Ebony Wine & Spirits is the only black-owned wine and spirits company based in Charlotte, NC, vented and bottled in California. Owned by Camillya Masunda and inspired by her Congolese roots, Ebony Wine & Spirits was created to celebrate the history and heritage of vast Black cultures around the globe within all of the uniqueness they embody and represent. With less than 1% of the wine industry being represented by POC, Camillya is doing her part in changing that.
A family-based team runs Ebony Wines. Masunda’s top employee is her serial entrepreneur daughter Lanayah whom she considers her partner and inspiration. As a single teen mother, Masunda views her progression in the wine industry as setting the steps of generational wealth for her daughter.
Described as a "holistic serial entrepreneur," Camillya owns several businesses that benefit our community, including Cultural Giving Tree, LLC, an educational center for African-American children seven and under. The center offers a core Afrocentric-based curriculum while incorporating a diverse early education program that features yoga foreign language, manners, agriculture and cultivation, STEM science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and phonics and early reading. The brand has been previously featured in AfroTech, Black Enterprise, 21Ninety, and other notable outlets.
Fancy: What inspired Ebony Wine & Spirits?
Camillya: Ebony Wine and Spirits was inspired by the beauty, heritage, and untold story of melanated people- the richness of our culture and connecting to what we really embody. It's heavily influenced by my culture as well; my Congolese roots are a huge inspiration to the taste, aesthetic, and story of Ebony Wine & Spirits.
What does it mean to you to be a Black woman in the wine business?
As a black woman in business, I am the ultimate dreamer. If I can see it and envision it, I want to make it happen. It means that many industries, specifically the wine industry, are changing. It means that the work and sacrifices of my ancestors were not in vain. It means that I know the responsibility that I have to be what someone looks up to and remember that I am an example, especially in an industry that does not do the best job of highlighting owners that look like me.
Fancy: So, if I understand correctly, the vineyard is in North Carolina, and then the rest of the production takes place in California. Is that correct?
Camillya: Actually, it's sort of in reverse. We have a vineyard in Nappa, where we source our grapes, pick out our crushes (varieties), and have them bottled. We ship to all of our retail partners all over the country and then house wine in Charlotte, NC. Many of our retail partners are in Charlotte, and we are also preparing to open our brick-and-mortar winery.
Fancy: What was it like launching in the middle of a pandemic?
Camillya: It was scary but exciting. Outside of the world being in a state of unknown, I was taking a step into the unknown because I didn't know how it would be received. Did people want to spend money on an unknown brand? Would they be open to supporting a wine business from Charlotte? It was a lot of unknowns, but I'm glad I did it.
Fancy: What type of wine lover will enjoy Ebony Wine & Spirits?
Camillya: All types! We have a variety for everyone, from the wine lover who knows that our Red Fusion pairs well with fabulous meats to the sweet wine drinker who wants to make a mimosa with our Kinshasa. We offer a full menu of varieties for everyone.
Fancy: What do you enjoy most about your work?
Camillya: I love learning new things! I’m a lifetime student of the world. Wine is more than grapes! You can have the same wine, and it tastes completely different because of the glass. Knowing things like that is so important in how I service my customers. I love creating an experience, meeting, and bringing people together. Wine is just the catalyst for this. I love the unity that the brand is creating.
Fancy: Why was it important for your daughter to also work within your business?
Camillya: My vision has always included my daughter because it is building a legacy with us and for her. But most importantly, I love the fact that she is able to show young girls that they can do anything! You can be a freshman in college; you can be a two-time published author; you can create a social media presence for your mom's wine brand. You can do anything, don't limit yourself, and giving her the platform to speak about that makes me so proud.
Fancy: How would you describe your swagher? What makes Camillya, Camillya?
Camillya: I am eclectic! If I were a song, it would be an upbeat jazzy, new soul, classic. I am strong yet soft. I am compassionate and nurturing. I am fearless and driven.