Detroit woman launches luxury wine brand, seeks to shake up industry

DETROIT – A new wine on the store shelves is normally not a big deal, but this one is different.

Opulence Wine, the new Detroit wine brand launched on Thursday, bills itself as a luxury, but the journey that has brought it to this point makes it memorable.

An Opulence Wine Show 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. Sometimes it wasn’t phone calls, I had to put my husband (Anthony) in the front to get his foot in the door.

As a black woman it was not easy to break into the industry and there are a number to prove it.

Read: Kids, Crafts, and Powerful Women: Michigan Entrepreneur Pivots Business During COVID Pandemic

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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 about 70 black-owned wine brands, including wineries and outsourcing brands. A third of the known black marks of AAAV belong to women.

“It was sometimes disheartening, I have to say. Sometimes I was like you know what, it’s just too hard. I don’t want to try anymore, ”said Thompson. “Why are we in 2021, even 2020, still grappling with racial disparities and things of that nature? Why they are so difficult for me … I have the wine, the wine just sits. I can’t sell it.

After he finally landed a Distributor, he was just getting started from his Detroit home at House of Pure Vin.

“When you look at our history, our store has been very responsible for launching many black winegrowers. Put them on the market or even launch them periodically and at retail. We did Dwayne Wade, Charles Woodson and Isaiah Thomas, ”said Regina Gaines, owner of the wine store.

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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 up in the music scene, the movie scene, the financial district, it’s just one more avenue we make our own in and that’s what makes it exciting,” she said.

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

“Detroit is pushing harder, we’re going to get there no matter what,” Thompson said.

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

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

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

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

Following: Local news coverage

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Jean H. Vannatta

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