clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
Ten bottles of wine with colorful labels against a background of wine barrels
Bottles of wine from the Richmond Wine Collective
Austin Hobart

This East Bay Collective Is Helping People of Color Break Into the Competitive World of Wine

How a small-scale winery created a community of like-minded makers to fight gatekeeping in the wine industry

Dianne de Guzman is a deputy editor at Eater SF writing about Bay Area restaurant and bar trends, upcoming openings, and pop-ups.

When Noel Diaz and Barrie Quan of Purity Wine outgrew the Treasure Island winemaking space they’d operated out of since 2013, they began searching for the perfect place to continue their business. But when it became clear that the typical urban winemaking areas like Berkeley and Oakland were out of their reach, the couple decided to take a chance and lease out an unequipped warehouse space in Richmond.

They moved into their new natural winemaking facility in 2017. Since the space was much larger than what they needed, they struck a deal with five other winemakers to share the space and rent on the warehouse. But what started as a plan to find winemaking “roommates,” so to speak, eventually led Diaz and Quan to create a winemaking co-op that then evolved into their current winemaking group, dubbed simply, Richmond Wine Collective.

Austin Hobart

Identifying as Mexican and growing up in Central Valley as the son of migrant farm laborers, Diaz has a different connection to wine than most, recalling times working in vineyards as a high school student. Now as a winemaker, he’s looking to bring in more people of color and women into the wine world, and he sees natural wine as a good place to start. “Natural wine has this vibe of being less exclusive,” Diaz says. “I didn’t grow up with wine as something that was on the table, we grew up with beer. People of color don’t really have that exposure and you feel like it’s a cultural disconnect getting into wine. So we’ve been reaching out to different communities to make that connection.” Diaz and Quan worked with Bay Area rapper Larry June on a wine, as well as Bussdown, a group of Bay Area artists who previously never dabbled in wine but collaborated with Purity for a one-off bottle.

“The industry is so closed off, it really is difficult to make it as a small producer,” Quan says. “And that’s not only in terms of just making and producing the wine, but selling it. ... There’s a lot of competition and when you’re able to say, ‘Okay, let’s band together and we can present ourselves as this group that works together,’ it helps with that gatekeeping as well.”

During Purity’s first year in its Richmond wine space at 1401 Marina Way, the idea was to operate together as a co-op. But as circumstances changed for some of the winemakers, the group evolved into a less rigid collective that allowed for people to move on from the space before the five-year lease ended. Diaz and Quan purchased some of the winemaking tools themselves, and collective members received access to the equipment to produce their products, significantly reducing the investment for producers; the cost of bottling through the collective is roughly 1 percent of the typical financial investment for going into winemaking. “The idea is we’re opening up the space to people who might not have thought they could do something like this,” Diaz says, “or people who felt that the industry maybe was closed off to them, who can come in and just try on a smaller scale — the financial commitment isn’t so significant.”

Austin Hobart
Austin Hobart

As self-taught winemakers, Diaz and Quan recognized the usefulness of a collective — not just for rent or sharing equipment, but also for sharing knowledge. There are 17 winemakers in the collective currently — among them brands like Lula, TyTy, and Gearhead Wines — and six others who are trying winemaking for the first time. Winemakers support each other through the organization in a variety of ways such as by providing how-tos on getting licensed — a skillshare that Diaz says collective partners Everwild Wines helped put together. Diaz also makes himself available to answer questions of those who are new to winemaking, and he and Quan guide people through the process of harvest and production, as well as business aspects. Additionally, Purity shares who its distributors are and makes introductions to their newest winemakers, even holding showcases such as By the Way wine fair, or pouring wine via their warehouse wine bar, the Study.

Purity Wine and its collective have gotten placement in local wine shops such as Oakland’s Alkali Rye and Ordinaire, and places like Bodega, Arcana, and Key Klub in San Francisco. Former collective winemakers have gone on to start new spaces such as Booker Riley with Everything Is Okay or Mountain Misery, which has relocated to the Sierra Foothills. But that’s all part of the plan, the couple says. “We want to be a place where people feel like they can start,” Diaz says, “and then if they outgrow the space, then they’re suitably equipped to be able to go on to that next step. We felt that it’d be really nice to have that kind of environment and it was always important for us that we have a community to share ideas.”

Best Dishes

The Best Dishes Editors Ate This Week

A.M. Intel

Oakland Is Getting an Eight-Seat Omakase Restaurant Starring Super-Rare Japanese Fish

How These San Francisco Chefs Say a Strong Fitness Routine Enhances Their Work