In 2014, Carissa and Kenneth Stephens decided to “splurge” and buy a nice bottle of wine. After speaking with a sommelier, they opted for a Pinotage as it was vinted and imported by people of color. They found this interesting as they had not heard of minority-owned wine brands. After tasting the wine, the two were smitten. They began expanding their palates and deepening their passion for wine.
A year later, they traveled to Italy, one of their favorite wine regions, and had the pleasure of pairing great Italian food with excellent Italian wine, including some of the best Barolo and Chianti Classico that they’d ever tasted. Sipping glasses of fruit-forward Chianti Classico while being enchanted by the magic of the Venetian atmosphere and the beauty of the Tuscan landscape created an experience so sublime that it resonated within their spirits. These unforgettable experiences deepened their passion for wine and piqued their interest in the wine industry.
In 2017, they were approached by an entrepreneur about an opportunity to be part owners in a luxury wine club that was sponsored by an iconic media brand. Despite being extremely excited to be involved in the launch of a business in the wine industry, putting up their capital, and publicly promoting the brand, they found themselves disappointed in the quality of the wine as well as the club’s overall operations. They gave up their interest in the company and nearly decided to forgo the wine industry altogether.
However, a little over a year later, the two decided to pull away from their personal entrepreneurial ventures to work together and develop their own wine brand. They knew that they wanted to create high-quality wine and combine it with memorable experiences. If they could create wines and experiences that helped give others that feeling that they experienced in Italy, they knew their wines would be a hit.
After selecting the varietals, vineyards, and winemaker they decided on the name Pur Noire to pay homage to Carissa’s French Creole roots and they began producing The Pur Collection. The collection would feature their complex Petit Sirah based blend, Pinot Gris, and Tempranillo Rosé. They planned to release their first vintage of the Pur Collection on March 21, 2020, at a release event for 150 guests that had completely sold out by March 1, 2020.
Unfortunately, by March 16, 2020, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, both the CDC and Donald Trump issued guidelines limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people. Also, many local government officials issued stay at home orders. It appeared that once again, the Stephens’ wine venture would be short-lived.
After much debate and careful consideration, they decided to launch the brand despite the global pandemic. They moved the launch event online and experienced great success! They nearly sold out of their proprietary Red Blend in their first 90 days of operation.
Although the pandemic has not allowed Pur Noire to create the kind of experiences it originally envisioned, the quality of its wine is praised by its customers and industry professionals. This validates the Stephens’s decision to persevere and continue to push their way into this industry. In the future, they look forward to combining their quality wine with unforgettable experiences to give others the euphoric feeling that they experienced early into their wine journey.