J&H Estates is revolutionizing the wine industry. Ashley James and Shia Hendricks co-founded the wine label to create a lifestyle brand. Their combined expertise and passion have created a brand that resonates with wine connoisseurs. From cozy evening chats to grand celebrations, J&H Estates brings people together, enhancing moments of joy and connection. The founders’ commitment to quality and creativity ensures that each bottle, even without its own vineyard, has a distinct character and an unforgettable taste.

J&H Estates symbolizes empowerment, innovation, and excellence in a predominantly white-male industry. This brand also proves that race and gender do not define one’s ability to succeed in this competitive market. The brand’s success not only enhances the variety and richness in the world of wine but also fosters an environment of inclusivity, where diverse narratives are heard, celebrated, and savored, just like a fine bottle of wine.

This Black Business Month, let’s raise a glass to James and Hendricks and J&H Estates – a testament to boldness, resilience, and the magic that happens when you dare to dream.

Credit: Courtesy of J&H Estates

21Ninety spoke with James and Hendricks to learn more about their brand, its inspiration, and the success J&H has received thus far.

Interview with the Co-Founders of J&H Estates

21Ninety: Tell us about yourselves.

Ashley James: I’m from Houston and I am a chef by trade. I like to say I am in the international luxury hospitality industry. I do consulting and event curation as well.

Shia Hendricks: I am based in Birmingham, Alabama. I’m just a very passionate person around building intentional community. And a living life, wine and food enthusiasts of sorts.

21N: Can you share the journey and inspiration that led you to own and operate J&H Estates?

AJ: Shia and I became really fast friends. One morning Shia gave me a call and was like, ‘I really think that we should consider starting a wine brand.’ One of the things we bond on is how much we love wine and love to eat. And it was very timely because a few weeks after that, I was headed to Napa to take a wine client that I helped privately and I was like [to Shia], ‘If you’re free, you should join us.’ We had a few events lined up. Then we created some extra appointments to meet up with people and brokers just to learn a bit more about what was out there and to get into the industry. In that trip, we decided that’s what we wanted to do. So, I think the call was the beginning of April [2022], and we soft launched in July, and we began shipping our wine by the end of the year.

21N: Can you discuss some of the specific challenges you’ve faced since starting this brand?

AJ: I think we’ve been really fortunate to have help along the way to help us maneuver the industry. But I think to me personally, the biggest challenge is administrative. Just figuring out all the things we need to do to stay above board. To make sure that we’re covered, to make sure we can legally sell wine…that sort of thing. But we’ve been very fortunate in the people that we have met.

SH: I could not agree more. While we’ve been around the food and beverage industry in different capacities, starting the brand was a bit different. It’s a little daunting. Figuring out resources and, as Ashley has mentioned, the administrative as well. This experience has been fun, challenging, and beautiful all at the same time.

21N: What would you both say this experience has taught you?

AJ: You really have to be open at what life throws at you and by that, I mean the people that you meet. In the wine industry you meet so many different types of people. You really have to be open and willing to experience that…experience different personalities.

21N: In this industry, there aren’t many Black-owned wine brands. How do you both see J&H’s role in this industry?

SH: By virtue of the fact that there aren’t many, it makes us disruptors in the space, if nothing else. We’ve been able to come in and immerse ourselves in the industry in a short period of time. But we are disruptors who really make wine that we like, that is approachable but is also giving an elevated experience. We are charting a path that is unique to us in our experiences, and we want people to enjoy our brand of wine in all of the spaces they exist in.

21N: What is the one wine that is J&H Estates in a bottle?

AJ: I think that right now, our cabernet sauvignon represents us well. Actually, I’m going to say that all of our wines represent us. Our sparkling brut rosé represents us really well because I like to think we are professional frolickers. And the sparkling brut rosé is approachable for people who don’t know much about wine. Or for a day by the pool. It’s really palatable for everything. The cab represents us both well because we both love red wine, and it’s one of the American-style wines we both love because it’s deep, and it’s beautiful, and has this great aroma.

SH: The chardonnay is the first selection that is going to be from the grape to the bottle. So, we’ve been involved in every step of the process.

21N: Where do you see you see J&H Estates in five years?

AJ: We certainly hope to have a vineyard by that point. And our approach has been to make J&H Estates a lifestyle brand. The way we approach this wine is it’s kind of our everyday life. We are trying to show how this wine is a part of our everyday life. How it can be a part of your celebrations, and it can be for a girls’ day after a hard day at work, and how beautiful it is every step of the way.

This article has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.