Guilty Grape VIP: Iris Rideau
This month we will be focusing on fierce Black trailblazers in our industry. Those we look up to and admire, and ones we think you should know. We’ve mentioned before that one of the reasons we started The Guilty Grape was to see more people like us in positions of influence in the industry. Today we highlight one of OG Black influencers in wine: Iris Rideau.
Rideau was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1936. As a child of Creole heritage (a mix between French, African-American, and Native American), she grew up in the deeply segregated south as a light-skinned Black woman, which allowed her to pass as either black or white. There were times where she was subject to racism “so demeaning it was unfit for any human being.” In the 1940’s her family set out to California as part of a migration of Creoles who were looking for a better life for themselves and their children.
On her website, Rideau describes what drove her to success as she grew older: “As an adult, I fought to never experience those early days of suppression again. This decision drove me the rest of my life.” Here’s a snapshot of what she accomplished throughout her career:
- Founded an insurance agency and became the first Black woman to own an insurance agency on the west coast
- Founded a financial securities company focused on pension planning for public employees and became the first Black woman to own a securities company on the West Coast
Then, she retired. But not for long.
She had always appreciated wine country and really loved wines from the Rhône Valley of France. Wanting to get back into business, she started Rideau Vineyard in 1995 and opened it to the public in 1997. And... perhaps you’re sensing a pattern here, but she became the first Black woman to own a winery.
Her next chapter
Having sold the Vineyard in 2016 to new owners, Rideau is now focused on her second retirement and on writing her memoir, “One Life Between Two Worlds.” It’s not published yet, but you can subscribe to her book club mailing list here to receive updates on her progress.
Recently, Rideau celebrated her 84th birthday in style in the Santa Ynez Valley.
Without her setting the bar we wouldn’t be where we are today. Would you join us in raising a glass to her? Cheers to you, Iris Rideau.