The concept of mixing wines will forever be frowned upon in wine culture; however, some vintners have tested these boundaries in an effort to advance winemaking and the wine industry as a whole. This week we are featuring P. Harrell Wines, a Black-owned wine label based in Oakland, California and founded by Paula J. Harrell in 2015. The establishment of this winery was inspired by Harrell’s genuine love and enduring appreciation for wine culture. From the distinct smell of ripening grapes to the first wine pour straight from the barrel, Paula’s fondness for wine production has led her on a journey to delve into the wine industry, not only as an enthusiast, but also a winemaker.
Born to an American military man and Panamanian native woman, Paula Jean Harrell was one of five siblings who was raised in one of the largest melting pots of the country, San Francisco, California. During her childhood, Paula’s life was filled with great cultural diversity, familial support, discipline, and entrepreneurship. Her father, Paul, and his mother, were deeply invested in real estate, owning several residential investment properties and building multiple eldercare home facilities in Western Addition and Haight Ashbury of San Francisco. Since high school, Paula’s father had practically groomed her to take on the family legacy in real estate. However, an enriching semester spent in Spain through her college study abroad program opened Paula’s eyes to a new field of business and entrepreneurship in the wine industry.
In her early professional career, Paula took the expected route mapped out for her by completing her MBA program at San Francisco State University and pursuing a career as a real estate and mortgage finance advisor. Although she worked for her corporate job during the day, she immersed herself in the wine industry at night. This eventually led her to purchase a timeshare in Napa Valley, giving her greater access to rub elbows with professional winemakers and further her knowledge about grape and wine production. As she grew more excited about wine culture, she became the go-to person for wine recommendations amongst her family and friends. Then one day, Paula was attending a family dinner and found herself stuck choosing between a Petite Sirah and a Zinfandel. Like most of us, Paula sampled the two wines, which were both good but lacking. However, unlike most of us, she decided that all these two wines needed were each other. A brave and daring Paula blended these two wines together in front of the whole table, committing the greatest sin in wine culture; but to her family’s surprise, it was a hit. This combination of varietals was so good to her uncle, Gregory Turner, that he just had to complement Paula on her winemaking skills, jokily saying, “You know this is a pretty good blend … but might I suggest you make your own wine and stop blending other people’s wine.” A simple joke to him, but profound words of wisdom to Paula; and the rest was history. Now as a winemaker and vintner, Paula is dedicated to producing her private wine label and running her business in her own way, sharing her cultural heritage with others one pour at a time.
Currently, P. Harrell Wines collection features three varietals including a Riesling, Zinfandel, and Rosé produced in Dry Creek Valley and Forestville of Sonoma County, California. Named after the San Francisco property that her grandmother and father built in 1969, their award-winning Dry Riesling, called Haight Street, is described by Harrell as a “white wine for red wine drinkers.” This varietal is a fruit forward wine, infused with distinctive stone and passion fruits, elegant citrus notes, and hints of lemongrass, slate, and honeydew. In addition to her Dry Riesling, Paula also offers her THREE FIFTEEN Zinfandel, in honor of her childhood home at 315 Santa Ana Ave, Oakland, CA. This Zinfandel is a bold combination of red and dark fruits emanating flavors of oriental spice, such as cinnamon and vanilla, and was inspired by the tremendous diversity amongst her close friends and family who filled her soul with great laughter and support in her early life. The third and final wine offered in her collection is the P.J. Rosé, appropriately named after her and her loving parents, Paul and Jean. The P.J. Rosé is a unique blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Grenache, emitting fruit notes of ripe strawberry and raspberry with subtle earthy tones. You can purchase their cohesive collection of economically priced wines online ($23 – $35), along with other merchandise such as apparel and wine accessories. Be sure to also check out one of their exclusive wine clubs appropriately called Vineuax de Cuerpo Liviano (light-bodied) for, Vineuax de Cuerpo Medio (medium-bodied), or Vineuax de Cuerpo Entero (full-bodied), where you will receive generous discounts on individual bottles or cases of wine upon enrollment.
Published August 13, 2020 | Chelsea Stephens, CEO
Image Credit: P. Harrell Wines