Entrepreneur Iris Rideau, believed to be the first Black woman to own a winery in the U.S., is releasing her memoir, From White to Black: One Life Between Two Worlds, on June 19, in celebration of Juneteenth.
The book recounts her childhood in New Orleans, her trailblazing career in the insurance industry on the West Coast, her founding of Rideau Winery in California’s Santa Ynez Valley in 1997, and the racism she overcame in the process.
"The reason I selected Juneteenth as the release date for my book is primarily because of how my life began, growing up in the Deep South under the harsh rules of Jim Crow,” Rideau, 85, told Wine Spectator. “As a child, I was personally subjected to the oppressive cruelty of racism in America. Whenever we encountered a white person, we would be called the N-word. Even worse than that, we were told to get off the sidewalk and kneel, which meant most times we were kneeling in the mud.” She adds that she also recalls having to put her head down. “Not even our eyes could touch them. Sometimes, we were spat upon,” she recalls. “We were one step away from slavery in those days.”
Juneteenth, a celebration of the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States, was recognized as a federal holiday for the first time in 2021. “Since [the murder of] George Floyd, I find that white America is now willing to look and listen to the injustices imposed upon a whole race of people just for being Black,” says Rideau. But she adds that Black people still face obstacles in pursuit of careers in the wine industry: “Sommeliers, winery owners, winemakers—accomplished Black people who are still not recognized or accepted as readily in the wine world.”
From White to Black: One Life Between Two Worlds ($35, 300 pages) will be released Sunday, June 19. Rideau is also scheduled to appear in Fresh Glass, a new PBS series debuting this fall and focusing on women and BIPOC trailblazers in the drinks industry.