Read about her journey from lawyer to winery owner
CM: What made you decide to go from lawyer to winery owner?
LW: As an attorney, whenever I had a client meeting on the West Coast, I would always combine it with a visit to a vineyard. They always say, “Do what you love,” so that’s how I started my business journey. When I opened Davidson Wine Company in Charlotte in 2019, I was still practicing and working for a large bank. It became very clear that making wine and opening a winery were not conducive to being a lawyer at the same time, and in October 2019, I made the decision to do wine full time.
CM: Tell us about your training.
LW: First, I enrolled in a yearlong, online wine-making program, and then I did an
internship with a winery in the Temecula region of California. I had a really glorified idea of what making wine was like; in reality, it’s very messy and involves a lot of cleaning and sanitizing to get a really crisp, clean product. You have no idea what it will taste like until the first sip; that’s when you know if you’ve made wine or not.
CM: Only one percent of winery owners are African American. Why do you think that number is so low?
LW: Being in the wine world in general, especially in the Southeast, there are a lot of rules and regulations. The start-up for a winemaking facility is cost-prohibitive. I also think it’s visibility. I belong to the Association of African American Vintners, but it’s hard to convince others to come along the same path. If you’re not seeing other folks like you doing something, you’re less likely to want to do it yourself.
CM: How did you set up shop here?
LW: My family often vacationed in Charleston, and my husband and I honeymooned here years ago. When I was looking to expand the business, I was fortunate enough to be contacted by a broker who told me someone was selling a wine shop down on Market Street in 2021. It fell into my lap, and I definitely couldn’t say no once I saw it in person.
CM: The South isn’t know for its grapes; how do you produce wine here?
LW: I knew I wanted to go into this 1,000 percent and make my own affordable, local wines. We make over 30 varieties, from Merlots and Chardonnays, to more scarce wines such as Petit Verdot and Ports. All of our wines are made in our North Carolina facility, with grapes acquired from California, Washington, Oregon, and some internationally. The grapes are getting picked, then flash-frozen and sent to us on a refrigerated truck. This way we always get grapes at the peak of freshness!
CM: What kind of food pairings can people expect on your menu?
LW: We’ve partnered with CHS Coastal Charcuterie to sell boxes that pair with our wine, from meats and cheeses to dessert options that go great with sweeter wines. If you’re looking for something to go with a pot roast dinner, our staff could also figure out which wine goes best with that.
CM: Any hot wine trends to share?
LW: I think especially since we’re getting into warmer months, wine cocktails and sangrias have become such a hit, and we’ll be rolling that out in Charleston. Sangrias are the perfect wines to drink on the beach, or a boat, or hanging out outside.