Photo Credit: Michael Lavelle Wines
Four Black Men Created Michael Lavelle Wines & They're The Youngest Black Wine Brand Owners
Michael Lavelle Wines is co-owned by four Black men who share a mutual appreciation for entrepreneurship and connected through various ventures in Washington, DC’s hospitality and nightlife scene. The partners hold the distinction of being the youngest Black wine company owners, too. They each come from vastly different professional backgrounds, ranging from fashion to technology.
CEO Terrence Lavelle Low is originally from Chicago and currently lives in New York. Aaron Michael Coad, Head of Creative, hails from Maryland and currently resides in Los Angeles. Head Sommelier Devin Kennedy is a DC native now living in Santa Barbara. And Brandon Crump, Head of Operations, is currently living in his hometown of Chicago.
Terrence, Aaron, and Brandon attended DC’s prestigious HBCU, Howard University. The four partners’ interest in wine began with passionate curiosity about its rich history as they noticed a shift in their peer groups’ appreciation for wine, but lack of education about its offerings versus those of spirits like tequila and vodka.
“We started to educate ourselves on the process of winemaking and the industry at large through sommelier courses, seeking advisement from wine experts, and studying the ins and outs of the industry,” said the gentlemen.
“Quickly realizing that the wine industry’s glaring void in fresh, culturally-relevant wine craftsmanship offered and marketed towards the minority wine drinker was strongly contributing to the gap in education around premium wines, we took creative license to develop a disruptive brand fused with art, education, and most importantly, unmatched wine experiences to fill this void.”
On June 19, 2020, Michael Lavelle Wines released its first varietal, the Iris Rosé. A delicious melody of Cabernet and pinot grigio grapes grown in coastal California, its crisp flavors and aroma fill the nose with Morello cherries, fresh strawberries, and lemon verbena. On the palate, it continues the journey of fresh fruit, with notes of fresh peaches and watermelon rind.
“We strategically launched with the Iris Rosé as the first varietal because of consumer trends and timing. In fact, according to NielsenIQ, sales of rosé wine in the US increased from $110 million in 2017 to $757 million. This is a stunning 584% increase. The question whether or not this will continue is obviously uncertain, but for now America’s love of rosé seems to be on course.”
With Michael Lavelle’s ambition to disrupt a sometimes antiquated and predominately white business like the wine industry through innovative and unique wine experiences, the brand considered Juneteenth—the day that we celebrate and commemorate Black liberation— the perfect day to launch the brand.
Realizing, however, that a mission involving disrupting the status quo comes with a lot of responsibility, the brand looks forward to continuing on this path by bringing new and different experiences to the industry.
“We’re proud of our latest brand expansion, Gallery Lavelle, which elevates emerging and prominent contemporary artists creating work in the scope of African, Black American, and indigenous identity. The gallery presents both solo and group exhibitions while building artistic collaborations and partnerships.”
Gallery Lavelle aims to foster conversation between artists, winemakers, and the communities they serve while championing the works of historically underrepresented artists and bringing greater visibility to local talent. Gallery Lavelle’s mission is to enlighten a global audience to the richness of the Chicago and Washington, DC culture–where the Michael Lavelle founders hail from.
But that’s not all that makes this young Black, innovative brand so unique. The company has intentionally partnered only with small batch wineries that focus on preserving the integrity of the wine, ensuring every glass of Michael Lavelle is consistently highly quality, premium wine.
“We seek to introduce provocative and uncanny varietals that provide a unique wine experience in each bottle. Our focus on visual storytelling, education, and philanthropy while meeting the next generation of wine drinkers and wine professionals where they are–online and in retail–is helping to bring our audience further into the world of high-quality wine.”
While the partners are honored to be recognized as the youngest Black wine company owners, they don’t want to remain the youngest for too long. Intentional about pulling up those coming behind them, Michael Lavelle is proud of its partnerships with non-profit organizations like The Roots Fund.
“In our current partnership, Michael Lavelle Wines donates proceeds from each online order to fully fund an HBCU graduate scholarship to live abroad in France and earn their MBA in Wine Business and Management.”
Michael Lavelle premium wines are available for purchase on the company’s website, www.sipmichaellavelle.com, for delivery to your door. It’s also available in Chicago, DC, and Richmond, VA at select retailers like Foxtrot and Binny’s, and in restaurants like The Aviary, The Gage, Esme, Maple & Ash, and Nipsey’s.
“We’re proud that some of our first retail partners were local Black-owned businesses, allowing us to be mutually supportive and bring Michael Lavelle directly to the consumers we started this brand for. We are grateful for the positive response we have already received for our young wine brand, our mission, and our first varietal, Iris Rosé. More details are to come on our upcoming red varietal’s launch soon.”