There’s probably not an extensive amount of overlap between the Bay Area’s ever-expanding natural wine community and the well-established independent rap scene. But that’s not to say there isn’t any. On August 21, Bay Area rapper Larry June threw his second “Uncle Larry’s Organic Market,” an album release party at SoMa events hub District Six. The shindig was to hype his new album “Spaceships on the Blade,” which released on August 19, and to sell food and drink “curated by Uncle Larry.”
The lineup included the limited run “Uncle Larry’s Natural Orange,” a Contra Costa 2021 Verdelho with a design invoking the Orange Crush sodas of summer. Sadly for fans, the bottle, which retailed for $45, is already long gone and sold out — though owner Noel Diaz, who runs organic winery Purity Wine, which produced the limited edition bottle, teased curious fans with a potential “broader release down the way.”
It may seem like an odd mash-up; it turns out a bit of kismet brought the winemaker and rapper together. Diaz’s decade-old company Purity Wine first harvested in 2012 when the business was based in Treasure Island. He now works a bit further north and, in between hosting pop-ups at uber trendy natural wine spot Snail Bar, his contacts in the industry introduced him to the Bayview born-and-bred Larry Eugene Hendricks III, who goes by Larry June. The team-up happened quickly and was ready for the event just as fast. “Sometimes things just happen,” Diaz laughs. For Diaz, the collab represents an opportunity to promote not only healthier wine, but also a more diverse wine culture. “Natural wine doesn’t have the walls that traditional wine has,” Diaz says.
Diaz runs a semi-cooperative style warehouse in Richmond where fellow vintners, about 14 in total, work in a shared space. None of the members have distribution in California since they can all sell direct in the state, and Diazs says this creates a supportive environment as producers share leads on where to get their wine placed. (It’s through these contacts that he was introduced to June.) Purity is a zero-zero producer as of 2017, meaning Diaz uses no additives and only organic fruit, and June is apparently very interested in health and living well. For June’s part, the rapper’s interest in food and wellness is palpable; his Spotify playlist “Larry June Radio” sports a Whole Foods motif, in 2018 he put out the track “So Organic,” and in 2021 he launched the Dogpatch tea shop Honeybear Boba. A mutual friend in the cooperative introduced Diaz and June, and the deal coalesced “very quickly” from there. “He likes the whole scene and wants to support it,” Diaz says. “And I’ve been talking to people who throw parties, DJs, and beer drinkers to get more people interested in natural wine.”
Neighbors walked by Diaz’s space asking when they could come by and try the wine, so now anyone interested in this rap-inspired vintage, or any other offerings at Purity, can drop by the converted bar, the Study. Engaging with the community is, for Diaz, the ultimate goal; he’s been able to raise money for groups in Ukraine and, when he first opened, Purity Wines raised money for local farm workers displaced due to wildfires, too. He still wants to find more diverse audiences for natural wines, and this collab allows for a bit of that. Diaz is Mexican, his wife is Chinese, and including historically underrepresented groups in wine is an important part of the company’s mission. He names Bar Part Time as a space that he enjoys — the vibes are right, he says — but the scene is mostly upper class and white. “It’s more of a club with good music,” Diaz says. “But it was a very homogenous crowd. I’d like to see that open up.”