Detroit woman launches luxury wine brand and seeks to shake up the industry

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DETROIT – A new wine hitting store shelves isn’t normally a big deal, but this one is different.

Opulence Wine, the new Detroit wine brand that launched Thursday, calls itself luxury, but the journey that got it to this point makes it memorable.

An Opulence Wine display was just a distant dream for sports physiotherapist, wife and mother of three, Dr. LaToya Thompson.

“I think I’m at a loss for words to finally see this,” Thompson said. “Sometimes it took a lot of no’s. Sometimes there were no phone calls, I had to put my husband (Anthony) in front to get my foot in the door.

As a black woman, breaking into the industry hasn’t been easy and the numbers prove it.

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Less than 1% of American winemakers are black. The Association of African American Vintners (AAAV) and President Phil Long of Longevity Wines know of 70 black-owned wine brands, including wineries and brands that outsource. A third of these black marks known to AAAV belong to women.

“It was discouraging at times, I must say. Sometimes I was just like you know what, it’s just too hard. I don’t want to try anymore,” Thompson said. “Why are we in 2021, or even 2020, still dealing with racial disparities and things of that nature? Why they are so difficult for me… I had the wine, the wine is just sitting. I can’t sell it.

After finally landing a distributor, it was only right to launch at home in Detroit at House of Pure Vin.

“When you look at our history, our store has been very responsible for launching many black winemakers. Bringing them to market or even throwing them vintage and retail. We did Dwayne Wade, Charles Woodson and Isaiah Thomas,” said Wine Shop Owner Regina Gaines.

Gaines has been Thompson’s mentor from the very beginning.

While this may not be Detroit’s first wine launch, Gaines knows it won’t be the last.

“As much as we grow in the music scene, the movie scene, the financial district, it’s just one more avenue that we take ownership of and that’s what makes it exciting,” she said. .

Thompson is proud to be part of the moment and what’s happening in Detroit and Michigan’s wine industry.

“Detroit are pushing harder, we’re going to do it regardless,” Thompson said.

She hopes her launch will inspire others with big dreams, including her daughter.

“Colleagues who come today (Thursday) are like, ‘Well, I’m bringing my daughter to see this can be done,'” she said.

In June 2020, the Michigan Wine Collaborative launched an Inclusion and Expansion Committee to represent and advocate for those historically excluded from the wine industry.

Emily Dockery, director of project and marketing for MWC, told Local 4 that since the committee launched, they’ve received at least a dozen inquiries from people of color in the state seeking to establish wine brands that don’t didn’t know where to start.

After: Local news coverage

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Jean H. Vannatta