Dr. Dawna Darjean Jones’ motivation to go into winemaking was inspired by a simple taste of a dark blue–colored wine grape called Merlot – while strolling and doing doctoral research in plant pathology at a vineyard in Temecula, Southern California. As part of the research, Dr. Dawna explored close to 20 vineyards from Napa Valley for the University of California, Davis, according to Darjean Jones Wines. However, the surreal taste of merlot did all the magic and changed her career trajectory.
Unlike many wine manufacturers intrigued by a glass of wine or the flavor of a grape, Dr. Dawna’s interest in wine production was more related to an increasing representation of black women in the industry. She wanted to join the minority of black women producing exquisite wines in the industry.
After reading and researching about pioneers in the industry, the efforts of Iris Rideau – the first black woman to produce wine in the U.S., showed her that women of color could also operate wineries successfully. Though Iris sold her vineyard in 2016, it still bears her name in Santa Barbara County.
Black winemakers represent only 1 percent of the total number (11,500) of industry players in the U.S., according to CNN. At the national level, women make up only 17.8 percent compared to their male counterparts, according to Zippia – for black women, however, the number is insignificant. This harsh reality planted doubts in Dr. Dawna’s mind, however, she believed she needed to stake a claim for women of color.
Dr. Dawna first started her winery at her home when she found the spark to commence her business; painstakingly filling her bottles and giving them her signature look. She collaborated with farmers to supply her with grapes instead of growing her own. She was provided with high-quality grapes to manufacture her brand, according to cuisine noir magazine.
Her first vintage was a 2010 Merlot and she has continued to maintain her niche with subsequent brands such as her 2011 Merlot, 2012 Chardonnay, a proprietary red called Pathologie, and a 2012 Blanc de Noir or sparkling wine.
Dr. Dawna’s objective is to produce quality wine brands and not necessarily quantity to meet the growing demand of the market. She has won several honors for the efforts she put into her winery, including a silver medal in the San Francisco International Wine Competition in 2012.