Raise a Glass: How a woman is changing the face of the NJ wine industry
At first glance, Aamira Garba is not your typical winemaker. She might not fit the advertising description of a great winegrower’s wine magazine, and she certainly didn’t follow a traditional path to becoming one. Although she is not yet very well known here, she has received some national recognition, and on these bigger stages, the Orange native never hesitates to say where she is from. In her words, “Jersey is always home, and ‘Jersey Strong’ is life!” New Jersey: Meet Aamira Garba.
According to the Association of African American Vintners, about 0.1%, or one tenth of 1%, of winemakers and wine brand owners are black. This includes Garba. Making its foray into wine even more difficult, its LoveLee Wine label is similar to any of the other wineries that have been featured in this column – from small, artisanal producers fighting for recognition and storage space against giant names with gigantic marketing budgets.
Garba currently produces her wine at a custom manufacturing facility in Napa, around her other roles as a mother and marketing manager at Audible in Newark. These other roles deeply influenced the formation of the company she created. The name LoveLee is derived from the names of her daughters, Heaven Lee and Lyric Lee, and her daughters inspire her daily. Her background in marketing and analytics has helped her shape a tangible business from a dream. She not only sought to make quality wine, but to create a connected community around her, which is evident in her active social media presence. Garba can also discuss the details of her business planning and can tell you who exactly buys her wine – 65% female, typically 25-45 (she sits directly in the middle), and although mostly in the north. -is. , of 34 states, for your reference.
Garba said that at 30, she felt restless. Reading “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho, she came out motivated by the theme of the novel according to which one cannot seek one’s destiny and one’s happiness but, on the contrary, must create it. She knew she wanted her own business, “to be a boss,” she said with a smile. Recognizing that she and her friends already enjoyed socializing around wine gave her the boost. She determined that in order to lay the foundation for this business and community, she had to first establish herself as a winemaker, which is not like most people start out.
Fearless, she researched, spoke with people, and took classes, and when she entered the industry, Garba was aware that she looked different from other people around her. It didn’t intimidate him, it turned him on on the contrary. “I realized, based on my experiences and interests, that this is where I was supposed to be. She knew that the underestimated purchasing power of the black community also necessitated more accessible entries into wine.
Although he doesn’t make wine for so long, Garba clearly has a knack for it. She has produced a handful of wines, with a Blanc de Blancs style sparkling wine the most recent release. VinePair, the largest digital media company offering wine content, has called LoveLee Pinot Noir one of its top 25 pinots of 2021 worldwide. It is the first Pinot Noir ever produced by Garba. Maybe her only weakness so far is that she doesn’t make more wine – at least not yet. She is currently working on collaborations (one potentially here in New Jersey) and seeking funding to launch a new brand to put in stores and restaurants. LoveLee Wine is now only intended for consumers through its website: loveleewine.com.
The tragic events of the past year and a half have thankfully led to more recognition and accolades for Garba. The Black Lives Matter movement has amplified the under-representation of people of color in many areas, including wine. There was an article in Forbes. She received a scholarship from the Roots Fund, which provides people of color with resources for education, mentoring and placement in the wine industry to further develop her knowledge and network. In August, at Atlanta’s Wine & Culture Fest, hosted by the Hue Society to recognize multicultural brands, wineries and wine professionals, Garba walked away – no, make it fly – with two awards, the brand of the Year and Innovator / Who’s Got Next Award.
“I love this industry and I finally felt really valued. That I have arrived and that I am seen. What was most important to me was that the people there also really liked my wine. The rewards wouldn’t mean anything if they didn’t like my wine. Miami-based sommelier and consultant Ray Sholes got a unique perspective on Garba at Wine & Culture Fest. They are both Roots Fund scholarship recipients and act as sounding boards for each other. But what Sholes saw this weekend even surprised him. “I knew she was knowledgeable and motivated, but when we gave her the platform, she grabbed it. His professionalism and his presentation blew me away. And his wines… I want them in my restaurant in Miami.
When asked at the end of a heated conversation if she ever sleeps, she replied, “I haven’t slept much, but I’m working on it. Like anything else she’s working on, she’ll likely be successful in the end, too.
This is Aamira Garba, winegrower. Know his name. Look for its wines. She is constantly working not only to make a name for herself, but to continue making great wine for her community, which is open to everyone.
Hank Zona writes regularly on wine, spirits and a range of other topics such as food and culture. He also pour wine and spirits events of all kinds for over a decade.
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of Jersey’s Best. Subscribe here for detailed access to everything that makes Garden State great.
Subscribe to our newsletter
Delivered to your inbox every two weeks on Thursday, Jersey’s Best is happy to offer a FREE subscription to Garden Statement, featuring the most popular Jersey’s Best content.