Over the last five years, wine has taken on a new meaning in the Black community globally. When we published the first-ever directory of Black-owned wineries worldwide in 2010, the list barely touched 40. However, today is a different story as awareness, exposure and opportunity in the industry have opened the doors to newly discovered talents and passions.
Among one of the wineries we first included in our directory is Rideau Vineyard, a scenic viticulture oasis located in the Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara, California. Opened in October 1997 by Louisiana native Iris Duplantier Rideau, Rideau Vineyard and Rideau made history as the first winery owned by a Black woman in the United States.
Rideau didn’t set out to make history like this but instead worked to create a life for herself and daughter Renee after traumatic and humble beginnings. She first opened and ran a successful insurance agency for 30 years and toward the end of that career, added winery owner to her list of accomplishments.
After putting her hat down and retiring completely, she focused her time on completing her newly published memoir, “From White to Black: One Life Between Two Worlds,” which was intentionally released during Juneteenth weekend this year.
The book is a powerful and personal tale of Rideau’s life that started as a child in New Orleans during the Jim Crow Era. As she navigated between two worlds, one as a Black person and the other as Creole that allowed her to pass for white, Rideau is very candid about how both experiences affected her life as well as her family’s.
Convincing her mother to relocate to California as a teenager was done so in hopes of living a better life. Instead, it was met with more trauma as she suffered sexual abuse, became pregnant at 15 years old, married, and a survivor of spousal abuse by age 17.
After working in a sweatshop with her mother, Rideau knew that was not the life she wanted to succumb to. So instead, she forged a way, completing her education and eventually landed a job with an insurance company. Over the next 30 years, she would run one of the top insurance agencies in Los Angeles, with a particular focus on racial discrimination in housing otherwise known as redlining.
Wine was introduced as a young child during Sunday dinners in New Orleans, where the kids would get a little dip with the meal. She laughs and says it was her first introduction to food and wine pairings. As an adult, it came more into focus as part of her lifestyle living in California.
After building a home in the Santa Ynez Valley but continuing to commute to Los Angles due to contractual obligations, Rideau finally settled into her new life away from the bright city lights. From there, she would purchase and restore a historical property and eventually turn it into what is known as Rideau Vineyard today.
A page-turner for sure, “From White to Black” is an inspiring story about having a deeper desire to live a life beyond what one sees at any given moment. Rideau’s story is as heartbreaking as it is beautiful at times.
A recommended read that will have you visiting the vineyard and saying hello to the new owners just to get an essence of what has been built since 1997.
“From White to Black: One Life Between Two Worlds” is available on Amazon.
To hear Rideau talk about her life and the book, listen to our podcast episode on www.diasporafoodstories.com.
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