RichWine is a new delivery-based wine shop that has begun to make a name for itself in Richmond. Not only are they a small operation specializing in natural wines, they also represent a growing movement in the wine world toward increased diversity and delivery-based service.
Kristen Beal and Lance Lemon both fell in love with wine as they traveled the world working in fine dining during their respective careers. After learning everything they could about wine through studying and following wine trails around the world and across Virginia, the duo decided that it was time to make their mark in Richmond with a wine shop, which they called RichWine. Sadly, before they could open a brick and mortar store, the pandemic derailed their plans and pigeonholed them into operating a delivery service.
“We found our niche [in Richmond.] We both like wine and we both like business; we both happened to be around wine and work with it,” said Beal. “It’s even better that we can bring diversity to a wine business and into the wine world.”
“Everyone eats; everyone needs food,” she said. “Wine is so close to food, and is meant to be paired with it. We’re here to help people shop, because the varietals and blends can be so overwhelming.”
While living in Brooklyn, Beal and Lemon experienced a shift in the food and wine industries towards a focus on natural and sustainable sourcing. While they were educating themselves on wine, they were introduced to the world of natural wines.
“Everyone’s expanding what the wine world can be in all aspects; how wine can be made, what people are liking, and just trying to broaden everything. Wine in general has been a trend recently, but it’s been around since Jesus himself. Now people are starting to take the time and say, ‘Yo, there’s some cool stuff out there,’” said Lemon. “I think craft beer had its time — and still does, especially in Richmond — but wine is beginning to turn heads. Really, it’s kind of the same as beer. People share things they like and are like, ‘Try something new! Try this! Try that!’”
Because of this new attention, winemakers and vineyards now can make some cool stuff and go off of the beaten path, ultimately expanding what wine can be. The delivery-based wine shop/bar has become a trend during the COVID pandemic. Such shops had existed in larger cities like New York and Los Angeles prior, but began to tap into smaller markets during the pandemic, as new players like San Francisco’s Bar Part Time and Pasadena’s Good Luck Wine Shop have emerged.
RichWine, like many of these other companies, has built up their business by emphasizing a focus on natural wines. These pesticide-free, holistically harvested by hand wines have stolen the limelight in the wine world because of their natural fermentations; the fact that they contain no added sulphurs or sugars; and, for lack of a better term, their unique “funk” and natural taste. Beal and Lemon say that some of their favorites are the 2018 Valdisole “Agape,” 2019 Il Farneto Giandon Rosso, 2019 Le Mas de mon Pere Tu M’Intresses, and the 2019 Las Jaras Glou Glou. (All of these are such kick-ass bottles, especially the Giandon.)
“We look at how things are made and how the story [of the farmers and vineyards] matters…we look at all of that before we bring stuff in. It goes back to making sure things are honest farmed, because those [natural] certifications are expensive,” said Beal. “If you don’t want to spend $50,000 a year on a certification but you’re practicing and have been practicing [natural production], then that’s fine.”
Historically, the wine world has been predominantly white and has been an industry that has been built on colonialism. There’s a reason why wine and wine bars have a posh connotation and cater to a certain market. Beal and Lemon are two of many people of color who have begun to make a name for themselves in the wine world and create a more accessible and diverse community.
“It’s good to be in this space; we’ve been focusing on accessibility. Wine education is super important for us and I think there’s a space at the table for wine for everyone,” said Beal. “Price doesn’t necessarily dictate how much you’re going to like the wine; you can find really good wine at every price point. That’s something we wanted to make more accessible to everyone, because the idea of going to a vineyard and chilling for a day has an uppity nature to it… Think about how it’s presented in Hollywood. All of that has a downstream effect and you notice who’s participating where. We hope that the path we’re paving creates more POC who are interested in wine and winemaking. There’s space for everyone; we want to take that ‘uppity’ filter out of it. The accessibility is so important.”
“As much as we care about diversity, we care about Black. We love our people and our culture,” said Lemon. “We’re people who love wine that happen to be Black. We didn’t get into this business because we were like, ‘You know what? We’re Black, let’s start our own wine business!’ It wasn’t like, ‘We’re Black, let’s go bowl or play croquet!’ You know what I mean? There’s a wine for everybody — Black, white, green, or orange – we’re going to find something you like.”
Despite only operating on delivery, RichWine says that business has been good for them. It’s been something of a blessing in disguise, as they put it; because they’ve been able to set up a delivery service and online shop before establishing a brick-and-mortar shop, when normally it’s the other way around.
“People are really digging it,” said Lemon. “Everything’s online now; putting alcohol online is even smarter. Even if people don’t order on the website, they might come into the future turn-key retail shop to see things for themselves.”
Post-COVID, Lemon and Beal hope to establish a permanent location for their wine shop. They say that they don’t want it to be a restaurant nor a bar, but rather a shop that holds tastings, has some food options, and operates more like a cafe, offering a space for people to relax, spend time, and get work done.
“We hope we can get our ducks in line and work towards a physical storefront. We want to create a space where people don’t feel the need to be on their phone,” said Lemon. “People want a place to drink and have fun and not always feel like they’re going on a date… That’s a big thing with wine spots. You don’t want to go there with your boys and just kick it. If you want to come in at 2:00 p.m. and post up and get loose on some wine, we’d like to be there for you to do it.”
Photos by Noah Daboul