Denise Mathews (left) and Kimberly Johnson (right) holding a bottle of their wine at the Maryland Wine Festival in Westminster, Maryland on Sept. 19, 2021. (Photo taken by CherRae Dickerson)

By CherRae Dickerson, Special to the AFRO

Two African American women turned their love for wine into a business. 

Philosophy Winery co-founders Kimberly Johnson and Denise Matthews said they are the first African-American women to own a winery in Maryland. They also said they are the second Black winery on the East coast. Philosophy is a mobile luxury boutique winery that produces dry wines. 

“Philosophy is pretty much who we are. It is the tie that binds us. Our philosophy binds us, so it seemed like the perfect name for our company,” said Matthews. 

Johnson has worked in the wine industry for over 15 years. “Throughout my years in the wine industry, I volunteered at many wine festivals around the state, I engaged as a key volunteer for the Maryland Winery Association, and I worked at Old Westminster Winery for seven years as a Tasting Room Associate,” said Johnson. She worked several events and noticed that no one looked like her. Johnson wanted to change that.

Matthews is currently an Executive & Life Coach. She was introduced to the wine industry because her friend had a dream. “We did not do this to become the first,” said Matthews. 

According to the Maryland Wineries Association website, “In Maryland, the wine industry generates close to $2.6 billion in total economic activity in the State of Maryland, dramatically illustrating that wine is the ultimate value-added beverage.”

“I have been an entrepreneur that couldn’t find her niche. The winery was my niche, it is a passion of mine. I’m really really involved in it so opening a winery after working for so many years just became the next step,” said Johnson. 

Matthews said they had a lot of support from the Maryland Winery Association, Old Westminster Winery, and The Wine Collective. Philosophy does not have a building, but they produce their wine at The Wine Collective, a co-op winery in Baltimore City.

“The wines from Philosophy represent the incredible passion and creativity of Kimberly and Denise. They did their homework and executed a well-developed plan in launching the winery. The value of their involvement in and support of our industry and association cannot be overstated,” said Kevin Atticks, Executive Director of the Maryland Wineries Association. 

They started The Wine Scholar, a mentorship program where they select two women a year who are interested in the wine industry or Maryland agriculture. The program allows them to share their knowledge and support other women on their wine journey. 

“Kimberly and Denise are fantastic, they are trailblazers. I think it is fantastic that they are sharing their knowledge,” said Sharmaine Taylor, a Philosophy Winery Wine Scholar. “It’s very encouraging to me that this time next year, I will be the second female Maryland-owned wine. This is very exciting. I am honored to be with them.” Taylor is also a health scientist. 

Johnson and Matthews are Baltimore city natives who have made history. “Just because we were the first, we wanted to make sure we were not the last,” said Matthews.

The writer is a Strategic Communication Major at Morgan State University.

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