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BY Abu Mubarik, 6:05pm April 03, 2024,

How this couple married for 52 years started their award-winning vineyard and winery without any experience

Photo: Essence

The wine industry in the United States remains predominantly white-dominated. Although in recent times there has been an increase in black participation, especially in craft wine/beer, the sector remains white-dominated. 

Per the Association of African American Vintners, black vintners are less than 1% of 11,500 wineries. However, black couple Dexter and Marilyn Meadows are taking the industry by storm with their picturesque family-run winery and vineyard, Meadows Estate, in the heart of the Umpqua Valley in Southern Oregon.

“What makes it special is seeing the shock or surprise on the faces of people who find out we own our winery,” Marilyn told ESSENCE. “People make us believe it’s special that we own it, as not many black people own vineyards and wineries. I realize they’re young people who look up to us.”

The couple, who have been married for 52 years, met while attending Tuskegee University in Alabama and have been together ever since. Prior to investing in the wine industry, they were into real estate. Following retirement, they embarked on the wine journey.

The couple’s success in the industry is due to their tenacity and willingness to enter a new arena. Marilyn finds her husband dependable, kind, and thoughtful.

“My wife is just brilliant. She was more intelligent than I was. I had to make sure that I picked somebody that was definitely smarter than me. You need that to ground yourself. We also had the same values regarding what we sought out of life,” Dexter shared with ESSENCE in an interview.

“We shared traditional Southern values, and part of that was growing up in the same church and having a faith background.”

The couple said their venture into the wine industry was faith-led. According to them, they were led by faith to Oregon to discover Meadows Estate Vineyard & Winery and their real estate background.

“We weren’t searching for a winery at first, just another property,” said Marilyn.

“We were looking for a commercial office building because we had been involved with apartment management for over 30 years and were trying to downsize from being involved with so many people. However, things started to change industry-wise once COVID-19 came around; most people were starting to work from home,” shared Dexter.

COVID-19 affected people’s interest in properties and became an ideal time for Dexter to try farming. For the couple, the plan was to start something on a small scale, and that is how they ended up with the vineyard. “The idea was to buy maybe a small vineyard and maybe sell the fruit,” Dexter said. 

Today, the vineyard offers red and white wines including Grenache, Syrah, Vintage Merlot, Cote Du Umpqua, Bella Vin, and Viognier.

Three of their wines won awards at the Los Angeles Invitational Wine & Spirits Challenge in 2022, including Double Gold and Best of Class for the 2017 Grenache.

Interestingly, the couple had no experience working in a winery when they started their wine business. “When we bought the place, we had inventory and we had no idea what to do with it,” Dexter said to the Miami Herald. “We had a winemaker and she gave myself and my wife a crash course in how to make wine.”

Now, they are including their two children in their business.

“My son lives in Northern California, and our daughter, Angela, lives here with us. She’s very much involved in putting our name out there. She works in the finance business. So she’s very familiar with Los Angeles. She’s been working closely with us, handling the marketing and social media strategy. She’s very hands-on and becoming more familiar with the business,” said Marilyn.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: April 3, 2024

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