Theopolis Vineyards owner and creator Theodora Lee, explained on her site as “Theo-Patra, Queen of the Vineyards,” was just recently honored by the Association of African American Vintners as a trendsetter as very first Black female owner of a vineyard in Northern California
A strong, energetic, multi-tasker with the salt-and-pepper braids, she commemorated her 60th birthday this summertime by welcoming 70 pals to Costa Rica for a “amazing location celebration.” Lee has actually dealt with, as she explains it, the double-edged issue of systemic bigotry and “the belittling fist that sexism and misogyny have actually twisted around my throat.”
She states that in spite of a string of gold medals, finest of class classifications and 90-plus point white wines, she still has suppliers and brokers who question the marketability of her brand name.
Since she planted her very first grapes in 2003 in Mendocino County, Lee has not just established acclaimed white wines (total with a label whose picture of the ancient Egyptian queen is stylized with a bit more thigh and hip) however has actually likewise kept a full-time profession as a senior partner and trial legal representative at Littler Mendelson, the world’s biggest labor and work law office.
Her bio states Lee was the very first African American lady to be a handling partner at the Oakland branch of the company. In addition, she flies back to her youth house of Dallas monthly to hang around with her 96-year-old-mother who is coping with Altzheimer’s.
Lee takes a trip to put at nationwide red wine occasions, makes tv and radio looks, check outs high-end dining establishments who bring her white wines to offer tastings and host wine maker suppers, and in some way discovers time to return to the neighborhood.
She is co-board chairperson of the Dallas Post Tribune, among the earliest Black papers in North Texas, on the board of the YMCA of San Francisco and has previous board and advisory experience with Bay Area Legal Aid, Black United Fund, Alameda County Community Food Bank, and United Negro College Fund San Francisco.
Following is a peek into the heart and mind of Theodora Lee.
How did the name of the vineyard and your title “Theo-Patra, Queen of the Vineyards” come from?
Theopolis was the Greek name my sorority sis provided me when I vowed Delta Sigma Theta atSpellman College Everyone calls me Theo, so Theopolis Vineyards originates from my offered name with a Greek twist.
When the star Diahann Carroll and her god-daughter concerned visit me on the residential or commercial property and observed me out on the tractor, they called me “Theo-Patra, Queen of the Vineyards.” The graphic artist who wound up years later on dealing with my red wine labels had actually found out about my label, so he sent one style based upon the image of Egyptian queenCleopatra I enjoyed the label, however informed him he needed to modify it to include more hips and thigh to the image of “Theopatra” since she is more of a robust lady, like me!
How did you get going? Who were your coaches?
I never ever prepared to bottle red wine; I wished to be a grape farmer. My dad had a farm beyond Dallas where I found out to drive a tractor at age 8. My just experience with red wine was this nasty syrupy things my Dad made from wild muscadine grapes.
When I concerned practice law in San Francisco, among my associates, Barbara Oddone and her spouse Pier, who was a physicist, welcomed me to their vineyard inDry Creek Valley Pier let me drive his tractor because vineyard, which’s what offered me. I believed, yes, I can be a gentlewoman farmer.
The Oddones were my coaches in law and red wine. Barbara provided me the chance to handle and manage cases from the starting so that I was refraining from doing hodge-podge work and might be a full-on legal representative. When I was disappointed about not having the ability to manage land in Sonoma or Napa, they recommended I search in Mendocino County.
They mentored me the whole time the method, even to this day, when they are retired with grandkids. They are members of our red wine club, they concern the Harvest Party and are still a crucial part of my life.
In 2001, throughout escrow on the sale of the Yorkville Highlands residential or commercial property in Mendocino County, I had Richard Thomas, a retired teacher of viticulture at SRJC, come out to make certain the land appropriated for growing grapes, and when I closed escrow, he and his child, who was a viticulturist, concerned find out what varietal would grow finest. They identified it was small sirah, which I ‘d never ever become aware of in the past. Actually, this hillside land had a few of the most beautiful growing conditions.
I planted in 2003, clearing land, doing soil tests, getting licenses to eliminate some trees, drilling a farming well and terracing the residential or commercial property. I had my very first Petite Sirah harvest in 2006. My just objective was to offer my grapes to an acclaimed winery which’s what I did from 2003-2012.
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