Although the Bay Area weekend forecast originally promised torrential storms, the skies cleared Saturday for the 12th annual Black Vines Festival, celebrating Black-owned wineries from across the world.
The festival was founded in 2011 by Fern A. Stroud, who sought to increase visibility for Black wineries and vintners.
“We’re all about community, bringing folks together, creating space, love and spaces for people to make those business connections,” said Stroud, a Silicon Valley technology professional and founder of Stroud Management Enterprise, “And just have a great time.”
Stroud got the idea after a trip to Association of African American Vintners symposium and meeting a number of Black winemakers. Stroud fostered those relationships with vintners to build the longest running Black woman-run festival to highlight Black-owned wineries and vintners.
“What Black Vines does for those Black winemakers is provide an extra marketing arm where we can reach a massive number of folks,” Stroud said. Annually, wineries, artists and vendors come together in appreciation of Black wines in events in the East Bay.
Saturday’s event held at The Bridgeyard space in West Oakland welcomed over 700 guests, selling out tickets. The event was an experience in “Black excellence” as people enjoyed wine and food, which was included with the purchase of a ticket. The event was billed as part of the annual Black Joy Parade festivities this year, which has brought in many visitors to Oakland. Black Vines events were also held in Napa beginning on Thursday and leading up to Sunday with the Black Vine experience at the Black Joy Parade, where Black Vines hosted a wine booth for parade patrons.
A portion of the proceeds from Saturday’s event went to fund The Black Female Project.
“Black Female Project has been really honored to be a nonprofit partner with Black Vines for several years,” Precious Stroud, founder of Black Female Project and Fern’s sister, said prior to the festival. The Black Female Project uplifts and affirms the voices and experiences of Black women by providing insights on how to achieve success in the workplace and beyond. ”Our goal is to celebrate Black women who drive at work until they learn from their healing journeys.”
Black-owned businesses were also centered throughout the festival as Black women-owned vendors such as Evolve with Mary crafts, That’s My Jam and Teas with Meaning, were there to sell their wares.
This year marks the second year at the festival for Teas with Meaning, explains Kamilah Mitchell, founder of the Oakland-based company. Sparkling Black Magic tea, the restorative tea perfect after a day of wine tasting, was designed in partnership with Black Vines. “We’re glad to share the magic of tea time with everyone,” Mitchell said, who called the event “CommuniTea time.”
Throughout festival, local Black chefs like Magnolia Street’s Leilani Baugh, Claremont Hotel’s Executive Chef Joseph Paire of Limewood, and caterer Lamont Perriman were present to enjoy and network with any number of the 20 wineries. The wineries represented are located as far as Saint Tropez’ La Fete du Rose, and as close as the East Bay’s Wachira Wines, one of the first Kenyan American wineries, with its tasting room in Alameda.
“[Black Vines] keep us relevant in this game, which is a very competitive industry,” Dr. Chris (Christine) Wachira, founder of Wachira Wines, told Oakland Voices. “There are very few of us in this business and Fern makes sure we are seen and we are heard.”
Founder Paula Harrell of Oakland-based P Harrell Wines, explains that the partnership with Black Vines began in 2016 and has propelled her business forward in ways beyond her imagination by opening up different opportunities.
“One of the things that catapulted me forward in my business was being able to be a part of this amazing experience that she and her team has created,” Harrell explained. “And getting a lot of exposure – being able to connect with other people in the industry that look like me that I did not know.”
Admission included gourmet hors d’oeuvres such as fig jams and baked brie served fresh throughout the day, limited edition Black Vines keepsake wineglass, and unlimited tastings from featured wineries.
Stroud explained she doesn’t want the experience to be out of reach due to financial constraints.
“We actually create events that meet all income levels,” Stroud said. “If there’s ever a financial barrier, we provide opportunities for folks to still have the experience. It’s simply about reaching out and we’ll find a way to make it happen because it’s not always about the money.”
“It’s just been a wonderful journey,” Stroud added. “and at the end of the day we’re about creating community.”
Black Vines’ newest partnership with Alaska Airlines, one of the festival’s sponsors, also benefits Black wineries as the airlines ushers in its “Wines Fly Free” campaign. Passengers over 21 years of age with an Alaska mileage plan number can check a case of wine for free when flying from one of the 32 airports in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California. Black Vines and Alaska Airlines also envision this will increase the number of visitors who come to the Bay Area’s wine country.
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To learn more about Black Vines, visit their website, Facebook page, or Instagram.
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