"Which wine do you think the EBONY readers would like?"
I knew the answer as soon as I asked the question. A bottle of Centorri Moscato and a fresh wine glass appeared before me. I brought the sunshine-yellow bubbly to my lips and took only one discerning swallow before deciding that--clichés, be damned--this was one excellent wine.
"Our Black sisters love the Moscato," said Rotimi Akinnuoye, one of the four co-owners behind Bed-Vyne Wine.
That Tuesday night, he and I spoke about the selection available at the Black-owned boutique wine shop as we sat in the next-door beerhouse, Bed-Vyne Brew. One could say that the two establishments were also clichés, in a sense: fledgling businesses based out of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, both hand built with a ton of reclaimed wood.
Yet, Bed-Vyne Wine and Bed-Vyne Brew proved to be as original and intriguing as the Centorri.
For starters, Bed-Vyne Wine believes that purchasing the grape should be simple, no matter the buyer. The wines are organized by taste—such as bold, floral and crisp--to empower each customer and help her develop and understand her unique palate. They also have an "Under $10" section shamelessly located smackdab in the middle of the snug space.
Two years after opening the wine shop, the Bed-Vyne team expanded their offerings by launching Brew in June 2013. Patrons can expect live performances and DJ sets on any given evening, as well as 10 handcrafted draught beers on tap and ciders.
"We're not just a bar and retail space," said wine enthusiast and co-owner Michael Brooks. "We're more of a culture."
The night I stopped by, a beautiful Nigerian-born, Cali-raised singer by the name of Mary Akpa was serenading the dim room. On a nearby bench, two Black twenty-somethings huddled over a laptop, dreaming up their own art gallery.
The crowd reflected the neighborhood's shifting demographics: Black and White; Afrocentric and Eurocentric; hipsters and professionals and not-so-starving artists. A clientele that Brooks describes as "sophisticated" and "positive."
Finding a Bed-Stuy native in the building was no easy feat, but Brooks addressed the issue of gentrification before I even had the chance.
"I want to give people what you'd get anywhere else in the city," said Brooks. "They deserve really good things too."
Brooks and Akinnuoye both pointed to previous and ongoing contributions the businesses have made to local schools and organizations, such as the YMCA, and the community ("We made it a point from the very beginning.")
In addition to hosting free wine-tastings and local events, like last year's Oktoberfest block party and the upcoming inaugural Judgement of Brooklyn in May, the Bed-Vyne crew also collaborates with their fellow Brooklyn businesses, including Celestino, Jollof, Peaches and the Little Red Boutique.
Brooks insisted that he and his team are not trying to make a quick buck overnight: "We want to make something we can grow with."
That Tuesday night, perched atop a vintage bar stool and enveloped in Akpa’s vocals, reclaimed wood, flannel shirts, porkpie hats and a note of peach, I believed Brooks. Still, the closest I came to finding a Brooklyn native that night was with Charles, a regular who was raised locally but born in Queens. He enjoyed Brew for the simple fact that he could now sit outside and "enjoy a beer."
"Things change," he said. "And, I think they're changing for the better."
Patrice Peck is a multimedia maven who spends her time covering underreported stories about under-covered communities and running her Black hair start-up, Fussy.