For most folks that know and love California wine country, as well versed as they may be in the region, there are still some wineries that are not on their radar. But the wines are absolutely stellar! Wine country has a few black owned wineries but it’s such a shame that the wineries don’t get much press. Next time you plan your trip west, support the brothers and sisters whose wine is every bit as good (and sometimes better) than wines you’ve heard so much about. Check out some of my favorites on your next visit!
Brown Estate is named after the family who owns and runs the property, the Brown family. They make up the President, winegrower and brand manager of Brown Estate. The property is located in the Chiles valley region of St. Helena, amidst 450 acres of untamed land. In 1980, the matriarch and patriarch of the Brown family purchased the land in the Rutherford hills and, in 1995, the Browns produced their first vintage. Their wines are extremely limited production. The flagship wine is their Zinfandel and it has been hailed as one of the best Zins in Napa Valley. When you visit the property, expect to catered to in the most intimate way and expect to stay at the property for an hour or longer, tasting through their wines and eating small paired bites with the family. Their wines are served in high end restaurants across the country including a very special dinner at Charlie Trotter’s. Expect big, bold, fresh fruit flavors, smooth texture and a lingering finish to whet your palate for more.
Esterlina means “Sterling” in Spanish but there was already a Sterling vineyards, so this is the way this family has distinguished itself. Esterlina Vineyards resides in Sonoma County, with the main property in the Dry Creek valley and the other in the Anderson valley. The Sterling family name has many generations of winemaking under its belt, so the current iteration of the winemaking family, namely four brothers and the patriarch, Mario Sterling, have taken the Esterlina name to the next level. The family produces high quality, limited chardonay, pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon crafted by hand.
The idea for Sharp Cellars actually began in Germany in the 1960s, which is where Vance Sharp was stationed while he was in the Air Force. Retirement to Sonoma in 1997 helped Vance and his wife make the decision to begin making wine under their own name. Sharp grows pinot blanc, pinot noir, pinot gris, chardonnay, zinfandel and petite sirah in multiple vineyard sites including one called Danny Glover’s vineyard, named after the actor who was Sharp’s neighbor. The other names of the vineyards are named after the Sharp’s grandchildren. Their varietals never exceed 300 cases; additionally, the Sharp’s wines have earned multiple medals and won tons of awards and acclaim.
Mac McDonald is a rather menacing figure. He is broad and stands over six feet tall. His trademark uniform is overalls and a straw hat. Besides this, his wines are amazing and have won myriad awards and he specializes in pinot noir production in Sonoma county. He often traveled to France and tasted his first Burgundian pinot noir in the 1950s and promised himself that he’d make wine one day. In 1997, Vision Cellars produced its first pinot noir. His “vision” had come into fruition.
It’d be a travesty to skip these wineries on your next trip to California wine country. It’s so rare to find black owned wineries and these are the only four in the country. If you can’t make it out, go to your local brick and mortar or online wine shop, and order up some of the best wines this country has ever seen!