We’re back with another VIP we think you should know: Theodora Lee, founder of Theopolis Vineyards. Theodora is, among other things, a vineyard owner, a trial attorney and partner in a law firm, charter member of the Association of African American Vintners, a member of Delta Sigma Theta, and alumna of Spelman College and the University of Texas School of Law. Can you say “this woman deserves some wine?!” Pour yourself a glass of your favorite wine (may we suggest some of the latest collection from Guilty Grape) and let’s learn more about “Theo-patra, Queen of the Vineyards.”
Lee grew up in Texas, the granddaughter of a Texas sharecropper and daughter of a cattle farmer. She has always had a love of the land. Says Lee: “I learned how to drive a tractor at the age of 8. My farming roots continued in California.”
So...how does one start a winery, exactly?
Lee was introduced to wine after coming to San Francisco in the 80’s. Many of her law firm mentors were also owners of vineyards. Before starting her vineyard, she took viticulture classes at UC Davis. She bought land in the Yorkville Highlands in Anderson Valley in Mendocino, California, and planted her five-acre vineyard for the first time in 2003.
Ok, tell me more.
In addition to everything else we shared about “Theo-patra, Queen of the Vineyards,” she is also (yes, also!) a settlement commissioner, Early Neutral Evaluator, AAA certified arbitrator and mediator, contributing writer to numerous employment law publications, and regularly appears on TV and radio. She also holds board positions with the Dallas Post Tribune Newspaper (the oldest black newspaper in north Texas), and the YMCA of San Francisco.
Yes, wow. Theopolis Vineyards started selling wine commercially in 2014 and in 2020 Lee was named a 2020 Wine Industry Leader. We’ll leave you today with a few inspiring quotes from “Theo-patra, Queen of the Vineyards.” Join us in raising a glass to her, to her fierceness, and for being an inspiration to us all.
On influence: “In the words of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, ‘Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.’”
On success: “Success will not come overnight, so be prepared and ready to walk through the door when opportunity arrives. Always seek excellence and work hard to be the best.”