Florida Woman Makes History As The State’s First Black Woman Winemaker
19th March 2021 by BOTWC Staff
19th March 2021 by BOTWC Staff
She’s the first, but she won’t be the last!
A Florida woman is making history as the state’s first Black female winemaker, Click Orlando reports.
Four years ago, Desiree Noisette founded Mermosa, a wine company she was inspired to create after learning about her family’s story. She reflected on her ancestor, Celestine Noisette, who the family lovingly called a mermaid.
“Her audacious spirit and their eternal love are infused in every sip of Mermosa,” Noisette told Travel Noire. “This story stokes the fire in my heart and my determination to honor this remarkable woman, who I’ve always believed was the original mermaid.”
In the 1700s, Noisette’s ancestor Celestine lived in Haiti, met and married a white Frenchman named Phillipe. The two eventually moved to Charleston, South Carolina, where Phillipe attempted to protect his wife and children from being sold off into slavery by creating a fake bill of sale for their purchase. The state of South Carolina denied his petition, but Phillipe never stopped trying. He wrote in his will instructions for when he died, asking the executor to sell all of his things, give the money to his wife Celestine, and “sneak her and the kids to a northern state where they can be free.”
Phillipe was a botanist and the creator of the “Noisette Rose,” a flower with more than 300 different versions that still grow in Charleston and across the country and Europe to this day.
“It’s this really beautiful love story,” Noisette said of her family’s legacy.
Celestine ignored her late husband’s wishes after his death, opting to stay in Charleston, running their family business. She convinced the will executor to create a legal loophole for her and the kids to remain in the state as free people, eventually gaining their emancipation and retaining ownership of their land and business. This story inspired Noisette to embark on her own adventure, carving out a path for the next chapter in her family’s legacy.
“I like to say that our wines are infused with a piece of her audacity,” Noisette said of Celestine.
A former construction lawyer, Noisette used what she learned in that line of work and translated it over to winemaking. She eventually quit her law career in 2012 to open a swimwear shop in St. Petersburg before connecting with an Oregon winery that agreed to show her the ropes.
“We would learn from the experts [in construction law about] how to break things down, how components were supposed to come together, and to me, winemaking isn’t that much different. I learned from the experts how to do wine formulations and got my winery license and set up a lab and started doing wine formulations about four years ago,” Noisette said.
Now she is the proud owner of Mermosa, boasting three different lines of wines. They include “Celestine rose,” a rose wine with bubbles, the “Mersecco Blanc,” a carbonated white wine with a crisp, dry finish, and the “Mermosa Bubbles,” a premium white wine with orange and pineapple juices.
“One of the hallmarks of my wines is that they’re on the drier end without alienating folks who enjoy sweeter wines. They’re crowd-pleasers. They’re meant to bring people together. We are the official wines of boats, brunch, and beaches,” Noisette said.
According to the Association of African American Vintners, there are just 70 Black-owned wine brands in the U.S., with only one-third of those being woman-owned. Noisette believes that there’s a movement in the industry to be more inclusive, and she hopes that more people follow in her footsteps and get in the business.
“It’s exciting on one hand to be the first at something, but then it’s also I don’t want to be the last. I feel a real sense of responsibility to make sure that we have programs in place and that we’re supporting organizations that help cultivate more folks, more ladies of color to get into the wine industry...I don’t think I’ll be the last,” she said.
Noisette hopes her story encourages everyone to go after what they love to do and make it happen.
“I would say have audacity. No matter what industry you’re trying to follow, know that you’ve got all of the tools at your disposal, despite what noise might be out there. Just trust yourself and have audacity,” Noisette said.
Mermosa wines are available at Total Wine, by special order at ABC and available for purchase online at www.Mermosa.com.
Photo Courtesy of Mermosa Wines/Instagram