Black Winery Owners Set Pace for Women, African American Winemakers to Follow

Black Winery Owners Set Pace for Women, African American Winemakers to Follow

These Black women are working to amplify diversity in the wine industry.

Wine enthusiasts Kimberly Johnson and Denise Matthews are five years into the growing culture of the wine industry with their old-world, classic vintner Philosophy Winery.

According to Barron’s, the duo launched Philosophy Winery in 2018 and became the first Black- and woman-owned winery in Maryland.

“In the U.S., there are fewer than 1% of African-Americans in this industry. We’re setting the pace here for others to follow. We’re sending a message that there’s an opportunity that’s open to everyone. We’re breaking down barriers,” Matthews, 57, said.

Although part of their mission is to spotlight the Maryland-grown grapes in their superior wines, Johnson and Matthews are also working to provide information and resources to those who don’t think they have a way into the industry.

“Even though we are identified as African-American, we don’t want to be known just for that,” Johnson, 45, said. “We want to be known for making quality wines that can withstand time, age gracefully, and will be sold and shared both inside and outside of Maryland.”

Matthews shared that the winery follows the French or Italian production style while still incorporating U.S. techniques. Philosophy Winery ferments its white wines in stainless-steel tanks, while the red wines are aged in six French oak barrels.

“All of our wines are dry, which makes us unique,” she said.

Johnson and Matthews launched their winery with a single Rosé, and presently, the company has expanded to five wines, including its award-winning Cabernet Franc, Viognier, and Rosé wines.

According to the company, Philosophy Winery bottles range from US$24 for a 2019 Reign Rosé to US$40 for a 2019 Cabernet Franc. The wine products are sold online and featured in several Baltimore shops.

Johnson is the first African American Female Vintner in the state of Maryland, leading a second year as president of the 100-member trade group, the Maryland Wineries Association. Matthews is a certified sommelier who curates the company’s presentations, providing customers with an intimate and poetic wine experience.

Johnson and Matthews plan to eventually open their own brick-and-mortar tasting room and retail space in 2023.