While exploring the old files, I found this posting done in early August of 2008.  In honor of Black History Month, I decided to repost it here.  This post has great information about a small Las Vegas event showcasing African American winemakers.  I’m glad to say that the AAAV is still around, but sadly, not all of the wineries or businesses mentioned still exist. Nevertheless, here’s my tribute and tasting notes.  Enjoy!


People, like grapes, come in all colors. And like grapes, can sometimes be surprising with their personalities, characteristics, and the way that other people perceive them. I wasn’t surprised that people weren’t aware that there are several African-American winemakers in California.

I was surprised at the rich history of these winemakers in the United States. I was also surprised to learn that with the thousands of wineries scattered across the US, less than a dozen are owned by African Americans.

It was quite the event. The tasting was hosted by Brenda Knight, the promoter and marketer for the Association of African-American Vintners (AAAV), and she made sure that it was a lively interchange of information and fun. She knows the winemakers personally, and has been involved with the organization since February of this year.

The beautiful Caylix Jazz Club located at 4760 W. Sahara at Decatur was the setting for the event. The venue was ideal, with a large, lovely gathering room that was spacious enough for all of the people who attended. There was a great cross-section of wine-knowledgeable folks – those who wanted to learn about the winemakers, those who wanted to learn about wine, and those who wanted to learn everything!

And then there were the wines. All of the hype and enthusiasm about African-American winemakers wouldn’t mean anything if the wines weren’t good, right? And this is where the wineries shone … in their wines. I was happily not disappointed, primarily because one of my favorite Pinot Noir winemakers was represented.  I didn’t know until nine months ago that the winemaker was African American! The Pinot was delicious, and that was my only criterion. So you can imagine my happiness to see this winery’s beautiful Pinot Noir at the event. I will supply the tasting notes at the end of this post.

Four of the seven member wineries had wines represented. The wineries were Vision Cellars, Running Tigers, Sharp Cellars, and Stover Oaks. Missing were Esterlina, Black Coyote Chateau, and Mark Norwood Vineyards & Winery, Inc. Poston Crest, the other vineyard shown on the site, was the vineyard of the founder who passed away in 2002.

This past June saw the Fifth Annual African American Wine Tasting Festival at Copia, the American Center for Food, Wine and the Arts in Napa. The event was beautifully covered by Jo Diaz of Wine-Blog who was present for the festivities. The next Festival will be held on June 20, 2009 at the same location. Try to move heaven and earth to attend it. It looked like a well-attended, educational, and fun event.

The wines of Vision Cellars can be purchased at Khoury’s Fine Wines & Spirits and Marché Bacchus. Esterlina wines are available at some of the higher end restaurants in some of the Strip properties, including the Bellagio. There will be links to the wineries and to the Association on the Vegas Wineaux homepage very shortly.

And now, the wines:

2007 Vision Cellars White Wine (Blanc Gris)

This was the only white wine of the day, and Brenda indicated that this wine is a blend, but I’m not so sure. Although it doesn’t state it on the label, this wine is at least 95% Sauvignon Blanc.If there’s another wine in the mix, I couldn’t detect it.It has all of the characteristics you’d expect from a really great SB, citrus, minerals, gooseberry, cat pee (yes, this is a very good thing), with flowery notes. It’s crisp and citrusy on the tongue, with a fresh acidity that screams for seafood. 12.9% alc.

2006 Vision Cellars Pinot Noir – Sonoma County

Translucent black cherry cola, medium body. On the nose, black cherry, smoke, strawberries, touch of rose petals.Black cherry, smoke, and wild berries with rounded tannins and gripping acidity. Delicious, but lighter in body and flavor than the Black label.14.3% alc.

2004 Running Tigers Syrah – Dry Creek Valley

Purple-red in color, with medium body.Spice box, plum, white pepper,.Big extracted fruit, with cherries and plums predominating. Smooth tannins, medium acidity. Very Aussie-like in style. 15.3% alc.

2006 Sharp Cellars Pinot Noir – Keenan’s Cover, Sonoma Coast

Reddish garnet/black cherry cola, medium to full in body. On the nose, black cherry predominates, with rose petals, smoke, strawberries, and an indecipherable spice. Taste confirms the smell, with big fruit and paradoxically, a Burgundian-style character. Has Oregon Pinot Noir characteristics. Delicious, rich wine that could be paired with big, well-seasoned meats. 14.5% alc.

2005 Stover Oaks Cabernet Franc – El Dorado County

Cedary pepper, red fruits, with just a hint of herbaceousness. Surprisingly bright and fruity on the tongue.13.8% alc.

2005 Stover Oaks Syrah – El Dorado County

Reminds me of Stanley-Lambert Family Tree Shiraz, with eucalyptus, red fruit, black cherry, and tar on the nose. Dark fruit and spice on the palate. Yummy Syrah with a beautiful nose. 14.7% alc.

2004 Sharp Cellars Zinfandel – Hailey’s Creek Vineyard, Sonoma Valley

Rich, almost portlike in color and viscosity. Jammy cherry, wild berry and plum. Light spice and leather. On the tongue, it is rich, with deeply extracted fruit, integrated tannins, light acidity. It is a different style than what I generally prefer (I love Paso Robles Zins and Howell Mountain in Napa), but its rich fruitiness will appeal to a lot of palates. What’s interesting about this wine is that it tastes like a 17% alcohol wine, but is only 14%. With that kind of body and the richness on the palate, I had to do a double take.

Look for links to the winemakers’ sites and to the AAAV on the home page.  And seek out these wines or contact them directly to get information on their wine clubs.  If you would like to have more information, contact Brenda directly at


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