Vintner Iris Rideau, the first Black woman in the United States to establish a winery, released her memoir From WHITE to BLACK: One Life Between Two Worlds on June 19th in celebration of Juneteenth. The memoir tells Rideau’s moving and inspiring rags to riches story of accomplishing the nearly impossible by a Black woman born into a Creole family in New Orleans during the Jim Crow era. Iris recently told The Wine Spectator, “As a child, I was personally subjected to the oppressive cruelty of racism in America. “We were one step away from slavery in those days.” By the age of ten Rideau knew she needed to leave the South for a better life in California.
The arc of Rideau’s life is traced in her memoir, highlighting periods of turmoil, including sexual assault and racism. By sixteen, she was a single mother working in a sewing factory while attending night school.
Iris made her way out of that sweatshop by attending night classes at a local Jr. College and secured her first job working for an insurance agency, a move that helped launch her career. In 1967 she founded her own insurance agency, Rideau Insurance Agency and in the late 1970s, Rideau founded her second company, Rideau Securities Firm specializing in pension plans for public employees. Her success caught the eye of the then-mayor of Los Angeles, Tom Bradley. From there, she moved up the corporate ladder, eventually becoming influential in the world of Los Angeles politics and the financial world.
After managing her two companies for the next 30 years, she retired and left Los Angeles for a more peaceful life. She moved to the Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara’s Wine Country where she founded Rideau Winery in 1997. The winery became known for its award-winning Rhone varietal wines. Then after managing her winery for the next twenty years, she retired for the second time, sold the winery, and began to write her memoir, From WHITE to BLACK, One Life Between Two Worlds.