By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer,
Report for America Corps Member
Dallas resident Whitney Gates’ prowess in winemaking was passed down to her.
Her uncle was famous in his Nashville community for his barbecue and homemade wine. However, his recipe differed from the traditional wines at local liquor stores and restaurants.
Instead of grapes, Whitney’s uncle used an array of fruits and vegetables, including peaches, pears and even corn on the cob. Even at the age of 10, she knew her uncle was onto something special because it was a catalyst for fellowship.
“Whenever he would make wine, family members and friends would flock to his home just to get a taste because the wine that he created was not only unique in that it was developed from non-grape fruits, but it also had a higher alcohol content,” said Whitney. “I really admired seeing that because not only was the wine unique but it inspired these moments of unity and also just enjoyment and escape.”
When it came time for Whitney to choose a career path, she decided to emulate her uncle’s winemaking. She began by teaching herself about the winemaking process, relying on cues from her uncle, and eventually, she studied viticulture at Grayson College in Texas, one of the top-ranked institutions for the subject.
Whitney and her husband, Chaz, launched Wondry Cocktail Wines in August 2020. The organic fruits used in the wine range from peaches to watermelon to apples, and the it has an alcohol content of 13.9% ABV.
On each bottle of Wondry Cocktail Wines, there is a recommendation for which mixer to pair it with. At the end of each year, Whitney and Chaz have committed themselves to donating a portion of their profits to underrepresented entrepreneurs.
As Black entrepreneurs themselves, the couple has been met with surprise from the customers who purchase their wines.
“Less than 1% of American winemakers are Black. When we are out and about stocking shelves and things, it’s funny because people will walk past us and simply think that we are sales associates,” said Whitney. “When we tell them that we own, we bottle, we produce and we label every single bottle of Wondry Wine, they literally stop in their tracks because there is not a lot of representation within the wine industry.”
According to Chaz, there is a high barrier to entry in the wine business, which can lead to exclusivity. Fortunately, he and Whitney found time during the COVID-19 pandemic to locate a facility and purchase the necessary equipment for wine production.
While Wondry Cocktail Wines is available for purchase online, Chaz and Whitney are looking forward to expanding their retail presence. Currently, their wines are carried at Total Wine and Target in Dallas and across North Texas.
“Neither of us came from a family of great means or wealth, so this is our opportunity to build for us, and this will be a legacy that we are creating for our children,” said Chaz.
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