1st Black women-owned winery tasting room in Alameda working to change the face of the industry

Kumasi Aaron Image
Wednesday, August 25, 2021
Alameda winery owned by Black women looks to change face of industry
Karibu Wine Lounge is the first Black woman-owned winery tasting room in Alameda County.

ALAMEDA, Calif. (KGO) -- You'd expect to see cute restaurants and shops on Park Street in Alameda. But a safari? Not so much.

Until you step inside Karibu Wine Lounge.

"What we're doing is a mini safari," Dr. Chris Wachira explained. "It's a wine safari. And it's called a wine safari because each of the varietals have one of the big five of the Kenyan safari on the bottle."

First up, the Rhino, a cabernet.

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"It's very well balanced," Dr. Wachira explained. "The grapes are from Napa, Lodi and Paso Robles. And I crafted it to pair specifically with my mother's lamb stew."

Dr. Wachira crafted the wines herself to make sure she had the perfect wines to go with her Kenyan-American mother's favorite dishes.

"These bubbles are the lion of the Wachira Safari," she said. "Now it pairs well with my mother's cake. My mom bakes a mean old vanilla lemon cake. This is amazing with that."

"And your mama lives in Alameda too so I'm coming over," said ABC7 News Anchor Kumasi Aaron.

Wachira Wines is the only Kenyan American winery in the country.

Dr. Wachira and her family immigrated to Alameda in the late 1990s.

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The Golden State is not only the largest wine producer in the United States, it's one of the largest producers in the world. But the vineyards of California are facing some new and big challenges.

Karibu Wine Lounge is the first Black woman owned winery tasting room in Alameda County.

"Karibu is a Swahili word that means welcome," Dr. Wachira said. "So it's a place where everybody should feel welcome."

Dr. Wachira wanted to create a place not only for women and people of color to enjoy wine, but for those in the industry who craft and sell it. So not only can you drink, dance and have a good time at Karibu, but you can check out wines by other makers of color.

"Folks of color are hugely underrepresented," Dr. Wachira said. "We are 0.1% of the wine industry in this country. So creating a space that allows us not only to showcase our talents, but also to feel welcome and included, is core to who I am."

Also core to who she is, science. Dr. Wachira also works full time in clinical outcomes at Stanford Healthcare. Intrigued by the science of winemaking, pursuing that passion wasn't exactly easy.

"We don't have that exposed to us as a community as a culture because it's an industry that's been closed to us," Dr. Wachira said. "It was the allies that supported me, that helped me learn how to craft the wines, that helped me learn the business of the wine."

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Now she's working to pay it forward through her company's wine incubator program that allows Wachira to mentor and bring people into the industry. She says representation matters.

Dr. Wachira said, "For me to be in this position today that allows another young lady or young man to see themselves reflected in me as a Black immigrant woman, it allows them to believe they can."

Using wine to craft community and a new vision of the industry.