Updated: May 9
Q&A Blog Series: Melanated Queens of the #VAWine scene
Did you know that three of the most popular and highly acclaimed Virginia winery bus tour companies are owned by women, and two of them are owned by women of color? Yep! And, I’ll be featuring them both in my series, including this special lady, Deanna McRae King. She is the owner of Fruits & Roots Wine Tours based in the Hampton Roads area of the state. We connected on social media several years ago and
although I have yet to meet Deanna in person, I feel like I have known her my entire life. She just has that energy about her.
As a history buff and wine lover, she has combined her passions into a unique service, offering wine tours fully equipped with live actors and entertainers ready to school you on both wine and Virginia history. From a Colonial Virginia Haunted Wine Trail tour to Wine & Brine to Distillery tours and everything in between, she truly offers something for everyone. You can even book your own private tour, customized to your region and interests.
I wanted to ask Deanna some specific questions about her business and love for Virginia wines and history. After you get to know her, please be sure to follow her on Instagram and check out her website for tour schedules. She is currently operating with all safety protocols in place.
Deanna McRae King, Owner, Fruits & Roots Wine Tours IG @FruitsandRootsWineTours Web: www.fruitsandrootswinetours.com
Question: What originally led you to become interested in Virginia wine/wineries?
Answer: In 2005, my mom and I went on a Loudoun County wine tour sponsored by Reston Limousine. Chrysalis Vineyards was one of the wineries we visited, and at the time they happened to be hiring for a part-time tasting specialist. I took the opportunity to apply and educate myself more about wine, instead of just knowing how to drink it! I worked at Chrysalis pretty much every weekend until 2010 when my family and I opened a Rita’s Italian Ice franchise in Centreville, Virginia.
Question: Tell us briefly about the genesis of Fruit and Wine Tours and why you started it?
Answer: I was inspired to open Fruits & Roots Wine Tours following a year living in Los Angeles, CA where I enjoyed wine related events sponsored by the acclaimed Zuri Wine Tasting & Tours, owned by wine enthusiast, Tuanni Price. I volunteered to help with her annual Wine Over L.A. event where I poured wine for Black winemakers including Jerry Bias, who at the time owned Wisdom Oak Winery in Virginia. I also helped Tuanni on her wine tour to the first Black woman owned winery in the country, Rideau, which was then owned by Iris Rideau, a French Creole winemaker, businesswoman and activist. As we traveled on this tour in Santa Barbara County, CA, I began to envision a similar tour to the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.
After returning to Virginia in November 2016 (and watching a marathon of “A Taste of History” on PBS) I had a dream and woke up shouting “Fruits & Roots!” My husband, startled by my early morning revelation, asked me, “What is Fruits & Roots?” I explained to him that I envisioned starting a new business that combines my passion for Virginia Wine and farm-to-table cuisine, with my love of history and the beautiful scenic views of the state.
We are the only wine tour company anywhere with actors and other entertainers portraying historical Founding People of our nation including women and people of color who contributed in some positive way to the American Revolution. A sort of Hamilton-on-wheels with wine! (I am an avid Hamilton fan) Fruits & Roots, “where all inclusive, is all exclusive” is a double entendre. Our tours are “all inclusive” from the standpoint of once you pay, everything is included. You get luxury transportation, entertainment, gift bags, food, tastings, and more. But it’s all provided on an “exclusive” scale. Once someone experiences an exclusive Fruits & Roots tour, they will have learned not only about Virginia wine (and wine as a whole) but they will come away with little known historical facts about America’s exclusive Founding People.
Now, for a little more about me and my love of history. I am a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and part of The Daughter Dialogues, a fellowship with Dr. Louis Gates of Harvard University and the Finding Your Roots television series, that studies women of color in the DAR. I am working to have my 4x great grandmother, Della McRae, who was born a slave in Virginia in 1768, listed as a Patriot of our country. This would mean that any of her descendants could join the DAR or SAR (Sons of the American Revolution). Changing the narrative is about telling the true history of who participated in making America. This truth will help set us free from the bondage that divides us as Virginians, as Americans, and will serve to unite us as one.
Question: Do you personally have a preferred Virginia wine varietal or style of wine? If so, what is it and why? If not, just tell us your favorite Virginia wine these days!
Answer: I am a serious Virginia Norton lover from its inception to date! Norton is America’s oldest grape with roots in Missouri but first cultivated here in the state of Virginia. I also enjoy our Viognier, Petit Verdot, Tannat and pretty much any wine, beer or distilled spirit produced here. I am a true lover of all Virginia “fruit” and grains if you will. But, if it’s bad, I won’t drink it no matter where it’s from! (smile)