A cozy space at the corner of Market and Church streets downtown will soon be home to downtown’s first winery in modern times.
North Carolina-based Davidson Wine Co. is taking over the space formerly occupied by another wine shop, rebranding it as Charleston Wine Co.
Owner Lindsey Williams, an attorney-turned-winemaker, started in winemaking in 2018, when she decided to focus on something she truly loved.
An Ohio native, Williams’ career as a corporate attorney took her to North Carolina, where she started Davidson Wine Co. in the town of Davidson, just north of Charlotte. During her time as an attorney, it gave Williams many opportunities to satisfy her love of wine.
“I’ve always loved wine,” she told the City Paper last year, shortly after she announced her plans. “So I’d travel to different vineyards, and at one point, was lucky enough to cover the West Coast during my time in corporate America, so I got to visit a lot of West Coast wineries.”
And during one of these Italian wine excursions in Tuscany, Williams was able to learn the art of wine-making.
“It was there where I really started getting an interest in the process behind wine and not just drinking it.”
From there, her love for wine intensified, and years later, when the time came to make a change in her life, Williams stepped away from “corporate America” as an attorney and shifted her focus full-time to what she loves – wine.
While living in Davidson, Williams noticed a gap in the alcoholic beverage market.
“It’s definitely a brewery-heavy town – there’s a brewery on every corner here and not a lot of wine options,” Williams said. “I thought to myself, ‘how can I go about bringing a wine location to Davidson?’”
To plan for filling that gap, Williams joined a winemaking program – an important factor to both her locations – interned with a California winery and in August of 2019, opened the doors to Davidson Wine Co.
Shortly after opening, however, the pandemic hit, causing Williams to fine-tune the business and push through the past two years to open a second location.
“It was challenging, but it really helped us diversify our business. We’re now selling wine online and doing some wholesale wine sales, and it’s really made us stronger.
“The local community has been really supportive of us here” she added. “Even during the pandemic, people were drinking a lot of wine and instead of going to their local grocery store or big box store, they were coming to Davidson Wine Co. to pick up wine to-go.”
With the success of Davidson Wine Co., the idea of opening a second location lingered in Williams’ mind, and when contacted about the Charleston Winery space on S. Market being for sale, the decision to expand was made, as it was “the perfect opportunity” to not only continue having a wine location in that space, but to also bring Davidson Wine Co.’s “urban winery” concept to Charleston, the first of its kind in the area.
So-called urban wineries are simply wineries established in cities, as opposed to pastoral areas — think Italy and Napa Valley, California. At Davidson Wine Co. and Charleston Wine Co., the wines are made locally in the Carolinas by the company using globally sourced grapes, according to Williams.
“Our wines are made about three miles from our Davidson Wine Co. location,” said Williams, “where we’ll also be making all of our wines at Charleston Wine Co. as well.”
“That’s what makes us unique,” she added. “We’re not just serving wine, but we’re serving wine made by us.”
With the two locations, Williams is also one of the handful of African-American wine owners in the United States, a mere 1% of winemakers in the U.S.
“It’s funny because it’s not something that I knew until we opened, so I was a little surprised that there were so few African American-owned wine makers. But it’s definitely a great community of folks.”
“But I also love that I have brought a lot of diversity to the wine community in Davidson, and I’m hoping to do the same in Charleston.”
Charleston Wine Co. is set to open Friday at 63 S. Market St.