The foursome behind Michael Lavelle Wines knew they had a hit on their hands when their mothers and aunts were instant fans of their Iris rosé. In 2020, they launched the wine on Juneteenth, the date the country celebrates Black liberation. “[Michael Lavelle] disrupts a sometimes antiquated and predominantly white business like the wine industry through innovation and unique wine experiences,” says Chicago native Terrence “Lavelle” Low, who founded the company with Aaron “Michael” Coad and runs it with partners Brandon Crump (also a Chicagoan) and Devin Kennedy.
According to a 2020 Bloomberg report, less than 1 percent of the 8,000 winemakers, negociants, and brand owners in the United States are Black. One of the youngest Black-owned wine companies globally, Michael Lavelle partnered with a small-batch Napa Valley winery to make its wines. Created from a blend of Cabernet and Pinot Grigio grapes, Iris is crisp, smooth, and exactly what to drink with friends. That’s what inspired the founders to produce wine in the first place — Low says they’d often relax over bottles of their favorite vino and saw it as a chance to make their own blends and share them with family and friends.
They’re now distributing those wines to a much larger audience. The team is set to release what Low dubs “a provocative red varietal” later this year. Find Iris around the city, including at Nipsey’s Restaurant (9156 S. Stony Island Ave., Calumet Heights) and the Aviary (955 W. Fulton Market, West Loop). Snag a bottle ($25) at Binny’s and Foxtrot stores.
Three More Black-Owned Wines to Try…
McBride Sisters Collection
In 2020, former Alinea sommelier Diana Hawkins joined McBride Sisters, one of the most notable Black-owned wine brands, as an assistant winemaker on Waiheke Island, New Zealand. She loves working on the sparkling brut rosé, which “challenges the idea of what a New Zealand wine should be,” she says. “It completely transforms after the second fermentation and final dosage prior to bottling.” $23. mcbridesisters.com
Chicago-born NBA legend Dwyane Wade launched Wade Cellars in 2014 with Napa winemaker Jayson Pahlmeyer. “I am inspired by the way wine is a connector,” Wade says. “Once I got older, I realized what rooms I wanted to be in, and a lot of those places had a table filled with wine.” Three varietals are newly available in Chicago, including the full-bodied Three by Wade Cabernet Sauvignon. $40. dwadecellars.com
Love Cork Screw
Seven years ago, Chicago native Chrishon Lampley used her sales and marketing background to launch this label, focused on “approachable, easy small-batch wines” made with Midwest grapes. Since then, she’s sold almost one million bottles. Her fruit-forward We’re Movin on Up Cabernet Sauvignon is designed to appeal to a wide audience and is one of Whole Foods’ bestsellers. $27. lovecorkscrew.com