Winemaking in Napa Valley had no black representation until Victoria Coleman expressed interest in the industry. Her journey began when she started working in the vineyards of Atlas Peak as a viticulture student at the University of California, Davis. Atlas Peak is where grapes for the finest Napa wines are grown.
In 2005, veteran winemaker Mario Bazan, who was her mentor, asked her if she would like to actually make wine. “This country is about opportunities and I kind of offered her an opportunity and she took it!” Bazan told Sanfrancisco CBS.
Coleman became the first Black woman winemaker in Napa, releasing her first vintage in 2015. According to her, she knew she was going to make history as she was the only Black person in her UC Davis winemaking class.
“That’s what I was going for. I knew it would happen. I knew it would be me. I knew I was the only one when I started…Yes, I thought about that at the beginning before I started the program, coming out on the other side, yeah. Feels fantastic!” she said.
Initially, Coleman wasn’t into wine at all, she told Napa Valley Register. “I was actually dating someone that was working in wine … I will have to come up with a better story than that one day,” she said.
Now, she supervises winemaking at a joint production facility called the Caves at Soda Canyon. Coleman is also the exclusive red wines maker for Lobo Wines. The owner of Lobo Wines, Randy Wulf, said he knew Coleman had the potential to be a star winemaker and that is why he hired her. “And we wanted to make the very best wine on the planet if possible,” he added.
“She has one of the best palates I’ve ever encountered. And she is a complete perfectionist. She spends as much time in the vineyard as she does in the winery. She’s not a prima donna. There are a lot of diva winemakers in Napa. She is not one of them. She’s got it – she’s just got it,” said Wulff.
Coleman now hopes that her work will open doors for other Black women to get into the winemaking industry. “That’s what I hope, truly I do,” she said.