Photo Credit: Pur Noire
Pur Noire: Houston’s First Black-Owned Urban Winery And Tasting Room
Carissa Stephens, and her husband Kenneth, are the owners of Pur Noire, a Black-owned urban winery and tasting room in Downtown Houston that’s making premium wine accessible and affordable.
The couple’s shared love of wine blossomed during a vacation in Todi, a town perched on a hilltop in Umbria, Italy.
“We were just received with open arms and these people did not know us from Adam,” Stephens shared about the experience. “But they graciously received us into their community and at every event and every dinner was an amazing bottle of wine. And so much of their culture, while we were there, revolved around wine and included everyone from the grandparents all the way to the kids. So what we fell in love with was just how communal wine was.”
The couple returned to the United States transformed. They immersed themselves in wine-related books and documentaries. When they decided to invest, a wine business seemed to be the natural next step. There was also a desire to address the underrepresentation of Black people in the industry.
“So we decided to become vintners,” said Stephens. “And it’s been an amazing journey ever since, full of ups and downs.”
The original plan was to launch in March 2020. The Stephens’ planned a sold-out event for 150 with a full band and a chef creating food pairings for their wines. But as the pandemic triggered shutdowns around the country, Pur Noire’s debut turned virtual. Within five months, they sold out of their flagship red blend Pur Epiphany. The five varietal red blend is named after the moment the couple realized they wanted to become winemakers.
“That was a highlight for me, understanding I have something really special,” Stephens recalled of that challenging time. “People love this wine.”
Pur Noire eventually transitioned into a brick-and-mortar operation. Currently, all their wines are produced and bottled in California’s Napa Valley, Lodi, and Russian River regions but the winery’s new building includes a wine production space.
There is also a tasting room where ambassadors guide guests through the sampling of four to six different wines. The wine club gives members access to exclusive wine and events. Pur Noire now offers a range of eight varietals, including Pur Elevation; a white blend of pinot gris and sauvignon blanc, and Pur Euphoria; a Tempranillo rosé that’s become a crowd favorite.
“It’s fruit-forward, but it’s not sweet,” explained Stephens. “It’s crisp and refreshing and it finishes with a little bit of a tartness almost like a citrus tart. And it’s actually very complex for a rosé. It’s not just a one-trick pony.”
All reds are aged in French oak for a subtle yet notable spice characteristic and the added complexity synonymous with the Pur Noire brand. Another varietal is in the works for the first quarter of 2022 in addition to long-term plans for expansion.
“As we become more and more established, we have been bringing more of our operation in-house. Eventually, we will outgrow the space that we’re in. We will need a local but fully offsite production facility that will house our wine, our barrels, and our tanks. There are also barrels in this space, as well as case storage, but the majority of our case storage is at an offsite location as well. But we do want to eventually do everything from beginning to end regarding our wines.”