Detroit woman launches luxury wine brand, looks to shake up industry

Dr. Latoya Thompson launched Opulence Wine Thursday

A new wine business builds itself as luxury defined. But it is the woman behind it as she works to change the face of the industry.
A new wine business builds itself as luxury defined. But it is the woman behind it as she works to change the face of the industry.

DETROIT – A new wine hitting shelves at stores is normally not a big deal, but this one is different.

Opulence Wine, the new Detroit wine brand that launched Thursday, coins itself as luxury but the journey that got it to this point makes it memorable.

An Opulence Wine display was just a distant dream for sports physical therapist, wife and mother of three, Dr. LaToya Thompson.

“I think I’m lost for words to finally see this,” Thompson said. “Sometimes it took a lot of no’s. Sometimes it was no phone calls, I had to put my husband (Anthony) in front in order to get my foot in the door.”

As a Black woman it wasn’t easy breaking into the industry and there’s number to prove it.

Read: Kids, crafts and mighty women: Michigan entrepreneur pivots business during COVID pandemic

Less than 1% of American winemakers are Black. The Association of African American Vintners (AAAV) and president Phil Long of Longevity Wines are aware of 70 Black-owned wine brands including wineries and brands that outsource. One third of those Black brands AAAV knows of are owned by women.

“It was discouraging at times, I must say. At times, I was just like you know what, it’s just too hard. I don’t want to try anymore,” said Thompson. “Why are we in 2021, or even 2020, still dealing with racial disparities and things of that nature? Why they’re so difficult for me ... I got the wine, the wine is just sitting. I can’t sell it.”

After finally landing a distributor, it was only right to launch at home in Detroit at House of Pure Vin.

“When you look at our history, our store has been very responsible for launching a lot of Black winemakers. Bringing them into the market or even launching them period and retail. We’ve done Dwayne Wade, Charles Woodson and Isaiah Thomas,” said Regina Gaines, owner of the wine store .

Gaines has been mentoring Thompson since the very beginning.

While this may not be the first Detroit wine launch, Gaines knows this will not be the last.

“As much as we’re growing in the music scene, the movies scene, the financial district, this is just one more avenue that we’re taking ownership in and that is what makes it exciting,” she said.

Thompson is proud to be a part of the moment and what’s going in Detroit and the Michigan’s wine industry.

“Detroit hustles harder, we’re going to get it done regardless,” Thompson said.

She hopes her launch will inspire others with big dreams, including her daughter.

“Co-workers that are coming today (Thursday) are like ‘Well I’m bringing my daughter to see that it can be done,” she said.

In June 2020, the Michigan Wine Collaborative launched an Inclusion & Expansion Committee to give representation and advocacy for historically excluded people in the wine industry.

Emily Dockery, project and marketing director for MWC told Local 4 that since the launch of the committee, they’ve received at least a dozen inquiries from people of color in the state looking to establish wine brands who weren’t sure where to start.

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About the Author:

Megan Woods is thrilled to be back home and reporting at Local 4. She joined the team in September 2021. Before returning to Michigan, Megan reported at stations across the country including Northern Michigan, Southwest Louisiana and a sister station in Southwest Virginia.