end vineyards, tasting rooms that type of thing that are black owned in those areas.”
Now Davenport and her team are bringing their west coast born business model east in hopes of spreading the reach and appeal of black owned vineyards and wineries throughout the country. Part of Soul of Sonoma’s offerings on the East Coast will include tours, tastings and exclusive access to Black owned wineries. SoS also is conducting research and outreach to Black owned wineries and vineyards up and down the mid-Atlantic to help African American wine consumers identify businesses to support such as Wisdom Oak Gardens in Virginia, Nyari Cellars in New York and Akwaaba Bed and Breakfast right here in D.C. where Davenport has set up East Coast operations.
Soul of Sonoma also hosts exclusive events catered to high end wine connoisseurs seeking a premium Black wine experience. “We have heard from many affluent African Americans and others about their desire to support Black-owned businesses while sharing the pride of Black-ownership and cultural experiences with their peers.”
One such example of the companies luxury approach to the wine experience is an exclusive event to be held at the Historic Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard. The inaugural Soul of Sonoma on the Vineyard will combine wine, food and African American history to produce a premium wine tasting experience in one of the countries most iconic communities. Set in Farm Neck Golf Club, where former U.S. presidents tee off, the culinary and wine experience will bring some off California’s award winning Black-owned vineyards to guests.
Davenport hopes to soon open up a brick and mortar on the East coast to bring the experience of great wine produced by Black-owned vineyards to more people.
“We do hope to have a tasting room on the East coast in the near future…to have a northern California style tasting room (here) would be amazing.”