They didn’t have any preconceived ideas about what they were going to do out here. They just fell in love with the place. It was only after meeting and talking with neighboring grape farmers that they started thinking about planting a vineyard.
Winemaker Crush: Brown Estate of Napa Valley
by Mary Kong-DeVito
Meet the Brown Family of Brown Estate, the first and only Black-owned estate winery in Napa Valley.
Bloomberg estimates that only 0.1% of US winemakers and brand owners are Black, so the Browns made history in 1980 when Drs. Bassett and Marcela Brown bought an abandoned 1859 ranch in the eastern hills of Napa Valley, and planted 9 acres of Zinfandel vines.
“They didn’t have any preconceived ideas about what they were going to do out here,” their daughter Deneen Brown, president of Brown Estate told Afro.com. “They just fell in love with the place. It was only after meeting and talking with neighboring grape farmers that they started thinking about planting a vineyard.”
Drs. Bassett and Marcela Brown, and Muhammad Ali, Los Angeles 1966.
At first, the Drs. Brown sold vines to established winemakers until 1996. That’s when their children Deneen, David and Coral Brown took over the family business and produced the first Brown Estate Napa Valley Zinfandel, becoming a wine industry leader.
The Browns helped to forge the long history of Zinfandel in Napa Valley, which is commonly overshadowed by the dominance of Cabernet Sauvignon. It remains their flagship varietal today, with a score of 91 points by Wine Spectator.
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Photos courtesy of Brown Estate