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Brown Estate: Napa Valley’s First Black Owned Winery

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Brown Estate Vineyards is the first and only Black-owned estate winery in California’s Napa Valley, and is best known as one of that region’s most well-regarded zinfandel producers receiving a score of 91 points by Wine Spectator.

brown estate
Brownestate Facebook

In addition to zinfandel, Brown Estate produces cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, and petite sirah.

This two-generation culmination is an investment made by parents Bassett Brown (from Jamaica) and Marcela Brown (from Panama) back in 1980. They acquired 450 acres in the Chiles Valley AVA of the Napa Valley after being informed by local family friends that the property was for sale.

Brownestate Facebook

Abandoned for some ten years prior, the land and its two structures – an 1859 stone and redwood barn and an 1885 Queen Anne Victorian home – were derelict.

The senior Browns cut roads and brought in plumbing and electricity, ultimately earning an award from the Napa County Historical Society for their restoration of the residence structure.

Bassett and Marcela Brown via Brownestate Facebook

They planted zinfandel vines, selling them to established winemakers (including Mike Grgich of Grgich Hills Estate) – for more than ten years.

Founded in 1995 by siblings Deneen, David & Coral Brown, Brown Estate produced its first Napa Valley zinfandel in 1996 and decided to move the winemaking in-house.

Siblings Deneen, Coral and David Brown

As of 2016, the Brown’s have bottled their 20th vintage and in April of this year they debuted their Brown Downtown location on the re-emerging First Street corridor in the heart of downtown Napa.

Brown Downtown Napa Location

The Brown Estate established themselves as a winery to watch in the arena of Napa Valley zinfandel. Simultaneously, in the January 31, 2000 issue of the Wine Spectator, the 1997 Brown Estate zinfandel received a score of 91 points.

In Fall 2010, the Brown family celebrated their 30th year in the Napa Valley, and Brown Estate’s 15th crush. The family posted the following message on their Website to commemorate these occasions:

“This year we celebrate our thirtieth year in the Napa Valley, and Brown Estate’s fifteenth crush. We thank all of you, with all of our hearts, for your continued enjoyment of our wines and your truly stupendous support of our once little endeavor. Each time you open and share a bottle of Brown Estate, you wrap your arms around us. It is an embrace that we cherish, a gesture that gives meaning to all of the passion and commitment we put into what we do. Thank you for making us a part of your lives, and for being a part of ours. Now onward & upward! The sky’s the limit!”

You can purchase here or visit them here:

Brown Downtown Napa
11-7 daily by appointment, walk-ins subject to availability
1005 Coombs Street (NW corner of First Street, 2nd Floor), Napa CA

Brown Estate Winery
Hours: 11-2 Th-Su, strictly by appointment
3233 Sage Canyon Road, St. Helena CA

 

by Sam Mathis

 

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9 Comments

  1. My wife and l visited the Brown’s winery back in the early 2000s. We met the whole family and treated us like family. It was a wonderful experience and l am so happy that this is happening for them. My wife and l would like to make a substantial purchase l leave my information below. The Browns winery rocks!!!

  2. My gracious God! This is so inspiring to me. I’ve been in the hospitality industry for over 30 years and never dreamed I would see this dream fulfilled. I’ve toured and stayed as an overnight guest at Jordan, Rombauer and Stag’s Leap vineyards so this is a BIG DEAL to me as I inspire to own my own wine bar. I wish the Brown’s GREATNESS! To infinity!

  3. I am very eager ,to visit your wineryThis summer.Honestly I never knew about it..looking forward to meet the Brown Family.

  4. I went to the Napa location with several colleagues and were told they only serve you if you had an appointment. The Brown family was not there. The way we were treated was very disappointing. We are all in the food and beverage industry. I had been told the family is not interested in new business and that’s why they did not serve us.

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