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Napa Valley Winemaker Victoria Coleman Blazing A Trail For Black Women

NAPA (KPIX) -- Victoria Coleman started her career working the vineyards on the rocky slopes of Atlas Peak, where grapes for the finest Napa wines are grown. But 17 years ago, her mentor, Mario Bazan, asked the UC Davis viticulture student if she wanted to try her hand at actually making wine.

"This country is about opportunities and I kind of offered to her an opportunity and she took it!" said Bazan.

That's how Victoria became the first Black woman winemaker in Napa. Her first vintage in 2005 was spectacular.

"After the fermentation, I remember tasting the wine out of tank," she said, "and I thought, oh my god, this is so good, I have to do it again. So that's kind of where I switched over to the winemaking side of things."

She now supervises winemaking at a joint production facility called the Caves at Soda Canyon. And she is the exclusive red wines maker for Lobo Wines. But owner Randy Wulff says he didn't hire her to strike a blow for social justice.

"I just thought she had the potential to be a star winemaker. And we wanted to make the very best wine on the planet if possible" said Wulff. "She has one of the best palates I've ever encountered. And she is a complete perfectionist. She spends as much time in the vineyard as she does in the winery. She's not a prima donna. There are a lot of diva winemakers in Napa. She is not one of them. She's got it--she's just got it."

Victoria earned her reputation through talent and hard work, but as the only African American in her UC Davis winemaking class, she understood what it would mean to become the first female Black winemaker in Napa Valley.

"That's what I was going for," she said. "I knew it would happen. I knew it would be me. I knew I was the only one when I started."

Just like all winemakers, Victoria has to prove herself with each new season, each new vintage. But she said it feels good to know that she may have opened the door for others--who look like her--to walk through.

"I hope that I'm doing that. That's what I hope, truly I do," she said.

Which makes her a part of Black history.

"Yes, I thought about that at the beginning," she said, "before I started the program, coming out on the other side, yeah. Feels fantastic!"

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