Meet The Owners Of H-Town’s First Black-Owned Urban Tasting Room

It’s nothing but good food, good vibes, and good wine as Pur Noire Urban Wineries owners Carissa and Kenneth Stephens pack up their Houston, Texas, blends and head out to the Blue Note Jazz Festival in Napa, California.

The wine enthusiasts sat down with BLACK ENTERPRISE before the big weekend to discuss their connection to the festival and contribution to the celebration of Black culture.

As the masterminds behind Pur Noire, the first Black-owned urban tasting room in Houston, the Stephens’ are invested in their contribution to the evolution of the Black community in spaces like the wine industry, and the entrepreneurs are preparing to toast to another memorable experience as they show up for the Napa Valley festival.

Blue Note Jazz Festival

In celebration of the biggest names in music and culture, the Stephens’ will pour up some of their award-winning signature blends for festival attendees to raise glasses and sip away in the Wine Garden as they enjoy musical vibes from headlining artists Mary J. Blige, Nas, and Chance the Rapper.

Kenneth, who was named a BLACK ENTERPRISE Modern Man in 2019, said he understands the origins of the Blue Note Jazz Festival. “As far as the familial and exclusivity of it, it’s very similar to our tasting room and our environment.”

“We’re excited to bring our wines,” Carissa said. The certified sommelier added: “We actually source our grapes from California, so Napa for us is like a second home.” The Stephenses will be sharing three of their signature blends at this year’s festival:

  • Pur Noire’s 2013 Reserve Merlot, sourced from Napa
  • Their signature Rosé, Pur Euphoria
  • The spicy “OG” blend, Pur Epiphany

Carissa shared that being a part of the festival reminds them of their initial passion to create memorable experiences on a grand scale while maintaining intimate moments. “We really love the connectivity [and] we really love the community that the festival is creating.”

The Stephenses are proud to be leaders in an industry that historically has not seen much representation. “I’m really proud of what we’re doing, and I’m also proud of the other Black-owned businesses that are being pulled into the festival. I think together as a community, the change is happening, as I like to say, ‘one customer at a time, one glass of wine at a time,’” Carissa continued.

As the Stephenses pour it up for festival attendees, they will also share their story and teach wine fundamentals.

Ticket information is available online for those who want to grab a glass and catch the vibes from Friday, July 28, to Sunday, July 30. Keep the party going every night with after-parties hosted by Big Freedia, DJ Trauma, and DJ Pee Wee (Anderson .Paak).

Image Credit: @foundryhousemedia

Pur Noire Urban Wineries

Carissa and Kenneth give the Black community a clear model of entrepreneurial success in the wine industry. After tying the knot in 2014, the Stephens’ love led them to explore Italy. A taste of the Italian culture gave them an epiphany that the wine business was calling their names.

“We really fortified our passion for wine, understanding that it’s so much more than just a drink in a glass, but it’s art, history, and culture,” Carissa told BLACK ENTERPRISE. “It’s also a universal language.”

When asked about establishing Pur Noire in her Houston hometown, Carissa said, “There’s no place like home. Upon arriving back in the States, curiosities led the couple to find a way to change the statistic that less than 1% of global producers are African American.

The Stephenses introduced their immersive, high-quality product to the Houston community.

“We started making wine back in 2018, but especially with red wines, you have to age them, and so we decided on the red blend that we were making called Pur Epiphany, which is the first wine that we made,” Kenneth shared.

Unaware they would launch when the world shut down due to the pandemic, Pur Noire sales spiked following their decision to host pop-up brunches. The entrepreneurs opened their Houston tasting room as the pandemic eased up.

Pur Noire presently produces nine different wines.

“The wines range from sparkling wine. We have a beautiful Rosé. We have a Pinto Gris,” Carissa listed. She also described Pur Noire’s “beautiful, bold, full-bodied reds, ” including their Gold Medal 93 Point Napa Valley Merlot.

Image Credit: @foundryhousemedia

Experience The Pure Noire Tasting Room

Guests are greeted upon their first steps into the Pur Noire tasting room. “First of all, the ambiance is incredible in the tasting room,” Kenneth credited the beautiful design and decor to his wife’s creativity.

Tasting room guests decide what wine flight they want to experience from various options.

One by one, guests are presented with the premium wines poured for them. “You are certainly taken on a journey. It’s like a little wine adventure,” Carissa said. Kenneth shared that the Pur Noire experience is molded by interaction and education. Guests are led along a guided, interactive wine-tasting experience by a well-trained Pur Noire associate. “The same way that we tell the story of the brand…and go deep and tell you about the grapes and the wine and how it’s made, the expectation is that the wine associates are able to convey that same message,” Kenneth explained.

Some Pur Noire experiences are accompanied by live music, something the couple said the tasting room integrates as a backdrop to the wine-tasting experience. Pur Noire hosts several other events, such as group tastings and food and wine pairings.

Pur Noire Wine Club members experience exclusive events, discounted products, and other major perks.

Walk-ins are welcome. However, the Stephenses said they rely heavily on their reservation system.

Find Pur Noire online and available in all Houston airport restaurants, including its official availability in the Houston Hobby Airport. Pur Noire provides free nationwide shipping to 42 states.

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