Pairing Wine and Culture in Chucktown
Written by Gerrard Roberts
Your typical Charleston, South Carolina visit probably includes a trip to the Historic City Market, the Battery, or one of the many seafood spots along the water. You might even flex on ’em, and take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage – yes, this is still a thing in the good ole South. Somebody cue the sad song for all the horses carrying folks around in the heat and humidity downtown – I hope they get all the sugar cubes their heart desires. As a native to the area, there’s always been a disconnect between my deep-fried Lowcountry experience and the pan-seared experience of out-of-towners. But don’t worry, you’re in good hands now, and while the foodie scene is great – you should know that blue crab ain’t the only thing crackin’ in Chucktown aka Charleston. The city has so much culture to offer, however for many Black entrepreneurs it has been difficult to gain visibility and claim their piece of the tourism pie. So, in an effort to help close the gap, here are two (2) of my recommended must-visit Black-owned businesses in Charleston.
Graft Wine Shop & Wine Bar
While the challenge of creating authentic and unapologetic spaces in the downtown area is an uphill battle, Femi Oyediran is up for the challenge. After moving to Charleston to attend college, Femi quickly gained an appreciation for the city stating, “…as a West African, I see the connections of my culture and the Gullah/Geechee culture in Charleston.” In 2018, he decided to partner with a long-time friend and open Graft Wine Shop & Wine Bar in Uptown Charleston. Upon entering the wine shop, you will be greeted by an approachable staff that will put your mind at ease amongst the many varieties of domestic and international options. The wine shop has added to Femi’s reputation as a Charleston Tastemaker – curating guest experiences that include good wine, conversation, and music. Bonus points: they also have these house-made potato chips that will have your taste buds dancing. Dusted with a secret mix of herbs and spices, you’ll be ordering a second bowl in no time. Before you head out the door, I recommend asking one of the Sommeliers for a wine bottle recommendation. This will come in handy after you swing by Turning Page Bookshop for your next novel fix. At this stage in the game, I think we can all agree that wine is the perfect pairing for getting lost in between the pages of a good book.
Turning Page Bookshop
One barrier to dipping Charleston into the sauce of black excellence is the increase of gentrification, which is making the rent too dang high. However, this hasn’t stopped VaLinda Miller from opening South Carolina’s only black woman-owned brick-and-mortar bookstore in 2019. Inspired by trips to the library with her grandmother she states, “books taught me to use my imagination, taking me places no TV show could ever come close to…I want to share my love of books and reading with others and plant the same seed that was planted in me when I was a child. Turning Page Bookshop is just a stone’s throw away from downtown, located in Goose Creek, SC, where the team has created a colorful and inclusive space for all readers to unwind. Most recently, the Turning Page reading list featured newly released Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley and Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow in celebration of Juneteenth. And, don’t worry about being hushed by this librarian – she wants to make sure your voice is heard. With a large selection of books made for us and by us, it’s worth it to ease-on-down-the-road to this hidden treasure.
As you plan your next trip to Chucktown, think consciously about where you spend your dollar. If you want to get all the seasonings and fixins out of your trip – ask a local. If you want to crack open your new favorite book or bottle of wine, you know where to go (and don’t forget to tell ‘em who sent ya).