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Black Winemakers Take the Spotlight at This New Wine Bar

Cover Image for Black Winemakers Take the Spotlight at This New Wine Bar
By Chris LaMorte
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Categories:Black History MonthFeatured

Sisters Leslie and LeAnn Jones have a passion for wine. But every time they wanted to meet up with friends at a hip wine bar, the pair had to travel outside their hometown of Inglewood, California to find one. With its large African-American population, Inglewood just wasn’t a good place for a wine bar, naysayers told them. So last August, the enterprising Jones sisters opened their own. Since then, 1010 Wine & Events has proved those naysayers wrong by drawing big crowds (along with the occasional celebrity) who have responded to its “good wine, good vibes” ethos—and its mission to promote Black-owned wine businesses. Another bonus: The bar is only a few minutes from SoFi Stadium, where hometown team the L.A. Rams will compete in this year’s Super Bowl. We spoke to Leslie about what makes 1010 so unique and what they plan to serve if the Rams take home the trophy. 

 

Tell me a bit about 1010 Wine & Events.
My sister and I opened it last August in Inglewood, California. We are the first and only wine bar in the city, and we serve the largest selection of Black-owned wines in California.

What sparked your initial interest in wine?
My sister and I have been on this wine journey for eight years now. My sister got into wine when she was in law school. She traveled abroad a couple of times and would go to different wine regions. She would then bring wine home for me. We kind of cultivated our relationship in adulthood over wine. My sister is the type of person who loves to learn. She holds a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and a law degree. So when she gets into something, she really gets into it. When she first discovered wine, it wasn’t simply about enjoying the wine; she wanted to study its history, taste, varietals, and everything else. I’m on the flip side and am more of the creative type. I have a wedding planning business. So that involves a lot of design and creativity—you know, all the fluffy stuff. She wanted to open a tasting room. I wanted to open an event space. So together we opened 1010.

“As women of color, we wanted to be a part of the group bringing new and exciting things to Inglewood.”

What attracted you to Inglewood?
We were born and raised in Inglewood, and we still reside here. We’d typically go to a wine bar with our friends on the weekend, enjoy a couple of bottles, and have a good time. But we’d had to go to places that are at least 20-25 minutes away from our house. So we thought, why not have a wine bar close to where we live? When we told some people about the concept, they were like, “This is not a good idea. You know, people in your community, people of color, don’t drink wine.” We knew that wasn’t true because we’re Black, most of our friends are people of color, and we drink wine. 

What else makes Inglewood (forgive the pun) ripe for this kind of business?
The L.A. Rams recently built SoFi Stadium here. It’s a massive stadium where the Rams and the L.A. Chargers play. Because of that, many new businesses and projects have been coming to Inglewood. But these projects are not being built by people who look like those who live here because most residents are people of color. And as women of color, we wanted to be a part of the group bringing new and exciting things to Inglewood.

So just how excited are you about the Super Bowl?
We are so excited that the Rams are in the Super Bowl! We are planning something big for game day. We’re working on the details now and should know soon.  

What bubbly will you pop if the home team wins?
If the Rams win, we will probably serve Edelheiss Sparkling White.

Tell me more about your wine list.
We have about 90 wines on our menu from about 65 different wine companies, and 90% of those wine companies are Black-owned. In the summer of 2020, when everything happened with George Floyd, there was a big push to support Black businesses, including within the wine community. At that time, LeAnn and I researched different Black-owned wine companies that we wanted to carry. Lists were circulating on the internet with the top 65 Black online companies in the country, which helped expose people to these brands for the first time. We wanted to keep pushing that momentum forward by selling and serving them at 1010.

 

1010 Wine Bar
1010 Wine Bar offers 90 wines, most from black-owned companies.

Any personal recommendations?
It depends on the season or my mood. In the spring, I’ll be drinking a lot of rosé and sparkling wine. But because it has been a little chillier in L.A., I’ve been drinking Eighty-One, a cab by retired NFL star, Terrell Owens. Initially, you might think, “Okay, this is a guy who shouldn’t be making wine.” But it’s amazing!

As we start Black History Month, what are your thoughts about being a Black-owned wine business?
One of the things we’re most proud of with our business is that we offer the largest selection of Black-owned wines in the state. Black people own only 1% of wine companies or vineyards worldwide. It’s a massive disparity in the wine community. But at 1010, we’re able to highlight brands that people wouldn’t necessarily know about or be able to try. It gives these brands and these companies exposure.

Why do you think that exposure is necessary?
I hate it when people ask us, “Hey, I love this bottle. Where can I get it?” And then I have to respond, “Unfortunately, there’s nowhere else in the city that sells it.” I don’t want to say that. If you live in the Valley, which is 45 minutes away, you shouldn’t have to drive all the way here to enjoy a specific wine. I would love for a bar or wine shop near you to offer it. We encourage our guests to go to their local wine store and ask for these wines. Eventually, maybe the stores will look into carrying them. I also think shows like King of Napa, which just premiered on the OWN network, and Grand Cru, which just premiered on NBC, will help normalize Black people drinking and enjoying wine and Black people working in the wine business. Hopefully, these shows will help Black-owned wine brands to explode.

What kind of vibe does 1010 offer?
We knew that we wanted our bar to feel upscale, but the experience to be casual and inviting. Our slogan is: When you come in, you’re going to feel good vibes, eat good food, and drink good wine. When people step in, they will hear good music and the sound of people laughing and talking. If you’re coming for a quiet wine tasting experience, our spot probably isn’t for you. If you’re coming in to have a good time, to learn more about wine, and to ask questions without feeling intimidated, you’re going to find it here. 

1010 offers a selection of wine-friendly foods.

Tell me a bit about the food menu.
It’s not a big menu because wine bars traditionally don’t have big menus. So we have three entrees, two solid salads, a couple of starters, and a couple of desserts. We worked with chef Kyndra McCrary, who owns Swift Cafe, a restaurant in a historic Black neighborhood in L.A. called Leimert Park. I have worked with her for many years because she has a catering company. We created a menu that would pair well with our wines and be true to who we are.

After six months in business, what have been your biggest surprises?
We knew that the bar would be successful. We just didn’t think that it would be this successful. We offered reservations initially because you have to when you’re in L.A. We didn’t really think people were going to book them—but we’re only just now seeing a reduction in the number of reservations, and that’s only because of the peak in COVID cases. We are blown away by the number of people that keep showing up. The bar has also allowed us to get to know many different people. There was a day when I was talking to a woman who had never had wine before, and two seats down here was one of the stars of the show Insecure. Everyone was just there and chillin’. We envisioned something like that for this space, so it is cool to see it play out.  

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