Until recently, talk about wine focused on reds versus whites, domestic versus imported. BlacOak Wine Club in Roxborough wants to expand the conversation.
“We want to educate wine lovers and broaden their knowledge at tasting events by exposing them to under-served, black-owned wine brands,” said co-owner Ebonie Dukes.
“We have eighteen different black-owned brands, domestic and imported, including Champagnes,” she said. “However, it’s not exclusively an African American experience. We may highlight just one black-owned wine at each event and offer many other kinds of wines. Everyone is welcome and the response so far has been overwhelming.”
“However, it’s not exclusively an African American experience. We may highlight just one black-owned wine at each event and offer many other kinds of wines. Everyone is welcome and the response so far has been overwhelming.”
While the Wine Club does not yet have a license to sell wine, it currently functions as a private club with memberships ranging from one month to annual benefits. It offers tantalizing events where wine lovers can attend tastings that turn a normal evening into date night. Upcoming events include a “Valentine’s Day Wine Tasting & Brunch” on Saturday, February 12th and a “Wine Wars” event on Friday, February 25th pitting California wines against French imports. BlacOak also hosts tastings on most Fridays and Saturdays.
Dukes, 40, always knew that she and her brothers, Kevin Dukes, Jr. and Lamar Covert, would go into the wine business someday. But what had been a retirement fantasy turned into reality when the pandemic hit.
“In 2020, I decided not to put off my dreams any longer,” said Dukes. “I had been working in film and television production when I switched gears and attended the Philly Wine School to become a sommelier. So did my brother Lamar.”
Now a certified sommelier, Dukes teamed up with her brothers and husband, Ameer Blackmon, to launch BlacOak Wine Club in Roxborough at the invitation of the owners of Roxy Hall & Bistro, a Caribbean fusion restaurant that opened in May 2021.
“The owners are family friends and they invited us to use the space behind their restaurant. As soon as I realized it was located on the street where I grew up, I knew it was the right decision,” said Dukes.
For events that include food, the Wine Club partners with Roxy Hall & Bistro.The tasting room allows BlacOak Wine Club to host events for up to 20 guests. Initially, the club will only be open to members until their license permits them to serve the public.
“The wine industry is a $445 billion business. People of color make up less than one percent,” said Dukes. “There are only three black-owned wine vineyards in the world because owning a vineyard requires an enormous investment in time and money, whereas launching a wine label is more accessible.”
“This is more than a passion project, hobby, or supplemental income for the creators of the BlacOak Wine Club. This is a socially conscious decision to engage with individuals who also desire to invade unchartered waters for delicious rewards,” said Dukes. “BlacOak is a community that strives to help an industry respect the buying power of our consumers and the expertise of our wine professionals.”
“BlacOak is a community that strives to help an industry respect the buying power of our consumers and the expertise of our wine professionals.”
Duke’s favorite wine? That’s like asking a parent which is their favorite child. “Oh, that changes every month,” said Dukes. “Right now, it’s a French Burgundy. But there’s also an equally great Burgundy from Oregon. Plus, there is Mason Noir by Andre Mack, a black-owned brand.”
If you have a taste for adventure and fine wines, you no longer have to go downtown. It’s all right here in Roxborough.