Victoria Coleman is making waves in the wine world as Napa Valley’s first Black female winemaker. After cultivating her winemaking credentials over more than 17 years of work and study at wineries abroad and at home, Coleman is now head winemaker at Lobo Wines in Napa Valley, California.
Coleman was led to wine production in a somewhat roundabout way. She didn’t grow up in a wine-drinking family and only discovered her love of winemaking after the death of her mother 18 years ago. After losing her mom, Coleman relocated from Seattle to Napa to be with her partner. The relocation sparked her interest in wine and winemaking.
"When I moved to Napa, the only thing [was] you’re either in a restaurant or you’re working in a winery. And so I just started out working in a winery," Coleman explained to Boston’s WBUR. "[I] ended up staying for four years and getting into school and just creating my path."
A Robust Education
In addition to being Napa Valley’s first Black winemaker, Coleman is also the first Black woman to graduate from the University of California Davis' enology/viticulture program. She explained to WBUR that being the only Black woman there presented a unique set of challenges.
"I didn’t have the friends or the study groups that I would have liked to have had," she said. "That made it difficult."
Despite the difficulties she may have faced in her early wine education, Coleman continued confidently down her career path. After graduating, she settled into a role at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars as a production assistant to the winemaker. She also spent time in Bordeaux, France at Chateau Mouton Rothschild, where she focused on winemaking in the Old World style.
In 2008, Coleman met Randy Wulff, wine proprietor at Lobo Wines, who essentially hired her on the spot. It was a fateful meeting, as Coleman has been producing wine for the winery ever since. During her time at the winery, she has produced pinot noir, merlot, a syrah blend and cabernet sauvignon among other wines — 16 vintages in total.
Coleman says her favorite wine is the Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon from Lobo Wines, a blend of cabernet, merlot and petit verdot.
"It’s the wine that’s most interesting — where you actually take a sip and you’re thinking about it," she told WBUR. "You’re actually having a conversation about it with yourself or others."
Inspiring Black Winemakers
In addition to her love of crafting wine, Coleman is working hard to ensure that other people of color have access to viticulture and enology education.
"I am working with a small team to fund scholarships for industry training and education for people of color. We want to bridge the gap between desire and opportunity," she told Napa Valley Life Magazine.
The good news is that while Coleman may be the first Black, female winemaker in Napa Valley, there are other Black winemakers in the United States who are also making headway in the industry.
Institutes such as the Association of African American Vintners, Black Vines and The Hue Society among others, are also doing their part to ensure people of color have a place in the future of wine production.