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BY Abu Mubarik, 12:00pm April 13, 2022,

How Dr. Chris Wachira started the only Kenyan-American winery in the U.S.

Dr. Chris Wachira. Photo Courtesy of Karibu Lounge

Chris Wachira is the founder of the first Kenyan-American winery in the U.S. called Wachira Wines, based in California. She started the winery in 2017 after migrating to the U.S. to study nursing. She stayed on to do her master’s and pursued a Ph.D.

Venturing into the wine industry was an unexpected career path and she went into it with some skepticism. The capital investment was higher and it was a sector dominated by white males. And so she didn’t really think she would make it. However, five years down the line, she has made some major strides in the industry.

She now crafts six wine brands including cabernets, zinfandels, Muscat and Chardonnay, consumed in the U.S., Japan, and Canada. 

For someone with a nursing background, Wachira said her move into the wine industry was driven by her desire to find a wine that could go well with her Kenyan dishes.

“My drive was as simple and as selfish as wanting to make a wine that would compliment my mother’s dishes. I could not find a wine that would go well with the Kenyan dishes she made,” she told Business Daily.

She also started her winery because she wanted to fill the gap in the wine industry in the U.S, where there are few Black craft winemakers. “When people send their children abroad for studies, they want them to take up grand professions in law and medicine. But winemaking is also a viable option. I want young people to see that in me. It is a viable business,” she said.

Seeking to improve Black representation in the industry has however not been easy for Wachira. Recalling her beginnings, she noted that she started off by meeting winemaking families and going for testing in the vineyards for years, where she created networks.

It was at one of the vineyard testings that she met her husband, who now serves as the chief operating officer of her wine company. “We were five when we started; him and me, his brother and my two brothers. Now we are about 20,” she noted.

She sources her grapes from farmers in Napa, Lodi and Paso Robles regions in California. To market her products, Wachira and her team started by focusing on festivals and social events like parties. She noted that getting a shelve to sell her products did not come cheap. Major distributors did not think she was large enough to support, she said. She later built a distribution company called Soko with her husband. Soko creates access pipelines for minority-owned brands and small and locally-crafted wine brands.

As her wine won more customers, Wachira climbed to corporate events and opened “Karibu”, a tasting room in California for wine experiences. ABC 7 News reports that it is the first Black woman-owned winery tasting room in Alameda County, California.

Wachira is now celebrating her success and she is hoping to expand her market reach.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: April 13, 2022


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