Photo Credit: Fifty Leven
Fifty Leven: The New Black-Owned Wine Label That Caters To Diverse Palates
As a self-professed “business nerd”, specializing in development, Fifty Leven wine label owner Kindra Harvey is a professional people watcher. It’s part research and analytics and part social introversion. And it was while watching the crowd at a networking event, that she observed something unusual.
“I started noticing when they give you the drink tickets and, there were a lot of people who would never finish their glass of wine,” Harvey told Travel Noire. “They will walk around and the same one that they would get at the beginning of the event would still be in their glass at the end of the event. I couldn’t figure out what it was. Was the wine nasty? Was it that they really didn’t want to drink in a professional setting? So instinctively, I started doing my own little research study.”
Harvey found that beer and cordial were the most consumed beverages. Further probing revealed that the drinks typically provided at professional events were not based on palate, much less diverse palates, but on price. She approached her friend and the man she calls her godfather in wine, winemaker Doug Fabbioli, about filling this gap in the industry.
Her new Fifty Leven wine label is an ode to her Richmond, Virginia upbringing where the fictitious number represented abundance and is also an indicator of the infinite number of varietals available to diverse consumers.
“I started paying attention to the palates of diverse people. Whether you’re Asian, Caribbean, or African American, most of our palates have a similar profile. We like salt, fat, sweet, and heat. So when I started coming up with the varietals in my collection, I started looking at varietals that paired with those types of food.”
Her collection includes Stride Pear Wine, made from Asian and American pears with notes of honey, vanilla, banana, and baking spices. It pairs well with light fare like fish tacos. The other white is a tropical-tasting Petit Manseng that’s perfect as an accompaniment to bold Caribbean food flavors.
Heritage is a Bordeaux-style wine with chocolate notes that complements grilled foods. Dulce Zaiya is a Chambourcin blend — which is very popular in Virginia — and is named after her daughter, Azaiya. Finally, Vibranium is a port-style wine fortified with aged brandy and already a hit with testers.
“As a businesswoman going into these new networking events now, when presenting my wines, people not finishing the glass is not an issue that I see,” Harvey gushed. “I’ve been working with different chambers of commerce and other professional organizations so that when they host networking events, I encourage them to try my varietals of wine. They’re at a price point where it’s still affordable, but luxurious at the same time. So they can buy enough for all of their guests. And their guests are loving it. I mean, they’re absolutely loving it.”
Adding to her exuberance is earning the distinction of being the first Black female-owned wine label in Loudoun County, Virginia. Loudoun County, located west of Washington DC, is touted as DC’s wine country with over 40 wineries and tasting rooms.
“Each and every winery is boutique-style,” explained Harvey. “It’s small, it’s family-owned, and a lot of the fruit is produced right there on the property. You can meet your winemaker. It’s not an issue to go and tour the barrel rooms and things like that.”
Winemakers like Fabbioli and other men in the predominantly male Loudoun County wine scene have been very helpful and encouraging as Harvey gets her brand off the ground.
“When I didn’t think I would be good enough or accepted or that people would laugh me out of the industry, Doug really talked me down from that. He really showed me how much I actually do know, and how being myself is going to be the key to my success. He always encouraged me and said, ‘If you need a wine expert, you call me. I’ve got your back.'”
She added, “I’m so grateful for the support that I’ve received.”
And even as she prepares to launch Fifty Leven this Fall, Harvey is already thinking ahead to what she calls “her big, hairy dream.” That includes releasing a new collection every year over the next 10 years, with multiple varietals that appeal to diverse palates. Another long-term goal is to open an events center where Fifty Leven will be the premier wine collection at that venue.
“I’m not really interested in doing a whole lot of retail distribution,” she shared. “I want the brands to be a little bit more exclusive than that. I think that there’s beauty in exclusivity. And I want to continue to work with small farm wineries as I produce more and more varietals. I like that homegrown authenticity. I think it’s what makes the wine special.”
Find out more about the Fifty Leven collection on their website.