Inspired by a desire to carry on the legacy of her paralyzed uncle, Whitney Gates and her husband Chaz are the faces and brains behind Wondry Cocktail Wines. According to the couple, the origins of the Black-owned wine cocktail brand is a love story.
"It really started with us meeting and falling in love. Every time I would go to Whitney's apartment, when we were dating, I would see buckets and buckets everywhere. I could tell she really had a passion for winemaking," Chaz shares. "With her going to school for viticulture, I recommended that we get her professor's opinion on the wines, and he ended up coming on as a consultant to help us jumpstart the business."
After thorough research and planning, the Gates were able to get Wondry off the ground in 2021 as a direct-to-consumer business. With their continued persistence, they also managed to get the Black-owned wine cocktail brand into Target and Total Wine. However, the stagnancy of the pandemic led them to an opportunity of a lifetime.
"I would watch Shark Tank almost every day, often taking notes. In my mind, it became a call for us to take a leap. Seeing Black and Brown people take their dreams and turn them into multimillion-dollar ideas was really inspiring," Whitney says. "I told Chaz that I thought we should apply, and he encouraged me to go for it. We submitted an application in April 2022 and within a few weeks we got a call back from the producers offering to give us a shot."
Making the cut out of over 23,000 applications of season 14, the couple spent the next two months going through interviews, before being told they had made it to a taping in Los Angeles. That presence on national television propelled the brand to heights that the couple never dreamed of. For them, they say that focusing on a passion point was a key to their success on the show.
"With Wondry, we have a passion for the wine business. It's something that's inherent in my family legacy. Then, you add that with the formalized training. We've worked tirelessly to perfect these varietals. When we went on Shark Tank, the viewers and sharks could see that," Whitney explains.
Marketing mostly to millennials–specifically multicultural millennials—the couple has found that adding this unique spin on the often antiquated wine profiles has been what makes them stand out. They're disrupting the industry in a way that's never been done by marrying the experience of craft cocktails with wine. Popular options include the sangria especial, the peach and peace wine, watermelon rosé and the vanilla caramel cocktail cream.
"We're bringing versatile wines that can be mixed with anything," Chaz explains. "We're taking over the industry and see ourselves as someone introducing really innovative ideas through new varietals."
The brand will soon expand into Alabama and Georgia, but you can always check them out via the website.