Photo Credit: RichWine
Meet The Duo Behind Virginia’s Black-Owned Organic Wine Company
Lance Lemon has two life passions: acting and wine. The latter came as a means to support the former. The Virginia native moved to New York to pursue an acting career. Like many up-and-comers in the industry, he took on a bartending job while making the rounds at auditions.
But his side hustle led to a role of a different kind, as a wine sales rep for Frederick Wildman and Sons. It was there that he learned the intricacies of the wine business and went on to successfully build wine programs for BedStuy, Brooklyn: Wine – O and Liquid Assets. These experiences quickly taught him where his interest lay.
“I really didn’t like being a salesman, but what I really did learn to come to enjoy was wine in general; the history of wine, the stories of the producers, the vineyards, the winemakers, the little niche kind of aspects of wine,” Lemon told Travel Noire. “That’s really what I fell in love with and that’s maybe why I wasn’t as good at being a salesman.”
What he found was that he preferred working on smaller accounts like boutique wine shops that focused on low intervention, natural, organic, and biodynamic wines. Lemon gravitated more towards the wine shop part of the industry.
In 2019, he and his wife moved back to Richmond but still commuted frequently to New York for acting gigs. When the pandemic hit, Lemon decided to use the time to focus on creating a wine venture in Richmond. To do so, he enlisted the help of a friend and former classmate from their days at the University of Virginia.
Lemon and Kristen Gardner Beal had reconnected in New York and were both keen to create a new experience in their hometown. Beal was a seasoned traveler with a penchant for vineyard hopping in countries like South Africa, France, Germany, and Mexico.
“My appreciation for wine and food and just looking at wine to be a true gathering place kept my interest in terms of wanting to create something of my own in the market,” Beal said.
Beal jumped at the opportunity to partner with Lemon on RichWine, a boutique online wine retailer that delivers carefully curated natural, organic, and biodynamic wines from all regions directly to your door. According to Lemon, they chose to explore this niche because it makes for an overall balanced ecosystem.
“I just think there is a specific way that you should be working, respectively, in nature with your vineyards, and your grapes, and your workers. That’s important to us. We like wines that maybe aren’t mass-marketed because we’d like to focus on the smaller guys.”
They specialize in wines from off the beaten path including selections from Georgia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic, various African countries, and right in their backyard in Virginia. Among the unique are Early Mountain Vineyards in Virginia, where they grow blaufränkisch, which is a typically Austrian grape. Midland Construction, another product of Virginia which Lemon describes as respectful to the earth, also produces blaufränkisch grapes. RichWine has also sourced a Georgian wine which is only produced in small batches of about 1200 bottles.
“I think our mission at RichWine is just to have a very broad portfolio for people to try different wines,” Lemon added. “There’s so much more wine than just California and Sonoma, and even Virginia or New York. We got some amazing wines from the Canary Islands, Spain, and Portugal.”
The company has been hosting virtual wine tastings for companies, birthdays, bachelorette parties, and other family events. Richmond is a festival city and when it is safe to do so, they have plans to hold park tastings as well. Customers can also look forward to at-home tastings and private wine dinners, complete with a local chef to help execute an intimate roundtable experience.
But most importantly, the business partners are saving up for a brick-and-mortar space where they can engage with customers and offer in-person wine tastings.
“Something that has a great walk score around the city, where folks can visit and come have really great wine,” explained Beal. “We have some really dope programming we’re thinking of that’s I think pretty unique for summer months. So Lance and I are fleshing some details out in the background. But the biggest goal is definitely getting into a storefront.”
Customers can order online at RichWine.