by Channing Mathews
Black Women Who Wine is a love letter to Black women and our thriving. Initially a small meet-up between sisters and a niece, the group has expanded to connect Black women to explore Virginia wineways, and offer critical social support in the aftermath of COVID-19. “My favorite parts are my efforts to try and support more sisterhood,” notes founder Tasha Durrett. “I am so interested in seeing Black women coming together and supporting each other. I think that it’s so important that we build these spaces for each other and for ourselves.”
Operating since 2019, Tasha has a passion for the visibility of Black women in wine. A communications and marketing expert by training, she was struck by the limited representation of Black women as regular patrons of Virginia wineries, “When I came back here, I started going to wineries I liked on social media, but I found myself really frustrated by the lack of attention to Black women as patrons. I knew we were there, but I didn’t see us being re-shared on Instagram, or us being included in marketing, and I really felt some type of way about that.” Tasha leverages the group as a space to challenge stereotypes about Black people in wine, noting common stereotypes that Black people don’t drink wine or can’t afford it. Thus creating Black Women Who Wine was a space to cultivate her digital advocacy, to highlight beautiful and joyful Black women in spaces that are often both white and male dominated. Hosting monthly events at different wineries across Virginia, Tasha has used Black Women Who Wine as a platform for wine education and access to the wine industry, particularly wine incubators that serve to train the next generation of winemakers. “The wine space is just as male as it is white, so there is also a real gender problem there with women in winemaking.” Tasha’s efforts to shift this inequity take shape by bringing Black women to the table for both joy and education in Virginia wine.
Black Women Who Wine focuses on three key goals through their events, namely, 1.) leveraging their spending to impact social change in the wine industry; 2.) educating members about wine; and 3.) forming sustainable partnerships with local wineries to promote diversity in both the hiring and marketing aspects of the wine space. Their most recent event, The Summer Kickoff, emphasized all three of these practices by hosting the event at Sweet Vines Farm Winery in Unionville, known as Virginia’s only Black-owned winery space. The owner, Seidah Armstrong, is an advocate for Black women to come and use the space as a point of connection and investment, and members of Black Women Who Wine have been repeat customers each year investing in the winery’s success. “Sweet Vines offers lifetime memberships for patrons who spend a certain dollar amount. Black Women Who Wine has nearly reached that goal, [as we look to be] key investors in this [Black-owned} wine and event space.”
When asked about her vision for the future of Black Women Who Wine, Tasha is focused on building out her brand while simultaneously creating investment opportunities for its members. “My ultimate vision is [that] we have ownership in something because that’s the way to have power in any space. Looking at what ownership looks like for us, ‘cause I think there is so much power in us coming together for something like that. I see wine and grape growing in [Virginia] as similar to growing any crop. It takes a while to get in there, it takes finances to get there. But there is a lot that is not being said about who controls land and how people got land, and how generational wealth plays into these spaces, in ways that Black people ultimately don’t have.”
Tasha looks to shift this narrative with future investments, particularly pointing to the recent success of well known and well loved Black woman sommelier Lee Campbell, who is a partial owner of the new Virginia wine incubator, Commonwealth Crush Co. that seeks to invest in the next generation of winemakers. “[Lee Campbell} is a sommelier coming from New York, but she’s been involved with Virginia wine for a very long time, taking wine from Virginia into restaurants in New York. Her first wine produced through Commonwealth crush is out. So not only are we growing people here, but we are attracting people from other spaces. And she is gonna be a great asset to the Charlottesville wine community.”
Alongside Lee and other Black women making moves in the Charlottesville wine industry, Tasha pushes Black Women Who Wine to be a space that brings Black girl magic to the forefront of an industry that often renders us invisible. “We are gonna be a wine group to be reckoned with because we are gonna know our stuff,” Tasha states. She thrives on the building the success of other Black women, particularly while curating spaces that cultivate Black Girl Joy.