Detroit, female doctor, mom launches the opulence of a luxury wine label

Starting a wine or spirits label is no easy task, especially for a black woman with no previous experience or connections in the beverage industry. But Dr. LaToya Thompson tapped into his passion for science to launch Opulence.

Its luxury label consists of a Cabernet and Pinot Grigio, made from produce that Thompson handpicked on a trip to Napa Valley for the perfect pairings between the grapes. The new label makes Rochester’s sports physiotherapist an anomaly: although women make up 57% of wine buyers, they make up just 28% of winegrowers nationwide. Black wineries and brands are poorly represented, accounting for about a tenth of 1%. Despite these numbers, Thompson found the design process to completion more difficult than she expected.

“I hadn’t realized how much of a process it would be,” says Thompson, mother of three. Obtaining a state winemaker’s license took two years. “And it was difficult to find a distributor, as a new brand. I noticed that when I put my husband’s name on the email, even though I put ‘Dr. Thompson’ on it, I would get a response. I thought, ‘Is it because I’m a woman, or a black woman, that I’m having trouble?’ I think it was. ”She has found success with Great Lakes Wine and Spirits.

Like many, Thompson took to wine sipping it at social events. But her scientific training has always interested her in the journey from grape to glass. “The more I looked, the more time I spent looking at stuff.” She read a lot, took wine lessons and studied food and wine pairings until her husband, a businessman, pointed out to her that they should be making money, not spending so much, on wine. . “You really know this stuff,” he told her.

When it comes to her brand name, Thompson wanted drinkers to feel like they’re having a luxurious experience, something she says it’s hard for African Americans to comfortably embrace.

“Wine is sometimes associated with wealth. Some people think we shouldn’t be in this space, ”she said. “We often avoid the beautiful things. I think we deserve and should have beautiful things.

As the first black woman in the Detroit metro to own a luxury wine brand, she also wants to inspire others. That’s why it was only fitting that she launched her brand at House of Pure Wine in Detroit on Thursday night. Regina Gaines, owner of the downtown Detroit wine store, helped put Thompson in touch with the right people. The 3,100 square foot space was filled Thursday night with a trendy ensemble – mostly blacks and many women – as Opulence Wine sold out.

Opulence wines

Napa Valley Cabernet 2018
Lingering flavors of plum, black currant, currant with a hint of grass and ends with firm tannins

2019 Lodi pinot grigio
Primary fruit flavors of white nectarine, pear, green apple and lime. It takes light honeyed notes; Floral aromas of honeysuckle with refreshing acidity.

Both are sold at House of Pure Wine in downtown Detroit, ML Spirits in Birmingham, A-Star Convenience in Rochester Hills, and on the Opulence Wines website.

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Jean H. Vannatta

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