Having a rich family history and legacy inspired Florida’s first Black female winemaker, Desiree Noisette, to quit her job as a construction lawyer to venture into winemaking. Mermosa, which has been in the works for the last four years, is finally ready for the market and offering crisp wines as well as a sprinkle of a family’s heirloom in every sip.
Noisette opened a swimwear shop in St. Petersburg when she quit working as a construction lawyer in 2012. Realizing she had an interest in winemaking, she poured her experiences as a lawyer into learning the ropes of winemaking from an Oregon winery.
“We would learn from the experts [in construction law about] how to break things down, how components were supposed to come together, and to me, winemaking isn’t that much different.
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“I learned from the experts how to do wine formulations and got my winery license and set up a lab and started doing wine formulations about four years ago,” Noisette said.
According to Click Orlando, Noisette’s ancestor Celestine Noisette is the inspiration for the wines.
Celestine, a Black woman, fought her way to freedom after her husband, a white Frenchman known as Phillipe, did all that he could to keep her and their mixed-race children free in the 1700s.
Phillipe and Celestine met in Haiti and later moved to Charleston, South Carolina. Phillippe was a botanist who founded “Noisette Rose”, a flower that has more than 300 species and still grows in Charleston and some parts of the US and Europe as well.
“It’s this really beautiful love story,” Noisette said of her family’s legacy.
To prevent his family from being sold, Phillippe wrote a fake bill of sale to buy his own family but the state invalidated it. That did not prevent him from finding ways to still save them.
He willed his properties and estates to Celestine and the children and instructed an executor to “sneak her and the kids to a northern state where they can be free,” Click Orlando shares.
Defying Phillipe’s orders, Celestine stood her ground and took charge of the family businesses as a free slave with the help of the executor. The latter was tasked by Celestine to find a legal loophole that would allow her and the children to stay as free slaves in the state.
It all worked out for the better as they managed to do just that and keep the family lands and businesses.
“Her audacious spirit and their eternal love are infused in every sip of Mermosa,” Noisette told Travel Noire. “This story stokes the fire in my heart and my determination to honor this remarkable woman, who I’ve always believed was the original mermaid.”
Mermosa produces three different lines of wines: “Celestine rose,” a rose wine with bubbles; the “Mersecco Blanc,” a carbonated white wine with a crisp, dry finish, and the “Mermosa Bubbles,” a premium white wine with orange and pineapple juices.
Noisette believes her wines would appeal to all wine lovers who also have their unique preferences and they are certainly going to be favorites at brunches, beaches, and boat trips.
While there are 70 Black-owned wine brands in the US, only one-third of them are women. Noisette, though being the first female winemaker in Florida, certainly does not want to be the last. She hopes many get the courage to venture into the industry to bring more diversity.
She hopes that many people feel liberated enough to chase their dreams and find their inner mermaid just as her ancestor Celestine did.
“It’s exciting on one hand to be the first at something, but then it’s also I don’t want to be the last.
“I feel a real sense of responsibility to make sure that we have programs in place and that we’re supporting organizations that help cultivate more folks, more ladies of color to get into the wine industry…I don’t think I’ll be the last,” she said.