By Ryan Velez
There are many industries that Black people are having difficulty breaking into, whether it’s due to a lack of education or mentorship or trouble competing with established business owners from other ethnicities who sometimes have the benefits of generations of knowledge and support handed down in their field. This makes it all the more important to notice and celebrate those who do blaze a trail, and one example that EURWeb covers is Brown Estate, Napa Valley’s first and only Black-owned winery.
As a note, Brown Estate is doing more than just scratching for a space, but also excelling as one of the best zinfandel producers in that region, receiving a score of 91 points by Wine Spectator. This two-generation operation started with siblings Deneen, David & Coral Brown in the 90s, with the help of their parents Bassett Brown (from Jamaica) and Marcela Brown (from Panama). The elder Browns had acquired the 450 acres in the Chiles Valley AVA in 1980, and up until this point, simply planted zinfandel vines and sold the fruit to winemakers. In 1996, the kids got the idea to move the winemaking in-house.
Brown Estate produced its first Napa Valley zinfandel in 1996 and as of 2016, they have bottled their 20th vintage. “It’s natural for the second generation to take it from vine to bottle,” Deneen tells 7×7 about the legacy left by her parents. However, they are also making even further expansions to their operation, having debuted their Brown Downtown location in the heart of downtown Napa. “It’s downtown, so it’s a different experience from driving up the winding hills to the winery,” says designer Catherine Kwong. Kwong says that the space was inspired by her “residential interiors with a fashionable sensibility.”
"We absolutely love the way we feel when we're in a space designed by Catherine," says Deneen. Beyond the sexy, dark colors and distinct layout, which includes two bars, bench seating, and a lounge, the decor also gives a meaningful nod to the family, a drawing by the Brown’s Uncle Buntil, described as a "mystical figure," a wanderer, and a "dashing guitar-slinging charmer."
The company is also getting visibility from celebrity support as well. Cookie Johnson hosted her book signing party at the downtown space, where Tina Knowles was a guest. Members of the Miami Heat have also appeared at the downtown spot to show their support.