But that fateful visit to Rideau Vineyard in Santa Ynez, Calif. nearly a decade ago wasn’t just any trip to wine country. It was the first time Barrois, the award-winning writer and producer behind “Claws” and “Self-Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker,” had seen a Black-owned vineyard. And she was inspired.
“I started researching them, and I thought, ‘This is what I need to write about,’” she shared, recounting the chain of events during the show’s virtual premiere party. “I need to write about all of these winemakers and wineries around the world that are being led by people of color.”
Barrois also quickly realized that setting this story in the world — an often family-led enterprise — also presented the perfect opportunity to fulfill her dream of creating a show with a Black family at its core. “I’ll put down a home family in that environment, make them grounded and real, and make us all relate to them,” she added.
Thus, “The Kings of Napa” was born.
The OWN show centers on the King family — Isiah Whitlock, Jr. (who plays King family patriarch Reginald), Ebonée Noel (middle child, August, the marketing whiz behind House of Kings wine), Rance Nix (Dana, the eldest son and the winery’s savvy CFO), Ashlee Brian (Christian, the ultra-swaggy baby of the family, who manages the winery’s bottling facility) and Yaani King Mondschein (Bridgette Pierce, the King siblings’ cousin, who works as the vineyard manager) — who own a Napa Valley vineyard. Over the course of the series, the Kings must find a way to survive all the drama that comes from working with kin, especially once circumstances turn their world upside-down and threaten the business.
“One thing ‘The Kings of Napa’ really highlights is Black families and their legacy,” Barrois told Variety after the event. “In a world where Black voices often go unheard, and businesses close every day, it’s important that we showcase Black families winning and creating generational wealth.”
So, to celebrate the show’s launch, Barrois and the “Kings of Napa” cast gathered virtually for their premiere party, marking the occasion by shining a spotlight on Black restauranteurs and entrepreneurs in the wine industry.
“When we made the decision to do a virtual event to celebrate the launch, we created a fun and safe event that would be more than a Zoom link,” said Nicole Nichols, OWN’s EVP of communications & strategy. “We wanted to celebrate Black entrepreneurs because the show centers on a family-owned business.”
So the OWN team turned to Black Restaurant Week, which works to celebrate Black-owned local food businesses across the country. Attendees for the virtual premiere received deliveries of three-course meals from Black-owned restaurants in Atlanta (Apartment 4B), New York (Brooklyn’s Sally Roots), and Los Angeles (Post & Beam).
Nichols described the partnership as a “perfect fit,” adding, “It was such a great way to make the virtual event feel special and to highlight Black businesses.”
Barrois also praised OWN’s creative pivot.
“Sometimes we look past small things like buying Black or helping our friends and neighbors’ startup companies, but that’s the only way that we will grow and create those new legacies such as the Kings’ have,” she said. “I would love to see Black restaurants and businesses succeed, and Black Restaurant Week is taking steps to do that day by day.”
Guests also got a sneak peek of the show’s premiere episode (the first of two hours directed by Oscar-winning “Hair Love” filmmaker Matthew A. Cherry), as well as a set from DJ Suss One before Barrois and the cast settled in for a Q&A moderated by Terrence J. Then, Barrois led a conversation with Steffini Bethea, owner of Atlanta’s Purple Corkscrew Wine Shop and Tasting Room, a Black woman who has not only carved out her own lane in the wine industry, but who is also studying to become a winemaker.
“When it comes to Black winemakers, there are not that many in this country,” Bethea explained, noting that in 18 months, she’ll officially increase that number.
Barrois is similarly hopeful that “The Kings of Napa” will make an impact on the wine industry and the Black people who devote their talents to it.
“There is only a small percent of Black-owned wineries globally and they deserve to be recognized. A lot of people don’t even know that there are Black-owned vineyards,” Barrois explained. “I think by showing the King family, it will encourage people to become more aware and to look for other Black-owned vineyards and businesses, helping them grow.”
“The Kings of Napa” airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.
(Pictured above: top row L to R: Yaani King Mondschein, Rance Nix and Janine Sherman Barrois; middle row: Ebonée Noel, Ashlee Brian and Isiah Whitlock, Jr.; Terrence J).